View action photos from the Vikings-Broncos preseason game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
MINNEAPOLIS — Vikings football returned Saturday — sort of — when Minnesota opened the 2021 preseason with a 33-6 loss to the Denver Broncos.
The first game at U.S. Bank Stadium in front of fans since 2019 only included one first-teamer (defensive end Stephen Weatherly) from Minnesota's official depth chart taking the field.
Mistakes in all three phases undermined Minnesota's day.
The Vikings were able to deny the Broncos a touchdown on fourth-and-2 thanks to a pass breakup by Kris Boyd, but Minnesota surrendered a safety three plays later when Dakota Dozier was flagged for holding in the end zone.
After a free kick by Britton Colquitt, the Broncos struck again with an 80-yard pass from Drew Lock to KJ Hamler on the first play of their second possession.
Minnesota answered with a 34-yard field goal by Greg Joseph, with help from a 20-yard pass interference penalty, but was disappointed by not finishing the 11-play drive with a score.
Lock led another touchdown drive for a 16-3 lead, and first-round pick Pat Surtain II picked off a pass from Jake Browning and returned it 30 yards for a score three plays later.
The interception ended Browning's day at 5-of-10 passing for 31 yards and a passer rating of 17.1.
He was replaced by third-round selection Kellen Mond, who led a solid drive in the final 2:49 of the first half, but Minnesota was forced to settle for a 25-yard field goal.
Mond showed some elusiveness and fit some nice throws into tight spots but finished 6-of-16 passing for 53 yards and a passer rating of 47.1.
Denver led 26-6 at halftime, not too different from its 20-0 lead back in November 2019.
The Vikings came back and won that one, a key victory toward Minnesota making the playoffs that season. There was no such rally Saturday.
A 62-yard kickoff return by LeVante Bellamy opened the second half and set up a touchdown drive led by Teddy Bridgewater for a 33-6 lead with 10:30 left in the third quarter.
Mond and running back A.J. Rose, Jr., led Minnesota to the Denver 2-yard line on the following possession, but Whop Philyor was unable to secure a throw over the middle on fourth down.
Rose totaled 100 rushing yards on 25 carries.
Vikings rookie running back Kene Nwangwu suffered a knee injury, and linebacker Cam Smith left the game with a concussion. Nwangwu returned one kickoff for 18 yards. Smith played on defense and special teams in his first action since Minnesota's playoff games in January 2020.
The Broncos converted seven of 12 third downs, compared to five of 13 by the Vikings.
Denver outgained Minnesota 387 to 235 and limited the Vikings to 79 yards on the ground.
The Vikings were flagged eight times for a total of 68 yards.
Q1, 8:45 remaining
Broncos 2, Vikings 0
Holding penalty against Dakota Dozier enforced in end zone, resulting in a safety
Old friend returns: Former Viking Shamar Stephen (2014-17; 2019-20) persisted through the play to draw the penalty on Dozier.
Q1, 8:28 remaining
Broncos 9, Vikings 0
KJ Hamler 80-yard pass from Drew Lock (Brandon McManus kicks PAT) [1 play, 80 yards, 0:17 time of possession]
Speedy score: The second-year receiver showed his speed in joint practices and delivered an explosive play by getting past second-year cornerback Cameron Dantzler.
Q1, 3:13 remaining
Broncos 9, Vikings 3
Greg Joseph kicks a 34-yard field goal [11 plays, 61 yards, 5:15 time of possession]
Down the field: The drive was assisted with a 20-yard pass interference penalty on a deep pass to tight end Brandon Dillon but stalled in the red zone when the Broncos had pass breakups on consecutive plays.
Q2, 12:59 remaining
Broncos 16, Vikings 3
Trinity Benson 4-yard pass from Lock (McManus kicks PAT) [10 plays, 85 yards, 5:14 time of possession]
Third-down woes: The drive was extended when Stephen Weatherly jumped offsides on third-and-4. Denver then converted a third-and-4 with a pass to Jerry Jeudy that gained 33 yards to the Minnesota 22.
Q2, 11:49 remaining
Broncos 23, Vikings 3
Pat Surtain II returns interception of Jake Browning 30 yards (McManus kicks PAT)
Quick pick: The ninth overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft cut inside an out route by rookie receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette.
Q2, 2:49 remaining
Broncos 26, Vikings 3
McManus kicks a 34-yard field goal [10 plays, 50 yards, 6:15 time of possession]
Reunion tour: Teddy Bridgewater completed his first two passes against the team that drafted him in 2014, connecting with TE Eric Saubert for gains of 6 and 22 yards. A 12-yard scramble by Bridgewater for a score was negated by a hands-to-the-face penalty.
Q2, 0:00 remaining
Broncos 26, Vikings 6
Joseph kicks a 25-yard field goal [12 plays, 69 yards, 2:49]
Spark and scramble: Kellen Mond led the Vikings on a crisp drive with help from A.J. Rose (18-yard reception) and Ameer Abdullah (runs of 9 and 12 yards). The rookie also scrambled for a gain of 8 to put the ball at the Denver 6-yard line.
Q3, 10:30 remaining
Broncos 33, Vikings 6
Benson 4-yard pass from Bridgewater (McManus kicks PAT) [7 plays, 40 yards, 4:30 time of possession]
Short field: The Broncos took over at the Vikings 40-yard line after a 67-yard kickoff return by LeVante Bellamy. Runs by Damarea Crockett gained 5, 4 and 5 yards before Bridgewater connected with Benson for a gain of 17.