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Vikings, Chargers Notebook: Treadwell, Rookies Continue Solid Preseason

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MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings went for two with a pass to double-one.

Shaun Hill lofted the football into the end zone, and Laquon Treadwell fought through contact to haul it in. The play put the Vikings up by 10 early in the second half, and Minnesota never looked back in a 23-10 win over San Diego in the first preseason game in U.S. Bank Stadium history.

"You know, you have to make those plays," the 2016 first-round pick said. "Those are the plays you look forward to making. Goal-line jump ball – you got to come down with it as a receiver. I was excited, and I couldn't wait until the ball got hiked."

Ten days after being held without a catch, No. 11 added a 15-yard reception in the red zone in the fourth quarter to set up the third of three field goals by Kevin McDermott.

"It felt good … I made a play that I didn't make last week or the week before," Treadwell said, "so I just have to keep getting better, keep working on the little things and keep progressing week-in and week-out."

Treadwell had four catches for 41 yards in Minnesota's first preseason game against Cincinnati.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer liked what he saw from Treadwell Sunday.

"It was nice to see him, he made a couple catches. He had a nice inside breaking route down in the red zone and then the two-point play," Zimmer said. "It's good to get him involved. He's going to be a good player. He's a lot kind of like Mackensie [Alexander]. He's a competitive guy, works real hard, does a nice job."

Most Vikings starters played the entire first half in the third of four preseason games. Minnesota will host the Los Angeles Rams at 7 p.m. (CT) Thursday in the final exhibition slate for both teams.

Rookies take it away

Treadwell, and several members of his draft class again produced big plays for the Vikings.

Seventh-round picks Stephen Weatherly (recovery of a fumble forced by Justin Trattou) and Jayron Kearse (38-yard return of an interception) were involved in two turnovers, and Alexander plucked an interception in the end zone with 2:18 to go.

"It was crazy. I got the wind knocked out of me (when tackled after the return), so I didn't really get to enjoy it how I wanted, but it was a great feeling," said Kearse who joined his former Clemson teammate in making an interception in the same game the second time this preseason.

"When one of us makes a play, the other feels like he has to make a play," Alexander said. "That's my brother."

Alexander said the rookies have had a great group of experienced players in front of them to teach them about the defense.

"We have an older group that's great. You sit back and watch them in meetings every day, and you just look at them like, 'Man, these guys have been doing this for so long,' " Alexander said. "It drives a guy like me to come into the system to learn and produce. I'm able to watch the older guys and learn from them. It's just an amazing group. If you watch us play, the things that we do, the technique that we're using, the way we practice, and we're bringing it to the game also. It's just phenomenal. I like what I'm around, definitely."

Alexander's interception was on a much more difficult pass than earlier during the possession. His celebration of the pick drew a flag from officials.

"Lot of ups and downs there wasn't it? I love this kid, honestly," Zimmer said. "He's going to be a handful until I get him squared away, but I love this kid. He's a competitor, he works, he studies, he fights, he's made some interceptions here in this offseason.

"I would much rather have him that way where they're going to go in there and I have to pull the reins back than the other way," Zimmer continued. "He'll learn; he told me he was sorry. He'll learn; he's just a young guy. You can't take away his athletic ability or his heart and those are the two things that I want to keep going."

Jet takes off

Jerick "Jet" McKinnon made the first rush attempt inside the stadium memorable after the Vikings offensive line opened the gates of the Chargers defense. Nick Easton, who started at center, blocked San Diego nose tackle Ryan Carrethers, and fullback Zach Line nullified linebacker Manti Te'o, allowing McKinnon runway room to take off.

McKinnon was able to add more yards on the play with a down-field block by receiver Charles Johnson.

"It was great blocking upfront, that's a credit to those five guys," McKinnon said. "My man, Zach here, got a good block on the linebacker, and I just kind of ran through the hole.

"I wish I could have scored. It's all good, though," McKinnon added. "That's just a testament to how hard we've been working in the run game. It's still constant work, day-in and day-out and those guys up front are doing a great job."

Berger added, "I just manned up with the nose, and Jerick made a good cut off it and found some space."

Bridgewater back in action

After sitting out Minnesota's game at Seattle on Aug. 18, Stefon Diggs returned to action and **dazzled** with a juke move during a scramble and picture perfect execution of the two-minute drill.

Bridgewater was 4-of-4 passing on the drive for 74 yards, capping it with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph for the Vikings **first touchdown** in their new home.

"Teddy's always got good poise in the huddle and good control," Berger said. "He was able to show if we keep him clean, he's going to make some throws."

Johnson, who caught a 19-yard pass during the drive, said Bridgewater "threw some nice balls today, and that's what we expect from Teddy. We know what he can do. We know he plays and a high level and is very crisp on everything he does."

Center decision

Zimmer said the Vikings started Berger because they hadn't had a look at him at center in a preseason game or alongside Brandon Fusco at right guard. Berger started in place of Fusco because of an injury in the Vikings first two preseason contests this season.

Berger filled in for John Sullivan all 16 games of 2015 (when Fusco played left guard) and alternated reps with the first team during training camp. When Fusco went down briefly, Berger slid over and lined up with Sullivan.

"It was really more of a thing that, we've seen [John] Sullivan in two preseason games," Zimmer said. "[Joe] Berger hasn't played center in the two preseason games. We talked to him yesterday. We hadn't seen that combination with him and [Brandon] Fusco together. That's really what it was."* *

Filling in

The Vikings started Anthony Harris at left tackle for Riley Reiff, and Danielle Hunter at defensive end in place of Everson Griffen. Minnesota opened in the nickel with Mackensie Alexander joining linebackers Riley Reiff and Anthony Barr. Jack Tocho filled in for Eric Kendricks at middle linebacker.

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