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Vikings Open Preseason with 42-28 Win Over Broncos

Football is back.

Preseason football at least.

The Vikings opened their 2018 exhibition slate with a 42-28 victory over the Broncos in Denver on Saturday night.

First of all, don't let the score fool you. The top-rated defense of 2017 looks like it picked up where it left off a year ago. It was nearly the smallest sample size, but exactly what the team wants on the road.

Even with Pro Bowlers Linval Joseph and Anthony Barr not suiting up, Minnesota's first unit forced a three-and-punt, allowing Denver's opening drive to last just 1:32.

The first-team offense made sure it didn't have as quick a departure by marching down the field on an eight-play touchdown drive, the first Vikings possession with quarterback Kirk Cousins and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo.

The Vikings netted 75 yards, thanks to three gains of 20-plus yards. With Dalvin Cook on the shelf, Latavius Murray started and rumbled for 20 and 21 on his first two carries.

After a 7-yard pass to fullback C.J. Ham, Cousins brilliantly placed a ball down the right sideline that Stefon Diggs extended to catch for a 28-yard gain. Diggs landed at the 3-yard line.

After two carries by Murray netted 2, Cousins connected with Diggs on a quick slant for a 1-yard touchdown and 7-0 lead with 8:15 remaining in the first quarter.

Trevor Siemian replaced Cousins, and Kyle Sloter followed. Both former Broncos led multiple scoring drives in their return to the Mile High City.

Siemian completed 11 of 17 passes for 165 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for a rating of 111.2. Siemian's touchdowns were on a wheel route to Roc Thomas and a screen to the undrafted rookie running back that went for 78. Thomas led the Vikings with 102 receiving yards on three catches and rushed eight times for 29 yards.

Sloter was 9-for-11 with 69 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown to Chad Beebe, for a passer rating of 123.1. He also ran twice for 19 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown to put the game away.

The Vikings built a 17-0 lead with 9:47 remaining in the second quarter after a 39-yard field goal by Daniel Carlson.

Royce Freeman got the Broncos on the board with a 23-yard touchdown run with 5:47 left in the first half, but the Vikings countered with an 81-yard, two-play drive. Thomas turned a screen pass and some hustle by the offensive line into a 78-yard touchdown.

Isaiah McKenzie made it 24-14 before halftime with a 78-yard punt return.

Carlson booted a 57-yard field goal, the second-longest by a Viking in a preseason game, with 5:50 left in the third quarter.

Denver countered with a 36-yard touchdown pass from Chad Kelly to Matt LaCosse to make it 27-21 with 3:26 left in the third quarter.

The Broncos then took a 28-21 lead with a 19-yard pass from Kelly to Phillip Lindsay.

Sloter, however, led two touchdown drives in the final 6:01.

The Vikings outgained the Broncos 406 to 299.

Minnesota improved to 15-3 in preseason games under Head Coach Mike Zimmer.