EAGAN, Minn. — This Vikings hit the practice fields on Monday afternoon for the first time since training camp ended.
Minnesota practiced in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts for just under two hours on an overcast day at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
The Vikings are on a short week before their third preseason game, which is at U.S. Bank Stadium at 7 p.m. (CT) Friday against the Seahawks.
Here are three observations from Monday’s session:
* 1. Late-game heroics*
Quarterback Kirk Cousins and tight end Kyle Rudolph came up clutch on Monday.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer put his first-team offense in a late-game situation against the first-team defense, with the offense trailing 16-10 with 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter, so it was touchdown or bust. The offense, which had one time out, had the ball on the defense’s 20-yard line.
The situation started on third-and-10 with Cousins hitting Rudolph for eight yards as Zimmer burned the offense’s lone time out.
Cousins then hit wide receiver Laquon Treadwell for seven yards on fourth-and-4. The receiver made it out of bounds to set up the final play of the game.
With the offense facing first-and-goal from the 5-yard line with just four seconds left, Cousins lofted a perfect pass to an open Rudolph in the middle of the end zone to tie the game at 16 and presumable give the offense a one-point win.
2. Plenty of 3rd-down work
One of the biggest talking points from Zimmer after Saturday’s preseason game was that there would be plenty of third-down work this week, especially since the offense went 0-for-12 against the Jaguars.
Zimmer was right, as both sides of the ball went at it on third downs for a sizable chunk on Monday’s practice.
Cousins found wide receiver Adam Thielen early on in practice to convert on three of four third-down tries. (Cousins chucked the ball out of bounds on the other play, with the quarterback heaving it onto the street adjacent to the practice field to make sure it got far out of play).
The Vikings worked on moving the chains on third- downs later in practice, too, with the defense making some plays of its own. Defensive end Brian Robison would have had a sack and tackle for no gain on back-to-back plays. Safety Harrison Smith would have also notched a sack.
Cousins also found Diggs for a third-down conversion. A screen pass to running back Mike Boone likely would have gone for a big gain.
3. Work that form
Much of the discussion of Zimmer’s Monday morning press conference centered around the NFL’s new helmet rule and how it could affect the league.
The Vikings then made sure they are using the correct teaching points, as a portion of Monday’s practice was spent on gunners working on form tackling on punt returners.
Treadwell, Marcus Sherels, Holton Hill, Chad Beebe, Korey Robertson, Craig James and Trevon Mathis were among those who wrapped up a large foam pad onto a landing pad.
Vikings special teams assistant Ryan Ficken worked with players in that group while Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer worked on punt coverage with other players.