DENVER — Three preseason games, three different approaches to the backup quarterback position for the Vikings, who lost 23-13 to the Broncos Saturday night.
Minnesota opened with Sean Mannion and had him play the entire first half instead of swapping with anyone else.
Mannion completed nine of 16 passes for 121 yards for a passer rating of 80.5. He appeared to pick up a little rhythm that showed up in leading a drive for a field goal just before halftime.
The veteran also lost a fumble (more on that play below) that Denver returned 17 yards for a touchdown and a 17-7 lead with less than a minute remaining in the first half.
Kellen Mond entered the game after halftime. He started slowly but also was able to build momentum.
Mannion started the preseason opener, and Mond opened last week's game. They split drives in both games but failed to establish much rhythm.
Minnesota struggled with protection late in the game as Denver totaled five sacks. Mond finished 10-for-17 passing with 102 yards and a passer rating of 76.1.
The Vikings traded for Nick Mullens on Aug. 22. Mullens did not play Saturday.
Here are four more observations presented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Proud LASIK Partner of the Minnesota Vikings, followed by a scoring summary:
1. No Ingram; O-line combos
Rookie Ed Ingram was not on the initial list of players not expected to play, but the guard did not take the field against the Broncos after starting Minnesota's first two preseason games.
The second-round pick has been working his way up the depth chart and did not play on a night when Minnesota rested its other starting offensive linemen.
The Vikings opened with LT Blake Brandel, LG Jesse Davis, C Austin Schlottmann, RG Chris Reed and RT Olisaemeka Udoh. Reed, who had worked his way back from an elbow injury, participated in the opening coin toss with Andrew DePaola and Pat Jones II.
Minnesota later moved Brandel to left guard and Reed to center while bringing in LT Timon Parris and RG Kyle Hinton.
The Vikings third unit was, from left to right, Parris, Wyatt Davis, Josh Sokol, Hinton and Vederian Lowe.
2. Joseph cooler than cool
Vikings kicker Greg Joseph is so locked in that he wasn't affected by a sack turning a 48-yard field goal attempt into a 58-yarder.
He wasn't affected by the switch in directions caused by the change of quarters, and he wasn't impacted by a stadium light show that Denver displayed on the way into the fourth quarter.
Joseph simply stepped up and knocked it through the uprights.
For the record, I had "cooler than cool" written as the heading before the stadium's DJ played Outkast's "Hey Ya!"
3. 2-minute drill
The Vikings first attempt at a 2-minute drill didn't end well. Denver created pressure to force a fumble it returned for a touchdown (details below).
The second shot, however, provided an opportunity for Head Coach Kevin O'Connell and his staff to work through the mechanics of a 2-minute drill in a game.
In just 48 seconds, The Vikings drove 47 yards, getting an 18-yard completion to Bisi Johnson and a 20-yard pass to Trishton Jackson.
O'Connell and Mannion managed the clock well during the drive at a point of games that can be so critical.
4. Interception in red zone
The Vikings opened the game with advantageous field position after Denver muffed the opening kickoff and the ball went out of bounds at the Broncos 3-yard line.
Denver, however, moved the ball well and made it all the way to the Minnesota 8-yard line before safety Myles Dorn tipped a pass up into the air that outside linebacker Luiji Vilain intercepted.
Allowing 89 yards isn't going to be ideal, but the drive illustrated the importance of starting field position, as well as continuing to fight back.
Q2, 12:53 remaining
Broncos 3, Vikings 0
Brandon McManus kicks a 50-yard field goal [9 plays, 59 yards, 3:43 time of possession]
Building on momentum: The Broncos picked up a third-and-6 with a pass to KJ Hamler and benefited when officials flagged Myles Dorn for unnecessary roughness on the tackle of Hamler. Denver followed with a 16-yard gain by JaQuan Hardy to get in McManus' range.
Q2, 7:41 remaining
Vikings 7, Broncos 3
Bryant Koback 1-yard run (Greg Joseph kicks PAT) [11 plays, 78 yards, 5:12 time of possession]
Conversion provides spark: The Vikings converted a third-and-7 with a 16-yard pass from Sean Mannion to Jalen Nailor and followed with 43 yards on their next three plays. Ty Chandler rushed for 7 before Nick Muse caught an 11-yard pass. Chandler followed with a 25-yard run.
Q2, 5:48 remaining
Broncos 10, Vikings 7
Montrell Washington 12-yard run (McManus kicks PAT) [5 plays, 75 yards, 1:53 time of possession]
Quick strike: The Broncos opened their drive with a 45-yard pass from Brett Rypien to Seth Williams on the snap that followed Koback's touchdown.
Q2, 0:48 remaining
Broncos 17, Vikings 7
Baron Browning returns a fumble 17 yards (McManus kicks PAT)
Stunt: The Broncos ran a stunt by McTelvin Agim and Browning on Minnesota's first snap of the drive. The effort got the defenders past left tackle Timon Parris and Blake Brandel at left guard. Browning burst through and made first contact, but Agim's secondary contact forced the fumble that Browning scooped and scored.
Q2, 0:00 remaining
Broncos 17, Vikings 10
Joseph kicks a 46-yard field goal [5 plays, 47 yards, 0:48 time of possession]
Down the field: The Vikings moved the ball efficiently with completions by Mannion to Koback for 9, Colorado native Bisi Johnson for 18 and Trishton Jackson for 20.
Q4, 14:55 remaining
Broncos 17, Vikings 13
Joseph kicks a 58-yard field goal [9 plays, 41 yards, 3:40 time of possession]
Big grab: Ihmir Smith-Marsette reeled in a 30-yard reception from Mond on a deep one down the right sideline to move into Joseph's range.
Q4, 3:19 remaining
Broncos 20, Vikings 13
McManus kicks a 40-yard field goal [11 plays, 64 yards, 3:19 time of possession]
Q4, 0:19 remaining
Broncos 23, Vikings 13
McManus kicks a 31-yard field goal [4 plays, minus-5 yards, 1:48 time of possession]
View photos from the Vikings-Broncos 2022 preseason game at Empower Field at Mile High.