Two of the Vikings newest receivers — Rodney Adams and Stacey Coley — made their NFL debut Thursday, and they both played a significant role in Minnesota's 17-10 defeat of Buffalo.
The Vikings first touchdown of the night belonged to C.J. Ham, who stepped in at running back when Bishop Sankey left the game with an injury early in the second half. The play, however, was made possible by Coley, who kept the drive alive.
On third-and-7 from the Bills 26, quarterback Case Keenum launched a deep ball to the right sideline, where Coley snagged the pass and was pushed out of bounds for a 24-yard catch and a Vikings first down inside the 3. On the following play, Ham muscled through for the Vikings score.
"I had a slant route, and the quarterback started scrambling toward my side, so I just reversed field and ran to the sideline," Coley said. "The quarterback made a good play, [and] I feel like I made a good play."
Believe it or not, the catch wasn't Coley's longest of the night.
The Keenum-Coley connection was activated midway through the second quarter. After an incomplete pass on first-and-10 from his own 36, Keenum threw the ball over the middle to Coley, who hauled it in near the 50 and picked up an additional 24 yards after the catch.
Coley, whom the Vikings drafted in the seventh round, also had catches of eight yards and five yards from Keenum.
"It was great," Coley said. "I feel like I could have done more, but when my opportunities were at hand, I feel like I executed."
The Vikings second touchdown also occurred in the third quarter, when quarterback Taylor Heinicke capped off a 71-yard drive with a pass to Rodney Adams.
On third-and-goal from the Bills 2-yard line, Heinicke faked a handoff to running back Terrell Newby, rolled to the right and located Adams, who fought his way through traffic and found his way to the open lane. Adams caught the pass and stepped into the end zone. Kai Forbath knocked through the PAT to give Minnesota a 17-3 lead over Buffalo.
"It was hard. Having to run through all the linemen and trying to get open to find the seam," said Adams, a fifth-round selection in this year's draft. "It worked perfectly, and we got the touchdown."
Added Adams: "It was great – my first preseason game as a rookie, and I score a touchdown, it's a great feeling. It's just great."
The play was a redeeming one for Adams, who a few minutes earlier had attempted to field a Bills punt but muffed the catch. Fortunately for Minnesota, the ball was recovered by rookie safety Jack Tocho.
Adams' touchdown was one of two receptions of the night. He caught a 10-yard pass from Keenum in the first half. On the Vikings second play of their first touchdown drive, Adams also took a handoff from Keenum and rushed for 14 yards and a first down.
"They had their big plays," Heinicke said of the rookie receivers after the game. "Rodney Adams was going in traffic and getting hit, but he was making plays. Stacy, the same thing. I thought the young guys did really well."
Beyond their contributions on offense, Coley and Adams both received reps on special teams.
Adams returned three kickoffs for 65 yards, averaging 21.7 yards per return. He returned one punt for 11 yards and on another called for a fair catch but was taken down by Buffalo's Taiwan Jones, resulting in a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.
Coley fielded two punts, calling for one fair catch and returning a second for eight yards.
"We help each other out," Adams said. "Every time we come off the sideline, he's giving me feedback, I'm giving him feedback."
He added that it "felt great" to be returning live in a game.
"I feel like we can do some things better, but we're going to get to practice and try to correct those things," Adams said.
The rookie duo both credited the older receivers in their room for helping them be prepared for their first NFL action.
Adams called the preseason games "a learning process" that he's grateful for.
"This whole journey's a learning process," Adams said. "So I mean, just picking the brains of Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Jay Wright, just picking their brain each and every day and try to get better."
Ultimately, both are competing for a spot on Minnesota's final 53-man roster and made cases for themselves in the Vikings first preseason win of 2017 and 13th under Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
"Every day we're just out there competing, just having fun, just learning from the older guys and just letting them lead by example. And we just follow," Coley said. "I feel like we're just doing a great job as a unit."
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Bills at new Era Field in Buffalo, New York for the first game of the preseason.