The Vikings defeated the Arizona Cardinals by a score of 20-9 on Saturday, moving their 2019 preseason record to 3-0. Here are five observations from the win over Arizona.
1. The Chef was cooking
The Vikings rushing attack looked good in two preseason games without Dalvin Cook. On Saturday with Cook, it looked even better. In his first preseason action of 2019, Cook looked regular season. He earned three tough yards on his initial carry and then took his second carry 85 yards to the end zone for a dazzling touchdown. And that was that for the Vikings starting running back, as head coach Mike Zimmer elected to sit Cook down for the remainder of the game and give the rest of the day's work to Ameer Abdullah, Mike Boone, Alexander Mattison and De'Angelo Henderson.
2. The rest of the offense took a while to heat up
Cook's explosive touchdown run was unquestionably the highlight of the day for the Vikings first-team offense. Without starters Brian O'Neill and Adam Thielen, the Vikings struggled to convert 3rd downs and drive the ball. Quarterback Kirk Cousins completed just three of 13 passes and was sacked twice, while receivers also contributed to the mistakes. The offense had a negative play or penalty on each of their first four drives. The good news is the first-team offense looked sharp in the first two preseason games and will have plenty of time to diagnose and fix mistakes before they take the field again (September 8 vs. Atlanta).
3. Vikings defense didn't allow a touchdown again
Head coach Mike Zimmer said in his postgame press conference that his defense didn't rush the quarterback well and wasn't good enough on 3rd downs for his liking. But it should also be noted that, for the second consecutive game, the Vikings defense did not allow a touchdown. The starters got off the field in three plays on the first series and then bowed up to allow only field goal tries and one more punt the rest of their time on the field. Arizona earned only 3.5 yards per rush for the game and wound up punting seven times.
4. Preseason stars Boone, Kearse, Sloter kept shining
Mike Boone entered Saturday's game as the NFL's 2019 preseason leader in rushing yards and scrimmage yards, and he will likely retain that standing following his performance against the Cardinals. Boone carried the ball 10 times for 41 yards and scored on a seven-yard run that gave the Vikings a 13-9 lead in the 4th quarter. Jayron Kearse, coming off last week's three tackles-for-loss effort, started in place of Harrison Smith and tallied two tackles and two pass break ups. And reserve quarterback Kyle Sloter did what he always does in the preseason – looked sensational. Sloter entered the game with the Vikings trailing 9-7 and promptly led the offense on two touchdown drives to take the lead and increase the lead to 20-9. In the process, he completed six of seven passes for 102 yards, including a 15-yard toss to fullback Khari Blasingame on 4th and 2 late in the 4th quarter.
5. What's next?
The Vikings will return to TCO Performance Center on Sunday to being a short week of preparations for the preseason finale in Buffalo on Thursday night; the team travels to Buffalo after practice on Wednesday. Some focus will also be devoted to the Atlanta Falcons, who will come to U.S. Bank Stadium in two weeks for the regular season opener on September 8. In the midst of all that, the Vikings will also cut their roster from 90 players to 53 by August 31 and will establish a 10-member practice squad on and around September 1.