NEW ORLEANS — The Vikings first-team offense couldn’t have asked for a better start to the preseason.
Minnesota scored on its opening possession Friday night against the Saints, marching 81 yards in eight plays as quarterback Kirk Cousins tossed a 1-yard touchdown pass to rookie running back Alexander Mattison to cap it off.
The scoring drive marked the second straight year that Cousins has led the Vikings to a touchdown drive on the opening possession of the preseason.
“It was great to get a third-down conversion, it was great to have a couple of explosive plays,” Cousins said. “It was great to get multiple people involved. And ultimately, it was great to come away with a touchdown. If you’re only going to play one series in the preseason, it could have been three-and-out.
“To be able to get down there and score, you can’t draw it up much better than that. It’s not a lot to build on, we did the same thing last year against Denver in the preseason,” Cousins added. “You take from it what it is. You get one drive in the first preseason game. But if we’re going to have a drive, it’s better to go down and score and be that efficient than do anything else.”
Cousins finished 4-for-4 for 65 yards and a touchdown, with a perfect passer rating of 158.3.
Adam Thielen had a 34-yard catch on the drive, and Kyle Rudolph had two catches for 30 yards.
Minnesota overcame some adversity early, as the Vikings were called for holding on the first play of the game, which would have been a 15-yard completion to Stefon Diggs.
Cousins connected with Rudolph for 10 yards before the quarterback eventually moved the chains with a 10-yard scramble on third-and-9.
“I was happy to do that. When you get man coverage is when you want to do it, or at least be aware that’s when you have a chance to squirt through,” Cousins said. “The blitzing linebacker got through, and that’s what really threw off the play … I couldn’t sit in there anymore.
“He created so much chaos in the pocket, I just climbed and felt like I could take off with man coverage,” Cousins added. “Great to be able to do that and hope we can do more of that throughout the season.”
Cousins later hit Rudolph for 20 yards and appeared to find Thielen for a touchdown, but the wide receiver was ruled down at the 1-yard line.
That set up a play-action fake from Cousins that left Mattison uncovered in the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown pass.
“It’s just one of those plays that we drew up, and every time we ran it in practice, it was kind of that same type of look,” Mattison said. “So as soon as I saw the safety kind of bite down a little bit, I knew I’d be open. Kirk put a great ball on me, and then I just finished the catch.”
The Vikings opened the game with four-fifths of their starting offensive line, with Rashod Hill starting at right tackle for Brian O’Neill. Riley Reiff, Pat Elflein, Garrett Bradbury and Josh Kline started from left to right for Minnesota.
“Obviously the offense going down and scoring and overcoming a [first]-and-20, Adam made a great catch, I thought Kirk made some really good plays,” Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. “He scrambled with his legs. I was impressed with the communication of the offensive coaches tonight.”
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook did not play in New Orleans.
“I just didn’t want to put him out here on the turf,” Zimmer said.