The Vikings wrapped up their 2018 preseason on Thursday night by defeating the Tennessee Titans 13-3 at Nissan Stadium in downtown Nashville. The game was briefly delayed at kickoff due to weather and rain persisted through much of the evening, but it didn’t stop several Vikings from impressing in their last chance to make cases for roster spots before teams cut down to 53 players on Saturday. Here are five observations from Thursday’s game.
1. Sloter makes 4th quarter magic again
Another week, another game-clinching touchdown drive for quarterback Kyle Sloter. With the Vikings nursing a three-point lead with 8:51 to play, Sloter led the offense onto the field and used three completions to drive the offense 55 yards in four plays to score a touchdown. A perfectly-placed pass from Sloter to Brandon Zylstra provided the score and was the peak moment of an 11 of 15 performance that generated 130 yards to go along with the touchdown toss. In three games this preseason, Sloter led scoring drives in the 4th quarter to help the Vikings secure victories. In Denver against his old team, Sloter guided two scoring drives to help the Vikings overcome a deficit in the final quarter and win 42-28. Two weeks later at home against Seattle, Sloter threw touchdowns to Chad Beebe and Jake Wieneke to help the Vikings win 21-20. In total this preseason, Sloter finished going 41 of 56 (73.2%) for 366 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 114.1. He also added 33 yards and a touchdown on six rushing attempts.
2. Carlson gets back on track
Daniel Carlson didn’t inspire confidence last week when he missed two field goal attempts from 42 yards just days after the Vikings released veteran Kai Forbath. Thursday night in Nashville was a bit of a make-good, though, as Carlson was perfect with his place kicks. He connected on field goals of 39 and 22 yards plus he made his only extra point. Those successful kicks came in less than ideal conditions, too, with the wind blowing steadily and rain falling for much of the game.
3. Firsts: Jones as a Viking, Isidora as a center
This week, the Vikings acquired offensive lineman Brett Jones from the New York Giants in a trade that sent a 2019 draft pick to the Big Apple. On Thursday night, Jones proved to be a quick study because he appeared in and play all of the Vikings preseason finale. Jones started at left guard and gave his new coaching staff a game’s worth of tape to evaluate as the team looks to cut down to 53 players, establish a practice squad and set a starting lineup for the season opener in 10 days. Also serving as part of the final evaluation will be a game’s worth of tape of Danny Isidora playing center for the first time in his football life.
4. Defensive line depth continues to show up
All preseason, the Vikings have had several non-starters along the defense line step up and flash plenty of promise and playmaking ability. Nothing changed on Thursday night. Tashawn Bower and Stephen Weatherly started at defensive end and combined to make life very difficult for Tennessee’s offense. Bower had four tackles and 1.0 tackle for loss while Weatherly made himself feel at home in the Titans backfield, garnering three tackles, 1.0 sack, 1.0 tackle for loss and three quarterback hits; he also drew two holding penalties. Fourth-round draft pick Jayln Holmes played most of the game and finished with three tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1.0 tackle for loss and two quarterback hits, and second-year versatile lineman Ifeadi Odenigbo had three tackles and four quarterback hits on the evening.
5. Rookie Hill puts nice finishing touch on first preseason
The Vikings were aggressive in pursuing and signing Holton Hill as an undrafted free agent this past spring. On Thursday night, Hill is the one who showed aggressiveness and he also put a few impressive finishing touches on his first NFL training camp and preseason. Hill started at cornerback and finished with a team-high six tackles to go along with an impressive pass breakup along the left sideline. He also added a 53-yard kickoff return and 31 punt return yards on four tries.