On Saturday night at Mile High Stadium in Denver, we didn’t get to see a lot of the starters for either the Minnesota Vikings or the Denver Broncos. However, what we did see from the top units on the purple side should be very encouraging for fans of Mike Zimmer’s team.
The first-string offense and defense for Minnesota were both impressive in limited action, and the third-string did enough to preserve a 42-28 victory for the Vikings in Denver.
Kirk Cousins led the Minnesota offense for just one series, but that series was perfect. Latavius Murray broke a pair of 21-yard runs, and Cousins completed all four of his pass attempts for 42 yards. The final completion came on a 3rd-and-goal play, as Cousins found Stefon Diggs for a 1-yard score to give the Vikings an early 7-0 lead.
On defense, the Vikings forced their old friend Case Keenum and the Denver offense into two consecutive three-and-outs. In fact the Broncos didn’t generate a first down at all until the 5:47 mark of the second quarter, as the Vikings’ defense was stifling in the early going.
One of the big offensive stars for the Vikings on the evening was undrafted rookie running back Roc Thomas, who was particularly effective in the air. He caught three passes from Trevor Siemian after the Vikings’ starters departed, with two of them going for scores. The first was a 13-yard score that allowed the Vikings to capitalize on Anthony Harris’ interception of Denver backup quarterback Paxton Lynch to make it 14-0 in favor of the Vikings.
The other was a huge 78-yard catch and run on a screen pass to give the Vikings a 24-7 lead late in the second quarter.
Thomas had three catches for 102 yards and two scores in the first half. He saw limited action in the second half, but those first half numbers are still impressive.
It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns for the Vikings, as the punt return unit had a particularly ugly play. Broncos’ punt returner Isaiah McKenzie took a punt from Ryan Quigley at the two-minute warning, and after hesitating for what seemed like forever, found a seam and took the ball 78 yards for a touchdown to cut the Minnesota lead to 24-14 going into the locker room at halftime.
After a huge 57-yard field goal from Daniel Carlson to make it 27-14, Denver answered back when third-string quarterback Chad Kelly (nephew of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly) connected with Matt LaCosse for a 36-yard score to cut the lead to 27-21. Kelly struck again with ten minutes left in the game, connecting with running back Phillip Lindsay for a 19-yard score, and Brandon McManus’ extra point gave the Broncos their first lead of the night at 28-27.
Not to be outdone by the Broncos’ third-string quarterback, Kyle Sloter led a nice drive of his own to put the Vikings back on top. Facing a 3rd-and-4 from the Denver 9-yard line, Sloter lofted one up for Chad Beebe, who hauled it in for a 9-yard touchdown.
Kyle Sloter touchdown to Chad Beebe pic.twitter.com/eO7UR46qUz— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) August 12, 2018
The Vikings went for the two-point conversion, and converted on a pass from Sloter to Jeff Badet to make it 35-28 with six minutes remaining.
Minnesota’s defense then came up big again, as Jack Tocho. . .who was beaten for two touchdowns by the Broncos earlier on. . .intercepted Kelly in Denver territory.
Jack Tocho interception. Great read pic.twitter.com/NvI8E4zXMG— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) August 12, 2018
Minnesota took advantage, as on 3rd-and-4 from the Denver 14, Sloter faked a handoff to Mike Boone and sprinted around left end for a 14-yard touchdown. Carlson hit the extra point, and the Vikings led 42-28 with less than four minutes remaining.
Kyle Sloter showing off why they made him into a receiver at Southern Miss. Also, Southern Miss receiver blocks for the touchdown pic.twitter.com/3gTcTbJ9aI— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) August 12, 2018
Kelly led the Broncos deep into Minnesota territory in the game’s final minute, but the Vikings’ defense held Denver out of the end zone to preserve the final margin of victory at 42-28.
The Vikings move to 1-0 on the preseason, and will have an interesting game coming up on Saturday afternoon at U.S. Bank Stadium when they host the Jacksonville Jaguars. Denver falls to 0-1, and they will host a second straight NFC North opponent when they play the Chicago Bears in Denver next Saturday.
The Minnesota Vikings put together a solid preseason debut. . .at least as far as the first and second-string is concerned. . .by defeating the Denver Broncos by a score of 42-28. Thanks to everyone that got their coverage of tonight’s game here at The Daily Norseman, and we’ll have more discussion of this one over the next couple of days.