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Vikings Vs. Cardinals Game Observations: Seizing Momentum Early, Fading Late

MINNEAPOLIS — The back two-thirds of Minnesota's 2023 NFL Draft turned in a great first half Saturday, providing a quick start that eventually faded as the visiting Cardinals defeated the Vikings 18-17 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Quarterback Jaren Hall (fifth round) and running back DeWayne McBride (seventh round) started in the backfield and led the Vikings to a touchdown on their first possession. Defensive lineman Jaquelin Roy (fifth round) and safety Jay Ward (fourth round) started for Minnesota's defense.

The four members of the six-player draft class who played (Minnesota rested Jordan Addison and Mekhi Blackmon) helped the Vikings start much faster Saturday than the team did the previous week. Minnesota built a 14-point lead in the game's first six minutes.

Hall crisply led the offense on a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by McBride.

Hall opened with a 14-yard completion to Jalen Reagor on the game's first snap. McBride followed with a 9-yard run, moving the ball to midfield in just two plays. After McBride moved the chains with a 3-yard run, Hall completed a 16-yard pass to Nick Muse and later added another 14-yard completion to Reagor, setting up first-and-goal at the 10.

McBride for 3, McBride for 6, McBride for 1 (and six points) followed.

The Vikings kickoff coverage unit was able to pin the Cardinals at the 17 with a nice tackle by Luiji Vilain.

The defense built off that by allowing two gains of 2 on runs to set up a third-and-6.

New Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores sent Ward on a blitz, and he walloped rookie QB Clayton Tune, recording a sack and forcing a fumble recovered by Troy Reeder at the Arizona 5-yard line.

Hall hit running back Abram Smith out of the backfield for a score on the following play, building a 14-0 lead with 9:04 remaining in the first quarter.

Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell continued to rest multiple players, including all offensive and defensive players listed on the first team of the unofficial depth chart, as well as multiple reserves at key positions.

For the second week in a row, O'Connell prioritized the joint practices on Wednesday and Thursday with the Cardinals as the most valuable window to have starters compete.

View game action photos from he Vikings vs. Cardinals preseason Week 3 game at U.S. Bank Stadium

The following players did not play: OLB Marcus Davenport, RB Alexander Mattison, WR Jordan Addison, S Lewis Cine, CB Byron Murphy, Jr., QB Kirk Cousins, CB Mekhi Blackmon, QB Nick Mullens, WR K.J. Osborn, WR Justin Jefferson, WR Brandon Powell, CB Akayleb Evans, S Harrison Smith, S Camryn Bynum, RB Kene Nwangwu, FB C.J. Ham, CB Tay Gowan, RB Ty Chandler, LB Brian Asamoah II, CB NaJee Thompson., LB Abraham Beauplan, LB Ivan Pace, Jr., S Josh Metellus, C Garrett Bradbury, LB Jordan Hicks, G Blake Brandel, RG Ed Ingram, LT Christian Darrisaw, LG Ezra Cleveland, RT Brian O'Neill, WR Jalen Nailor, TE Josh Oliver, TE Johnny Mundt, TE T.J. Hockenson, OLB Pat Jones II, DL Jonathan Bullard, DL Dean Lowry, DL Khyiris Tonga, DL Harrison Phillips, OLB D.J. Wonnum and OLB Danielle Hunter.

Vikings Starting Offense

WR Jalen Reagor

TE Nick Muse

LT Olisaemeka Udoh

LG Jack Snyder

C Austin Schlottmann

RG Alan Ali

RT Vederian Lowe

TE Ben Sims

WR Trishton Jackson

QB Jaren Hall

RB DeWayne McBride

Vikings Starting Defense

OLB Luiji Vilain

DL Sheldon Day

DL Jaquelin Roy

DL T.J. Smith

OLB Benton Whitley

ILB Troy Dye

ILB Troy Reeder

CB Andrew Booth, Jr.

CB Jaylin Williams

S Jake Gervase

S Jay Ward

Notes: After opening in a sub, three-safety package at Seattle, the Vikings opted with a base 3-4 against Tennessee and capped the preseason by going with a base look.

Here are four more observations presented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Proud LASIK Partner of the Minnesota Vikings.

1. Athleticism and accuracy

Hall wound up playing the entire game for the Vikings and finished 17-of-28 passing for 178 yards with one touchdown, an interception and a passer rating of 76.2. That stat line would have been dramatically different with a completion to Ben Sims in the end of the game, but the gain of 40-plus was erased because Hall stepped over the line of scrimmage before launching the football.

He showed athleticism (with fast feet) and accuracy, particularly during a 2-minute drill at the end of the first half. He had to alter his footwork but delivered the ball with accuracy to Blake Proehl for a gain of 21 to the Arizona 20-yard line with 46 seconds remaining.

Arizona was able to limit the Vikings to a 26-yard field goal with 20 seconds remaining in the first half.

The offense struggled to get much going in the second half but did drive to set up Greg Joseph for a shot at a go-ahead field goal. Joseph's 54-yarder in the fourth quarter, however, was wide right.

The Cardinals took the lead for good on a 27-yard field goal by Matt Prater with 6:26 remaining. The score followed Hall's interception.

2. Third downs lack conversions

Early momentum was not sustained because the Vikings struggled to convert third downs.

Minnesota finished just 2-for-12 on the day and only possessed the ball for 27 minutes.

That's been an area where the Vikings can improve, based on preseason results. Minnesota was just 7-for-27 on third downs in its first two preseason games.

The Vikings will do more scheming when the regular season rolls around.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 7, 2024.

3. Former Vikings boost Cardinals

Arizona has seven coaches who are former Minnesota assistants, including Head Coach Jonathan Gannon, Offensive Coordinator Drew Petzing and Defensive Coordinator Nick Rallis.

The Cardinals received a boost from former Vikings players, including quarterback David Blough, receiver Davion Davis, cornerback Kris Boyd and outside linebacker Zach McCloud.

Blough completed 11 of 22 passes for 93 yards, but one was a 26-yard touchdown to Davis.

Blough also ran for a 5-yard touchdown.

Davis finished with three catches for 43 yards.

McCloud recorded 3.0 sacks on a day when the Cardinals totaled six as a team.

4. On the O-line

The Vikings starting offensive line combination was LT Olisaemeka Udoh, LG Jack Snyder, C Austin Schlottmann, RG Alan Ali and RT Vederian Lowe.

Schlottmann was in for Minnesota's first two series before Josh Sokol relieved him at the pivot.

Jarrid Williams relieved Udoh at left tackle, and Christian DiLauro relieved Lowe at right tackle in the second half.