The Minnesota Vikings took the field for their first preseason game in Las Vegas this afternoon and fell to the Raiders 26-20. Even though the result on the field ended in a loss, there were a couple positive things to note from this first exhibition matchup.
With Kirk Cousins out due to Covid, the attention quickly turned to the backup QB battle for the Vikings. Sean Mannion went into the game as the starter, but he and second-year player Kellen Mond split snaps throughout the day.
Mannion struggled in all of his series, and despite completing 8/12 passes for 79 yards, he never committed to throwing downfield. Because of this conservative playstyle, the Vikings punted on each of their first two drives, and the Raiders quickly jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the second quarter.
The Raiders first touchdown of the day came on a Jarrett Stidham scramble as Patrick Jones II allowed him to snake his way out of the pocket. It was one of the EDGE’s only poor reps of the day as he continuously generated pressure on Las Vegas’ quarterbacks. He was easily the story of the day on the defensive side of the ball, creating sacks for multiple teammates.
In the second half of the game, the Vikings began to crawl their way back. This was largely on the legs of their running back duo of Kene Nwangwu and Ty Chandler. Nwangwu became a star in 2021 as a kick returner, but he had a very limited role in the offense going into today. He had a couple very nice runs between the tackles as well as two receptions. The duo combined for 12 carries and 91 rushing yards on the day, and Chandler tacked on a kick return of 56 yards to boot.
This success in the run game began opening things up in the passing game, and despite a slow start, Kellen Mond began taking advantage. The Vikings first two trips into the red zone ended in Greg Joseph chip-shot field goals, but in the third quarter, Mond threw a two-yard strike to Albert Wilson on a slant route for a score after leading anothe red zone drive.
On Minnesota’s final drive, Mond hit Wilson again for a 21-yard score in the back corner of the end zone. That drive was the best of the day for the young QB as he passed for 71 yards and completed all five of his passes.
The Vikings need Mond to prove that he can take over the QB2 job this year, and his preseason began with a 9/14 passing day for 119 yards and the pair of TDs. There were certainly a few ugly plays in there filled with indecisiveness, but this was a step in the right direction for the Texas A&M product.
All that said, the Vikings defense showed a lot of growing pains, which was to be expected from a young group. Andrew Booth, Cam Dantzler, and Parry Nickerson all were penalized at points in this game, including a double whammy of DPI and face mask for Booth that ultimately cost the Vikings 36 yards. LBs Troy Dye and Chazz Surratt also had their fair share of blown coverages and missed tackles throughout the day.
The Raiders pounded the run game for most of the afternoon as well, and while the Vikings held strong while the starters Harrison Phillips, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Armon Watts were in the game, Las Vegas had their way after that trio went to the bench for the day. All in all, the Raiders ran the ball 38 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Brittain Brown’s score down the stretch of the fourth quarter put the Raiders up 26-13, and, for all intents and purposes, put the game away for Las Vegas. Brown finished his day with 14 carries for 54 yards.
After this weekend’s defeat, the Vikings now look ahead to this week where they will host joint-practices with the San Francisco 49ers. Then, the two teams will face off in a matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium on August 20th.