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Vikings at Titans Preseason 2018: Five Game-Changing Plays

Looking back at the five most important plays from the Vikings’ preseason win over Tennessee.

Minnesota Vikings v Tennessee Titans
One of the guys in this picture might actually be on the roster after this weekend.
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images


Congratulations, football fans. We have officially endured the dog days of summer. The slog of Training Camp and preseason is finally in our rear view mirrors. The next time we see the Minnesota Vikings take the field, it will actually count.

And that’s a good thing, because the football we watched last night wasn’t exactly thrilling. With most of the starters on the bench, it was a death match between a lot of players that will be unemployed by Labor Day. It was also a death match to our eyes for most of the evening. We should pray that there isn’t a labor strike after the current CBA expires after the 2020 season, because watching the fourth preseason game is like glimpsing into a grim post-apocalyptic future. The Replacements was a work of fiction for a reason.

Although Thursday night’s soggy and sloppy game in Nashville was pretty excruciating for the most part, let’s try to wring out a handful of highlights from the Vikings’ 13-3 win over the Titans.

Play 1: Titans ball, 2nd & 15 at the Tennessee 20. First quarter, 14:50 remaining. L.Falk pass short left to D.Fluellen to TEN 24 for 4 yards (E.Wilson, D.Parry) [S.Weatherly]. PENALTY on MIN-S.Weatherly, Roughing the Passer, 15 yards, enforced at TEN 24.

The referees were in fourth preseason game form last night too.

Stephen Weatherly wasn’t late. He didn’t go low on Luke Falk. Yet he was still flagged for roughing the passer. Umm...OK? This one can’t even be chalked up to “maybe the league is just over-calling a new rule in the preseason to get more tape on it,” because this wasn’t enforcing a new rule. It was incorrectly enforcing an existing rule.

Football is a contact sport. You have to let defensive players play defense.

Play 2a: Titans ball, 1st & 10 at the Tennessee 39. First quarter, 14:28 remaining. D.Fluellen up the middle to TEN 38 for -1 yards (T.Bower).

Play 2b: Titans ball, 3rd & 5 at the Tennessee 44. First quarter, 13:14 remaining. (Shotgun) L.Falk sacked at TEN 38 for -6 yards (S.Weatherly).

Tashawn Bower and Weatherly would likely be locks on most 53-man rosters around the league. But since the Vikings are so deep at defensive line, you can’t write either’s name in pen just yet. If they were still fighting for their jobs last night, it’s hard to argue against their inclusion after their respective performances. Bower and Weatherly have been disruptive throughout the preseason. I had Bower firmly on the bubble and Weatherly with a good shot of getting cut in my Training Camp evaluations two weeks ago. After what they have shown, it’s hard for me to see the team parting ways with either player.

(Just don’t ask me who they’re going to cut to make room for Bower and Weatherly.)

Play 3: Vikings ball, 2nd & 4 at the Minnesota 38. Second quarter, 11:51 remaining. T.Siemian pass short left to R.Thomas to MIN 41 for 3 yards (J.Warmsley). MIN-R.Thomas was injured during the play. His return is Questionable.

The third running back spot may have been sealed on this seemingly innocuous screen pass.

Even if the injury to Roc Thomas turns out to be nothing, it kept him out for the rest of the game on Thursday and robbed him of any chance at a good final push to overtake Mike Boone. After Thomas went out, Boone had a solid showing of 56 yards on 15 carries along with another 53 yards on two catches. I’d love to see Thomas on the Practice Squad this year, but it certainly appears that Boone has won the roster spot heading into the regular season.

Play 4a: Vikings ball, 4th & 2 at the Tennessee 21. Second quarter, 2:00 remaining. (Field Goal formation) D.Carlson 39 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-K.McDermott, Holder-R.Quigley.

Play 4b: Vikings ball, 4th & goal at the Tennessee 4. Third quarter, 7:08 remaining. (Field Goal formation) D.Carlson 22 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-K.McDermott, Holder-R.Quigley.

Two preseason field goals of under 40 yards shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but on Thursday they were.

Daniel Carlson splitting the uprights twice was a welcome sight for Vikings fans. They were both chip shots distance-wise, but it was raining and on grass. Three of Carlson’s four kickoffs were touchbacks while the fourth was returned to the Tennessee 19. It was a much better performance all around by the special teams, especially Carlson. Apparently the tough love from the Vikings coaches was effective, at least for this week.

Play 5: Vikings ball, 1st & 10 at the Tennessee 24. Fourth quarter, 7:25 remaining. (Shotgun) K.Sloter pass deep right to B.Zylstra for 24 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

When a hard-to-watch fourth preseason game has only one touchdown, you better believe we’re going to include it as a game-changing play.

While Mike Zimmer insists that Trevor Siemian is the backup to Kirk Cousins, Kyle Sloter outperformed him again in the preseason. He finished 11 of 15 for 130 yards and this touchdown. As good as Sloter has looked in the games, he wasn’t very sharp in Training Camp practices, which might be why the team appears to be sticking to Siemian as the backup. Perhaps the coaching staff has seen more day-to-day consistency from Siemian and trusts his experience. Personally I’d have Sloter as QB2 with a bullet, but I also don’t get paid to make those decisions. Either way, it would be pretty shocking if the Vikings didn’t keep all the quarterbacks not named Peter Pujals on their roster. (But hey, at least Pujals saw the field on Thursday!)

The catch was monumental for Brandon Zylstra as well. The former Edmonton Eskimo is vying for one of the final wide receiver spots on the 53-man roster and made a good case for himself last night. He led the team with four receptions and 54 yards. Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Laquon Treadwell are locks. Apparently Kendall Wright’s job is safe as well—the coaches have said as much throughout the week and Wright didn’t even have to play on Thursday. That leaves one spot, maybe two, for the rest of the group.

Tavarres King hasn’t been healthy for most of the preseason. Cayleb Jones appears to be doing enough off the field to ensure that he won’t be on the field anytime soon. Jake Wieneke has had some nice moments in the preseason, but he is probably Practice Squad at best. Korey Robertson isn’t going to last the weekend. Jeff Badet had a chance on special teams but didn’t make enough of an impact.

That leaves Zylstra, Stacy Coley, and Chad Beebe. The last two were out with injuries on Thursday, so Zylsta coming back from his own and making an impact on Thursday definitely helped his case. Personally, I’d be fine with getting rid of Wright, keeping Zylstra and Coley on the 53, and moving Beebe to the Practice Squad. We’ll see what the Vikings actually decide to do.

It should be a very interesting next few days as the 32 teams make over 1,100 roster cuts. You can follow along with everything right here with our roster tracker. Until then, let us know what you thought the most important play was from Thursday’s game.


What was the most important play of the Vikings’ win over the Titans?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Weatherly’s "roughing the passer"
    (24 votes)
  • 11%
    Bower and Weatherly balling out
    (31 votes)
  • 5%
    Roc Thomas’ injury
    (14 votes)
  • 25%
    Carlson’s field goals
    (68 votes)
  • 47%
    Sloter to Zylstra TD
    (125 votes)
  • 0%
    Other (comment below)
    (1 vote)
263 votes total Vote Now