The Vikings opened up their 2018 preseason on Saturday night in Denver with a 42-28 victory over the Broncos. Here are five observations from the game…
1. Cousins, offense off to a perfect beginning
Vikings fans tuning in to see their new-look offense for the first time could not have asked for anything better than what they saw on Saturday night. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was flawless, completing four passes on as many attempts. He connected with Stefon Diggs three times, once on a perfectly-placed ball that landed in the outstretched arms of Diggs for a gain of 28 to the Denver 3 and then moments later for a one-yard touchdown on 3rd down. It wasn't all Cousins-to-Diggs, though. The Vikings offensive line moved the line of scrimmage consistently early in the game and running back Latavius Murray made it count, rushing for 43 yards on four carries thanks in large part of consecutive runs of 21 and 20 yards. It was a perfect beginning for new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and his first unit.
2. First-team and second-team defense dominated
The defense would not be outdone by the offense. The Vikings starters forced a Denver three-and-out on the opening possession of the game and then the second unit came on without a thought of relenting. The Vikings didn't give up a gain of more than five yards until 6:38 to go in the 2nd quarter and they didn't surrender a 1st down until Denver's sixth possession. Safety Jack Tocho, who had three passes defensed on the night, intercepted a pass to end Denver's third possession. Second-year defensive end Tashawn Bower was also impressive, collecting a sack and a pass break up. At halftime, the Vikings had surrendered only 61 net yards and a single 1st down while holding Broncos quarterbacks to five of 13 passing for 17 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.
3. Daniel Carlson registers strong debut
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer opted to give place kicking duties to Daniel Carlson and kickoff duties to Kai Forbath in the preseason opener. Both kickers executed well. Forbath boomed six touchbacks on eight kickoffs while Carlson wowed the Vikings faithful with field goals of 39 and 57 yards as well as four extra point conversions on as many tries.
4. Roc Thomas shines, but RB3 competition remains thick
One of the sneaky-good position battles at Vikings training camp is at running back behind Dalvin Cook and Murray. The Vikings have two undrafted players – Mike Boone and Roc Thomas – plus Mack Brown competing for reps. A lot happened with this group on Saturday night. While Boone and Brown did some good things, Thomas stole the show with 131 total yards and two touchdowns. He caught a Trevor Siemian screen pass late in the first half and wound up splitting the Broncos defense to take one 78 yards to the house. Thomas also scored earlier in the first half on a 13-yard pass from Siemian.
5. Coach Zimmer still has plenty of teaching points from Saturday's debut
It's easy to paint a rosy picture following the Vikings 42-28 win over Denver. And it does pay to learn from success as well as failures. But make no mistake, Zimmer will be looking to make corrections and generate improvement this week in practice. The Vikings surrendered a 23-yard touchdown run and 78-yard punt return in the game, plus they were penalized nine times for 93 yards on the evening and also relinquished a 17-point lead at one point before mounting a quick late-game comeback with Kyle Sloter under center. Overall, though, it was a solid debut for the Vikings and they will be eager to get back to work at TCO Performance Center on Monday.