MINNEAPOLIS — Saturday night's performance was still a display of preseason football, but there were many more positives for the Vikings to take away.
Minnesota still rested some key players — Danielle Hunter, Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook and Harrison Smith — among them.
But the majority of the Vikings starters did play — with the strong impressions coming mainly from the defense — in a 12-10 loss to the Colts.
The biggest takeaway? Minnesota's depth linebackers played well, which was needed after that group had drawn the ire of Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer of late.
Second-year linebacker Troy Dye had the defensive play of the game, corralling a tipped pass for a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown on the third defensive series of the game.
Dye, who was calling the defensive plays early with Anthony Barr out, nearly had another interception late in the second quarter but couldn't hold on.
A pair of other linebackers — Nick Vigil and Blake Lynch — also flashed in the first half. Vigil recorded a pass breakup on the first play of the game, while a blitzing Lynch stuffed a Colts run on third-and-2.
Chazz Surratt also looked good on special teams, as he had a nice pop on a tackle in the first half. The 2021 third-round pick was also in on several tackles throughout the night.
"We had five starters out on defense tonight, and I thought they rose to the occasion," Zimmer told Greg Coleman at halftime on the TV broadcast.
Minnesota wraps up its preseason slate on the road Friday against Kansas City. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. (CT) from Arrowhead Stadium.
Here are four other takeaways from the Vikings second preseason game:
1. Rough first half for the offense
Kirk Cousins got the start and eventually played three series as the Vikings offense sputtered in the opening half.
Cousins completed five of seven passes for 23 yards — all to running backs and tight ends — as he ended the night with a passer rating of 75.3.
Cousins, who was also sacked, was on the field for 15 plays as the offense generated 63 total yards. Minnesota couldn't convert on any of the three third downs the quarterback was on the field.
It remains to be seen if Cousins, who has had some ups and downs in practice of late, plays in the preseason finale.
And it's worth noting that Cousins was playing without Jefferson, Cook and Tyler Conklin. Adam Thielen started the game but played just one series.
Jake Browning played the majority of the second quarter and also had a sluggish start. He eventually led a field goal drive, but struggled to connect with his skill players.
He completed six of 15 passes for 82 yards on the evening, compiling a passer rating of 58.2. He was also sacked.
A Vikings wide receiver didn't catch a pass until there was roughly two minutes left in the second quarter.
One positive came in the run game, where the Vikings the interior of Minnesota's offensive line — Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury and Olisaemeka Udoh — fared well. Vikings running backs had seven carries for 44 yards, most of them right up the middle.
"Offensively, we were a little up and down," Zimmer said. "But we ran the ball well."
Kellen Mond played the entire second half for the Vikings. He completed 6 of 12 passes for 61 yards. His passer rating was 64.9.
2. Pierce and Tomlinson are as advertised
The Vikings unveiled their monstrous pair of defensive tackles Saturday night.
Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson certainly looked the part, as the duo — with combined weight of 665 pounds — visibly showed up in the run game.
The pair only played in the first quarter, but Colts running backs carried nine times for just 27 total yards (3.0 yards per carry) in a strong performance from the big boys up front.
Backup defensive tackle Jordon Scott also produced a career highlight, but his came against the passing game.
Scott, an undrafted rookie out of Oregon, picked off Colts quarterback Sam Ehlinger in the second quarter on a tipped pass.
Scott controlled the ball for a few steps and eventually fumbled (which was recovered by Vikings safety Myles Dorn), but the interception still stood for Scott, who was mobbed on the Vikings sideline.
View game action photos of the Vikings during the primetime preseason game against the Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium.
3. Breeland shines in the secondary
Zimmer singled out a cornerback — in a good way — in his halftime chat with Coleman.
"I thought we did a nice job in coverage," Zimmer said. "Breeland had a couple plays he made."
That would be veteran Bashaud Breeland, who joined the team in early June after spending the past two seasons with the Chiefs.
It was Breeland who forced the ball into the air on Dye's pick-six, and he later had lock-down coverage on Parris Campbell on a deep pass down the right sideline.
Breeland later broke up another third-down pass, showing off the physical and aggressive style he has also displayed in practice the past few weeks.
4. Some positives on special teams
Minnesota had a better effort on special teams Saturday night than it did in the preseason opener.
Rookie Ihmir Smith-Marsette flashed in the return game. He had a 17-yard punt return, and also gained 63 yards on a pair of kickoff returns.
His longest kickoff return of the night went for 41 yards, as he found a seam on the right side of the field and scooted up the sideline after initially taking the ball out from deep in the end zone.
Punter Britton Colquitt also bounced back, averaging 46.1 yards on eight punts, with three landing inside the 20-yard line.
Surratt, who was highlighted above, helped anchor the punt coverage. The Colts had just 26 yards on six returns.
Vikings kicker Greg Joseph made one of his two field goals on the night. His 51-yard try was barely wide right, and he made his attempt from 49 yards out.