Saturday’s preseason tilt between the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars was an ugly affair in every sense of the word. The first team offense that looked so efficient a week ago in Denver was sloppy and disorganized. Yellow flags littered the field while players and fans alike tried to figure out whether tackling was still legal in the NFL.
And the injuries—oh, the injuries. Eric Sugarman was on the field more than the starting offense. There were more air casts than scoring plays for the Vikings. While none of the injuries were to players that looked to be getting a ton of playing time during the regular season, many of them were to players that have “blocking” in their job description. The Vikings have already made several roster moves related to the MASH unit that was Week 2 of the preseason.
However, there were still a few rays of light among the storm clouds, and there is still some time to clean up what went wrong before the games start to count. Until then, let’s review the five game-changing plays from the 14-10 loss to the Jaguars.
Play 1: Vikings ball, 1st & 10 at the Jacksonville 26. First quarter, 8:49 remaining. K.Cousins pass incomplete short right to A.Thielen.
After Kirk Cousins nearly had his first attempt to Adam Thielen intercepted, his second pass to Thielen didn’t fare any better.
Overall this was a pretty innocuous play in a preseason game that was riddled with mistakes. It was still indicative of just how of out of sync the Vikings first team offense looked throughout the first quarter. After the play, Cousins seemed to acknowledge that the pass was his fault. Which means he missed badly, misjudged where Thielen was going to be on the field, or a little of both.
The Jaguars undoubtedly have one of the best defenses in the league, but plays like this show that there’s still lots of work to do before Cousins gets on the same page with all of his pass catchers.
(All while a makeshift offensive line tries to keep him upright, of course.)
Play 2: Jaguars ball. 2nd & 1 at the Jacksonville 26. First quarter, 6:40 remaining. (Shotgun) B.Bortles pass short middle intended for D.Westbrook INTERCEPTED by H.Smith at JAX 32. H.Smith to JAX 23 for 9 yards (J.O’Shaughnessy).
The Vikings defense made Blake Bortles look...well, a lot like Blake Bortles for most of the week. During Wednesday’s joint practice, Minnesota defenders dropped no fewer than five potential interceptions. Harrison Smith had two that definitely should have been caught. At the end of Jacksonville’s first drive on Saturday, Mackensie Alexander and a host of other Vikings let a pick fall to the turf.
Finally, Smith said “enough is enough” on the Jaguars’ second drive.
On a day where the offense didn’t do much of anything, it was nice to see so many standout performances on the defense. There could be a couple of games early on where the defense is relied upon to make big plays like this. It looks like the best safety in the league is ready to step up.
Play 3: Jaguars ball, 1st & Goal at the Minnesota 10. First quarter, 1:12 remaining. B.Bortles sacked at MIN 15 for -5 yards (D.Hunter).
Earlier in this drive, Danielle Hunter obliterated Cam Robinson and had Bortles dead to rights for an easy sack. Bortles was able to escape Hunter’s clutches with a quick shoulder fake and get the pass away unscathed.
On this play, all Hunter needed was one hand to take down the 235-pound quarterback.
Hunter answered the disrespect of being blocked by only a tight end with some disrespect of his own, dragging down Bortles with only his right hand. The Jaguars still scored on the drive, but plays like this are why the Vikings gave Hunter his big contract extension before the season. If he keeps finishing off pass rushes like this, watch out.
Play 4: Vikings ball, 1st & 10 at the Minnesota 41. Second quarter, 12:25 remaining. M.Boone right guard pushed ob at JAX 40 for 19 yards (R.Harrison).
So yeah, looks like we shouldn’t call that competition for the third running back spot just yet. On his very first touch of the game, Mike Boone let everyone know that he wasn’t going down without a fight.
While Boone was proficient with catching passes in Training Camp, he hadn’t shown as much running the ball until Saturday. Boone finished the game with 91 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. The competition between Boone and Roc Thomas over the final two preseason games should be fascinating. Mack Brown better get healthy in a hurry if he hopes to have any chance at making a dent in this race.
Play 5: Jaguars ball, 1 & 10 at the Jacksonville 49. Fourth quarter, 5:18 remaining. C.Kessler sacked at JAX 42 for -7 yards (A.Williams). PENALTY on MIN-A.Williams, Roughing the Passer, 15 yards, enforced at JAX 49 - No Play.
If we’re going to call this roughing the passer, just switch to two-hand touch.
I honestly don’t know what Antwione Williams should have done differently there. It was an expertly timed blitz and a textbook form tackle to sack Cody Kessler. The NFL can harp on player safety all they want, and making improvements in that area should be welcome. But calling penalties like this threatens changing how defenders can play the game. Let’s hope the league and its referees can figure these things out in the coming weeks.
Vote for the play you thought was most impactful in the poll below. If you think we missed a few others that should have been included, please add them in the comments. Some of the “honorable mention” plays that could have easily made this list were Kai Forbath’s fate-sealing 41-yard field goal miss, the usually sure-handed Latavius Murray fumbling twice, and special teams allowing yet another long punt return to set up the game-winning score.
What was the most important play of the Vikings’ loss to the Jaguars?
This poll is closed
Cousins missing Thielen
Hunter’s one-handed sack
Boone’s impressive run
Antwione Williams "roughing the passer"
Other (comment below)