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10 Observations on the Vikings Preseason Finale

The Vikings were back in U.S. Bank Stadium on Thursday evening for the preseason finale and ended the exhibition season on a good note with a 27-25 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. Here are 10 observations from the game as the team turns its full attention toward the Tennessee Titans and Week 1.

1. Vikings played bully and took the ball away

Preventing offenses from scoring is one thing. Creating high-percentage scoring chances for your own offense is taking another step. That's what the Vikings defense and special teams did on Thursday night. The Vikings scored 20 of their 27 points off of four turnovers, including 13 points off of three takeaways inside the Rams 20. Rookie S Jayron Kearse had a hand in two of the takeaways, recovering a punt that was inadvertently touched by a member of the Rams return team and then causing Rams WR Paul McRoberts to muff a punt return that David Morgan recovered. In between those two takeaways, rookie DE Stephen Weatherly recovered a fumbled snap by QB Jared Goff and DT Toby Johnson intercepted a pass that was deflected by DE Justin Trattou. The Vikings turned the first two takeaways into field goals and scored touchdowns following each of the final two takeaways.

2. Rookie running backs run wild

What a night for a pair of rookie running backs. CJ Ham (Augustana) and Jhurell Pressley (New Mexico) are both undrafted rookies, but both have shown the goods that would've made them quality draft picks. They combined for three touchdowns on Thursday night, with Pressley scoring in the second quarter on a 28-yard catch-and-run from Brad Sorensen and then also returning a kickoff in the third quarter 106 yards for a touchdown. Ham scored from one yard out in the fourth quarter.

3. Kearse keeps it up

It's been an impressive preseason for rookie S Jayron Kearse and it was capped off by perhaps his best performance against Los Angeles. Undoubtedly, he's made mistakes that most observers haven't noticed but Vikings coaches have, but he's also made splash plays that everyone has noticed. Kearse had two interceptions coming into Thursday's game and he tacked on a forced fumble and a fumble recovery before all was said and done. Kearse also stopped a wide receiver screen for no gain in the first quarter and a tackle for loss of two yards early in the second quarter.

4. Stave left with injury, but not before a few quality throws

It's not been a good week for Vikings quarterbacks. Joel Stave got the start on Thursday night but he wasn't able to finish the game. He left with a hand injury and gave way to Sorensen. Before he was forced from the action, though, Stave put a few good throws on tape. The best may have been to Jarius Wright for a gain of nine yards on 3rd and 4. Stave put the pass on a frozen rope to Wright just as he was smashed by DE Morgan Fox, putting the ball outside the numbers and in a place where only Wright could catch it just before he toe-tapped out of bounds. Stave finished going nine-of-18 for 76 yards.

5. Pivoting doors were open, but didn't have obvious impact on conditions

The five pivoting glass doors that comprise much of the west end of U.S. Bank Stadium were open for Thursday night's game, which was played on a perfect summer evening in Minneapolis. About the only opportunity to see the open doors' impact on the game was squandered when Stave was sacked for a loss of nine yards on a 3rd and 10 from the Los Angeles 35. Had Stave thrown incomplete rather than lose yardage, Walsh likely would've come on for what would've been 52 or 53 yard attempt toward the west end goal posts, which would've been kicking toward the open doors.

6. Locke, Walsh finish preseason on a solid note

K Blair Walsh was perfect on the night, hitting field goals from 30 and 34 yards and also converting two PATs. For the preseason, Walsh finished seven-of-eight on field goals with a long of 51 yards and six-of-six on PATs. P Jeff Locke had a good outing, as well. He punted nine times with a gross average of 43.3 yards and down two punts inside the 20 with no touchbacks.

7. Pair of drops by Treadwell doesn't diminish Zimmer's confidence

Rookie WR Laquon Treadwell had two uncharacteristic drops. The usually sure-handed Treadwell did come away from the game with a reception, but the two drops are an unexpected end to what's been a solid preseason for the Vikings first-round pick. Even with the two drops, Treadwell caught a compliment from his head coach, with Zimmer saying in his postgame press conference that he believes Treadwell will be a good player.

8. Preseason has gone full circle for Marcus Sherels

There was a time in the preseason when Marcus Sherels was playing in the final game and fighting for his job. While Sherels likely still has that mindset, his place on the team seems secure. But he was still on the field Thursday night, and one couldn't help but get nervous every time he was involved in a tackle – making one on defense or special teams or enduring one as a returner. That means the preseason has gone full circle for the Rochester, Minn. native. He was once a roster bubble guy who needed strong preseason performances to stick around, but now he's got Vikings Nation holding its breath whenever he's involved in a preseason play because his services are so valuable in the regular season.

9. Happy Birthday Toby Johnson

On the day he turned 25, DT Toby Johnson authored quite the impressive celebration. He was responsible for the turnover created when Goff fumbled the snap, as he cleared the way for Weatherly to pounce on the loose ball. Johnson also was aware enough to cradle the pass that was tipped by Trattou later in the game so he could come down with the interception and give the offense a short field. Quietly, Johnson has impressed this training camp and preseason.

10. Up next…

The Vikings will trim their roster down to 53 players on Saturday and then they'll establish up to a 10-member practice squad by Sunday. Once the new week begins on Monday, the coaching staff and players will be fully invested in their preparation for the Tennessee Titans and the season opener on September 11 in Nashville.

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