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5 Takeaways: Starters Struggle as Vikings Wrap Up Winless Preseason

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Vikings are now onto Cincinnati.

Minnesota wrapped its three-game preseason slate winless Friday night in Kansas City. The Vikings trailed early and never recovered in a 28-25 loss at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Vikings endured only their third winless preseason in team history, joining the 1961 and 1979 squads.

Kirk Cousins and a majority of the first-team offense played three series Friday night, generating three points and 75 yards of offense in 15 plays.

The Vikings marched 66 yards in their first six plays on offense but stalled out and were forced to kick a 26-yard field goal. Following the first six plays, Minnesota gained 9 yards on the next nine plays, a sequence that included a sack on the first play of the second drive.

"Yeah, I thought we moved the ball well the first drive," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer told Greg Coleman on the KMSP FOX 9 and KFAN 100.3-FM simulcast. "And then the second drive, we got hit on a blitz and got a sack, and next thing you know it's third-and-a-bunch.

"And then the next drive, I think they were backed up into their own end zone," Zimmer added. "So, the first drive was encouraging, and we've got to do better than that after that."

Cousins was 5-of-7 passing for the second straight game, throwing for 57 yards this time around. He threw for 23 yards last week against the Colts.

In six preseason drives with Cousins on the field — and with the offense missing Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook entirely and playing mostly without Adam Thielen — Minnesota gained 138 yards on 32 plays and hit one field goal. The other five drives consisted on four punts and a missed field goal.

The Vikings will now turn their attention to the regular season opener in Cincinnati for a noon (CT) kickoff on Sept. 12.

Here are four other takeaways from the Vikings preseason finale:

1. Rough start for the 1st-team defense

Zimmer had about half of his starting defense on the field to open Friday's game, as Danielle Hunter, Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr and Patrick Peterson did not play.

But the other five starters (and the entire unit) didn't inspire much confidence against quarterback Patrick Mahomes and a high-octane Kansas City offense.

The Chiefs scored touchdowns on both of Mahomes' drives before he went to the sideline for the night. He was 8-of-9 passing for 117 yards and two scores to compile a perfect NFL passer rating of 158.3.

Bashaud Breeland was beaten deep for a 35-yard Tyreek Hill score on the first drive, while Mahomes tossed a 5-yard score to former Vikings tight end Blake Bell later in the first quarter.

All in all, the Vikings allowed 149 yards on the 15 plays Mahomes was on the field, with three plays of at least 20 yards.

The Vikings also had a few missed tackles, including one by Sheldon Richardson on a screen pass. Xavier Woods, who made his Vikings preseason debut, was called for a facemask on the play.

2. Ups and downs for young safeties

As mentioned above, Harrison Smith didn't play, and Woods was only in for a handful of snaps.

That meant Camryn Bynum and Myles Dorn got the majority of the reps at safety with a chance to impress coaches before rosters are reduced to 53 players Tuesday.

There was some good — Bynum had a solid tackle in the flat, and Dorn came flying in to knock a receiver out of bounds to force an incompletion — in the first half.

But the half ended on a sour note when the Chiefs threw a 23-yard touchdown to the post that split Bynum and Dorn.

"We got the young safeties in there, and they're not communicating very well," Zimmer said at halftime. "They're getting a lot of different looks, so they've got to do a better job that way."

Bynum (and the rest of the reserve defensive players) also showed up in a bad way when they failed to stop a 56-yard touchdown by Derrick Gore on a screen pass.

3. Rose, Jr., continues strong preseason

Kudos to A.J. Rose, Jr. for making perhaps the best impression of any Vikings offensive player this preseason.

And while the undrafted rookie might be considered a longshot to make the 53-man roster, he did score the Vikings first (and only) two offensive touchdowns of the preseason Friday night.

Rose broke loose for a 32-yard scoring run a few minutes into the third quarter, a play that was made possible by strong blocks from Chad Beebe, Whop Philyor, Wyatt Davis and Mason Cole.

"Every time he gets on the field, he's doing something that catches your attention," General Manager Rick Spielman said during the simulcast.

He later added a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Rose finished with six carries for 41 yards against the Chiefs. He had 37 carries for 151 yards in preseason play, including a 100-yard performance against the Broncos.

4. A final evaluation of the backup QBs

The Vikings stuck to the same script as last week, as Cousins got the start before he was followed by Jake Browning and Kellen Mond.

Browning underwhelmed, misfiring on his first four pass attempts. He finally connected with K.J. Osborn for a 32-yard gain and later hit tight end Brandon Dillon for 9 yards.

The Vikings missed a field goal on that same drive, as Browning didn't lead Minnesota to any points on three possessions.

He finished preseason play by competing 15 of 33 passes for 154 yards with an interception returned for a score.

Mond, meanwhile, had his best showing of the preseason.

He led Minnesota on two scoring drives, both of which were capped off by Rose. Overall, he completed 16 of 23 passes for 196 yards.

Mond also made some plays with his legs, including a first-down scramble on fourth-and-6 to move the chains in the third quarter. He had five carries for 40 yards.

And he threw a 2-point conversion after a Parry Nickerson pick-six, which was Minnesota's second defensive score of the preseason.

Mond did have a hand in a pair of turnovers against the Chiefs, but neither were arguably his fault. His pass to Zach Davidson was picked off, as the tight end seemed to struggle to locate the ball. Mond also was strip-sacked after pressure from his blindside.

Nate Stanley, a 2020 seventh-round draft pick, did not play Friday night — or in the entire preseason. He has not seen any actual game action since there were not any preseason games in 2020.