The Vikings used late-game dramatics, including a touchdown and two-point conversion with under a minute to play, to log a 21-20 win over Seattle in Week 3 of the preseason at U.S. Bank Stadium on Friday night. Here are five observations from the game.
1. Cook returns, Murray shines
The U.S. Bank Stadium crowd was spurred on by the debut of Dalvin Cook. The first-team offense was spurred on by the contributions of Latavius Murray. Both were positive developments for the Vikings. Cook saw action on three snaps while Murray was on the field for the entire first half. Murray's best moments came on the first team's only touchdown drive, when he touched the ball eight times and gained 42 yards, including a 24-yard reception and a one-yard touchdown plunge. With the return of Cook, Murray's production in the first three preseason games, CJ Ham helping on offense and special teams and the battle for the RB3 spot between Mike Boone and Roc Thomas, the Vikings have talent and depth at the running back position.
2. First-team offense moves the ball but only produces six points
A glance at the scoreboard wouldn't indicate it, but the first-team offense moved the ball well against Seattle's defense. Quarterback Kirk Cousins led drives of 49, 95 and 64 yards, yielding one touchdown and providing more building blocks for the group as it inches closer to the regular season. Cousins finished with 182 passing yards on 17 of 28 passing. He wasn't sacked, was able to connect for explosive gains and helped the offense convert in key areas (more on that below). Stefon Diggs, who caught a beautiful back-shoulder offering from Cousins, and Adam Thielen each had four receptions; Diggs finished with 51 yards and Thielen with 26.
3. Offense improves in key areas
It was tough sledding for the Vikings offense last week against a good Jacksonville Jaguars defense. Perhaps no metric better illustrated that than the zero for 12 mark the team had on 3rd downs. Whatever corrections the offensive coaching staff had for the offense this past week obviously worked. Cousins and Co. were seven of 10 on 3rd downs in the first half, and they were also one for one in the red zone and committed just one penalty for five yards. It was a much cleaner showing for the offense in what will likely be the starters final in-game tune up before they open the regular season against the San Francisco 49ers on September 9.
4. Carlson misses two field goals in first half
Earlier this week, the Vikings decided to go with rookie Daniel Carlson at kicker over veteran Kai Forbath. On Friday night, Carlson missed two field goals in the first half (both from 42 yards). Carlson calmed down in the second half, converting a point after touchdown attempt and drilling a touchback on a kickoff, plus head coach Mike Zimmer downplayed any long-term concern about his young kicker. But you can be sure Zimmer will find ways to put Carlson in pressure situations during practice and perhaps even during the preseason finale next Thursday in Nashville to help get him back on track.
5. Beebe, Harris, Sloter and Wieneke ignite 4th quarter comeback
The Vikings entered the 4th quarter trailing 13-6. That's when a quartet of Vikings made a series of plays to lead the team to 15 points in the final 9:13 to edge Seattle by a point. It began when newly-signed safety George Iloka batted an Alex McGough pass up in the air and fellow safety Anthony Harris corralled it for an interception. That turnover led to a Kyle Sloter-to-Jake Wieneke touchdown moments later; Carlson's PAT knotted the game at 13. Seattle answered with a touchdown of its own to reclaim the lead, but then receiver Chad Beebe returned a punt 34 yards to midfield, setting up Sloter and Co. with good field position and 2:25 on the clock. Sloter completed five passes on the ensuing drive, with three of them going to Beebe for a total of 50 yards. The final completion was a 25-yard dart, on the run, to Beebe, who was flashing across the middle of the field as Sloter evaded a pass rush on 4th and 15. After Beebe made the sliding grab for the touchdown, Zimmer elected to go for two in order to win the game and avoid overtime. Sloter found Wieneke on an out-breaking route and the Maple, Grove, Minn. native was able to secure the pass and wrestle his way into the end zone for the two-point conversion to give his team a 21-20 lead that would go on to serve as the winning margin.