ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Football is back, but Thursday night belonged mostly to the backups.
The Vikings opened their 2017 preseason slate with a 17-10 road victory over the Bills.
Case Keenum led drives that resulted in a field goal and touchdown, and Taylor Heinicke also led a touchdown drive in the third quarter. Keenum led the Vikings with 121 passing yards on 11-of-16 passing and had a rating of 90.9, playing all of the second quarter and into the third.
Rookies Stacy Coley and Rodney Adams each made significant catches on offense. Coley showed great concentration near the sideline on a 24-yard pass from Keenum that set up a 2-yard touchdown plunge by C.J. Ham with 10:34 left in the third quarter.
Adams helped put the Vikings up by 14 with 1:09 left in the period with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Heinicke.
Coley finished with three catches for a team-high 67 yards, and Adams totaled two receptions for 12 yards.
Rookie Dalvin Cook caught four passes for 30 yards, and Bishop Sankey also had four receptions for 15 yards and rushed four times for 14 yards before suffering a knee injury. Undrafted rookie Terrell Newby led the Vikings with 26 yards rushing on 12 carries.
Here's a recap of the offense and defense in the first half, as well as some notes on special teams play throughout the game:
First half offense
The Vikings opened with a pair of runs by Cook. Celebrating his 22nd birthday by playing in his first NFL game. Cook gained 12 yards on his first three carries and caught one pass from Sam Bradford for 8 yards on his first series.
Cook played into the second quarter and finished his evening with 13 yards on five carries and four receptions for 30 yards with a long of 9.
Bradford played three series and finished 5-of-7 passing for 35 yards with a rating of 82.4. He also suffered two sacks. The first was at the hands of Buffalo's Eddie Yarbrough and forced a punt. The second takedown was recorded by Jerry Hughes and quickly skewed Minnesota's second possession.
Case Keenum relieved Bradford and led an 11-play, 60-yard drive that ended with a 36-yard field goal by Kai Forbath with Ryan Quigley serving as the holder to tie the game at 3 with 3:26 left in the first half.
Keenum escaped a sack and scrambled for 8 yards to convert a third-and-3 and connected with Stacy Coley on a crossing route that gained 38 yards two plays later.
First half defense
The Vikings first-team defense took the field with the Bills pinned at their own 6-yard line, but Minnesota yielded breathing room by allowing three straight passes from Tyrod Taylor to Sammy Watkins for a combined 30 yards.
Trae Waynes was in coverage of Watkins for the first two plays but left the game with a shoulder injury. He was replaced by Terence Newman.
A holding penalty against Richie Incognito erased a 9-yard run by Jonathan Williams, and Everson Griffen sacked Tyrod Taylor two plays later to create a third-and-31. Williams rushed for 17 a play later, but Buffalo had to punt.
After allowing a 15-yard rush by Williams to start the next series, Minnesota's starters quickly bounced back with a tackle for loss by Anthony Barr.
The second-team defense allowed consecutive runs of 8 to Williams and 15 to Mike Tolbert, but Jayron Kearse ended the Bills momentum by tackling Tolbert for a loss of 2 with help from Ifeadi Odenigbo. The Bills settled for a 42-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka and a 3-0 lead with 14:15 left in the first half.
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.
With competitions ongoing at kicker, punter and kickoff returner, the Vikings had plenty of evaluations to make.
Taylor Symmank took the first punt of the night and boomed a 60-yarder to flip field position to the Buffalo 6.
Quigley took the next opportunity and punted the ball 46 yards. It was returned 6 by Brandon Tate for a net of 40.
The second punts by Symmank and Quigley each covered 31 yards, but Quigley's was by design to put the Bills inside their own 10-yard line. Symmank added a 49-yard punt
After Forbath's 36-yard field goal, Marshall Koehn handled the ensuing kickoff and placed it halfway into the end zone. It was returned 21 yards to the Buffalo 16.
Forbath's kickoff to open the second half was 8 yards into the end zone and resulted in a touchback. He second kickoff of the third quarter went 68 yards and was returned 24 yards.
Forbath and Koehn were each good on an extra points in the third quarter.
Quigley had a punt of 45 yards in the fourth quarter when backed up inside the Vikings 20.
Adams and Coley shared punt return duties, and Adams handled kickoff return duties.
The Vikings improved to 13-1 in preseason games under Head Coach Mike Zimmer.