MINNEAPOLIS – The Vikings are still looking for their first offensive touchdown of the preseason.
There was some good and some bad from Minnesota's offense Saturday night, but Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said the unit ultimately struggled to find a rhythm in a 12-10 loss to the Colts*.*
"It's still a work in progress. I think we had six first downs at the end of the third quarter when I looked up there," Zimmer told media members postgame. "We were [2-for-13] on third downs, so we don't really have much rhythm going on there.
"We've got to do a lot better in that area," Zimmer added.
The Vikings played their first-string offense for a quarter-and-a-half after sitting 31 starters against the Broncos last week.
Kirk Cousins finished his three-series night with a less-than-flashy stat line: 5-of-7 passing for 23 yards and a passer rating of 75.3. Cousins was sacked once for a loss of 8. He was taken down by rookie defensive end Kwity Paye, a first-round draft pick out of Michigan.
After not playing last week against Denver, Cousins appreciated the opportunity to "get the rust off" and get back into the feel of game day.
"That's what you're here to do, so it's fun to get out and play," Cousins said.
He said the slow offensive outing can't be attributed to one single thing but acknowledged there wasn't much clicking in the passing game.
"The first drive we had that third-and-short, we threw the slant inside to Adam [Thielen], didn't connect, and you've got to punt," Cousins said. "The second time, we completed a third down and we were maybe a half-yard short. It's just a game of inches."
Cousins did compliment the Vikings run game early on.
Ameer Abdullah led the team with six carries for 35 yards (5.8 average), and fullback C.J. Ham added a first-quarter carry for nine yards. A.J. Rose recorded six rushes for 10 yards in the second half.
"O-line did a great job. Ameer was doing a great job running the football, so was C.J.," Cousins said.
The first-team offense recorded three first downs over the trio of series. Long story short? That's not going to fly in the regular season.
"You know, not enough consistency," Zimmer said. "We've got to make some more plays than what we did. It seemed like a lot of times, and maybe not just with the first team, we had some penalties or miscues that got us in bad situations. So we're going to have to eliminate those."
Looking ahead to Minnesota's third and final preseason game on Friday, Zimmer expects the offensive starters – at least some of them – will end up playing some in Kansas City.
"I would expect to play. If we had a tremendous night tonight, I would still expect to play in Kansas City, or wanted to play. You know, crowd noise, being on the road," Cousins said in response. "I would expect to play and try to get something going."
The Vikings did not play second-year receiver Justin Jefferson Saturday, and Thielen left the game after getting banged up on Minnesota's fifth play of the evening. Zimmer told media members that Thielen "got a knee to the thigh" and suffered a bruise, escaping serious injury.
But with the pair of starting receivers not contributing, the Vikings didn't complete a pass to receiver until late in the second quarter.
Quarterback Jake Browning connected with Chad Beebe twice in the final two minutes of the first half, moving the chains 15 and 32 yards, respectively. Beebe finished as Minnesota's leading receiver with the two catches for 47 yards, followed by K.J. Osborn with two catches for 27.
Rookie receivers Myron Mitchell and Whop Philyor recorded catches of 22 and 19 yards, respectively, from quarterback Kellen Mond, with Philyor's grab occurring on the game's final play.
Browning and Mond both experienced their share of struggles in their second preseason game.
Browning was 6-of-15 passing for 82 yards and a passer rating of 58.2. He was sacked once for a loss of 2. Mond finished 6-of-12 passing for 61 yards and a 64.9 rating.
Zimmer was asked about Mond and said it's difficult to evaluate rookie QBs at this point.
"I think you see in all these preseason games, some of these high [draft] picks struggle with certain areas," he said. "[Kellen] does some good things. He had a really good week of practice; I think it was the best week he's had. He was quicker with his tempo; he was a lot better getting in and out of the huddle. He started off pretty shaky with the fumbled snap, but the only way to get him experience is to play him.
"But at some point, we have to get ready to play a game," Zimmer added. "I don't know if he's where he's at or where he should be, I just know that he improved this week so we just gotta keep going there."
Cousins also highlighted performances by his backups.
"They know the game plan inside and out. Just a matter of time," Cousins said. "It's a really small sample size right now. It's difficult when you only play a few series and don't have a full four quarters to put a body of work together, so just got to stay the course and over a larger sample size, things will work themselves out."
The Vikings will wrap up their preseason on the road against the Chiefs Friday night before prepping for the Bengals in Week 1.
"We'll go back and, like we always do, watch the tape and talk about it and improve," Cousins said. "It was great to have the fans back filling our stadium and fun to start moving toward the real thing."