CINCINNATI – Second quarter, 12 seconds on the clock. The oldest offensive player on the Vikings, Shaun Hill, looked in the direction of the youngest player on the roster, first-round pick Laquon Treadwell.
The snap decision resulted in an 18-yard play by Treadwell.
The rookie receiver made his NFL debut Friday night, and he made it count. On a Vikings second-and-8 situation, Hill found Treadwell on a short pass up the middle. Treadwell took his first catch to Cincinnati's 33-yard line and set up a 51-yard field goal attempt for Blair Walsh, who knocked it through to give Minnesota a three-point halftime edge over the Bengals.
"It was fun," Treadwell said postgame. "I got to play a lot – I got a lot of reps.
"It feels like football again," he added. "It feels like what I'm used to playing."
Treadwell executed a couple of nice slant routes, totaling four catches on the evening. His 41 receiving yards were good enough for second on the team behind starting receiver Charles Johnson, who recorded 49 yards on a single touchdown play.
Treadwell's fourth catch of the night converted a much-needed first down for Minnesota. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer decided to go for it on a fourth-and-3 situation late in the third quarter, and rookie quarterback Joel Stave connected with Treadwell for a 6-yard play.
Treadwell wasn't the only 2016 draft pick with a solid performance.
Mackensie Alexander came up with a couple of key plays on defense in the Vikings 17-16 win. Shortly before Treadwell's first catch, Alexander broke up an A.J. McCarron pass up the middle intended for Bengals receiver Alex Erickson.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Alexander snagged his first interception since high school. The cornerback picked off a pass by Bengals quarterback Keith Wenning at Cincinnati's 48-yard line and was tackled.
Alexander made the first of two Vikings interceptions Friday, followed up by fellow rookie and former Clemson teammate Jayron Kearse, who capitalized on a last-ditch effort by the Bengals on a fourth-and-19 inside the final two minutes.
"Mackensie and Jayron with the two interceptions – it feels good for a rookie – build that confidence up," Treadwell said. "It's good just to see guys make plays."
If David Morgan had any nerves during his first NFL game, he certainly didn't show it. The tight end took the experience in stride, coming in third on the team with three catches for 38 yards. Morgan said he felt confident about his offseason and training, and nothing about the evening caught him off guard.
"It felt good to get that under my belt and really get out there and get some game experience," said Morgan, who got on the field early. "The coaches told me to be ready whenever they needed me."
Morgan helped set up Minnesota's third-quarter touchdown, making a 22-yard play before being pushed out of bounds at the Bengals 10-yard line.
"It was a good route. Under coverage, jumped the flat," Morgan said. "I ended up just getting open, Joel threw a great ball, and I tried to do what I could."
The play by Morgan put the Vikings in position, and Duluth native C.J. Ham found the end zone for Minnesota's third score of the game, a 10-yard rushing touchdown.
"It kind of just happened," Ham said. "Initially, I thought the play was dead because it was getting stretched out, but everybody kept blocking really hard. I saw one crease, and I just hit it."
The homestate hero garnered attention, getting a long look from coaches in the second half and leading the Vikings with 12 carries for 35 yards and the touchdown.
"It was awesome," Ham said. "Playing in front of all those people. It was the most I ever played in front of, and I'm still trying to soak it all in right now, and I still can't put it into words. It was an amazing experience."
Fifth-round pick Kentrell Brothers also made his presence felt a handful of times. In addition to stuffing a Bengals fourth-and-1 attempt in the second quarter, Brothers also made a strong fourth-quarter blitz against Wenning to force a Cincinnati third-and-long situation.
The Vikings rookies simultaneously netted their NFL debuts and first win. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who played the first two series for Minnesota, said he enjoyed watching his first-year teammates leave their marks on the game.
View images of the Vikings first preseason victory at Paul Brown Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"I was excited to see a bunch of guys get to showcase their talents tonight," Bridgewater said. "Treadwell, Mackensie Alexander, Jayron Kearse, those guys. We have a group here who just understands what Coach Zim's asking of us."
For Treadwell, it was refreshing to get game one in the books and share the spotlight with his comrades in purple.
"It was good to see other players get in and make plays," Treadwell said. "We've all been going at it since OTAs and going against each other, so to see each other compete against other teams is really good."