After months of hype, contemplation, questions and online hand-wringing that was brought on from a season that while good statistically was a definite let down when compared to the Super Bowl aspirations and Super-Sized contract that surrounded Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, he finally hit the field Friday night against the New Orleans Saints and looked every bit the franchise quarterback the Vikings hoped they were getting last off-season.
While the first-team offense was only on the field for one drive it was hard to ask for much more as they were balanced and dangerous, able to show some of the “Pick your Poison” aspects that should keep opposing coordinators up this season and also able to overcome early adversity in terms of penalties, as well.
That drive started at the Vikings 19-yard line and took eight plays to cover the subsequent 81-yards, for a slick per play average of over 10-yards. The drive was capped off by a 1-yard pass from Cousins to rookie running back Alexander Mattison, a play after Cousins connected with wide receiver Adam Thielen for a 34-yard pass play that had Vikings fans licking their chops and remembering the explosive and historical start to the 2018 season.
Cousins also connected with recently extended tight end Kyle Rudolph twice for 30 yards, with Rudy showing some yards after the catch ability that he hasn’t in recent years or really ever. Cousins was great at spreading the ball around as well, starting the day with a 15-yard pass to Stefon Diggs that ended up being negated thanks to a holding penalty. Including that negated play, Cousins would’ve been 5-for-5, connecting with four different receivers on the drive, something that also plays into a pick your poison style of offense (something that Vikings fans should take into account when it’s time for their fantasy drafts this month, as well).
But I’m assuming that you all watched last night’s game, so let’s take a look at what Cousins and company thought about the drive that allowed for Vikings fans around the world to either celebrate or eat crow (depending on where you stand on the Cousins argument).
Cousins spoke with the media after the game and according to Vikings.com, said:
“It was great to get a third-down conversion, it was great to have a couple of explosive plays, It was great to get multiple people involved. And ultimately, it was great to come away with a touchdown. If you’re only going to play one series in the preseason, it could have been three-and-out.”
“To be able to get down there and score, you can’t draw it up much better than that. It’s not a lot to build on, we did the same thing last year against Denver in the preseason. You take from it what it is. You get one drive in the first preseason game. But if we’re going to have a drive, it’s better to go down and score and be that efficient than do anything else.”
Something else that should have Vikings fans talking was a scramble on third-and-9 from the “statue-esque” Cousins for 10 yards that kept the drive alive. Managing editor of VikingsTerritory.com, Sean Borman, wrote an article today about Cousins’ newfound mobility. Click here to read that.
In regards to that play Cousins said:
“I was happy to do that. When you get man coverage is when you want to do it, or at least be aware that’s when you have a chance to squirt through. The blitzing linebacker got through, and that’s what really threw off the play … I couldn’t sit in there anymore.”
“He created so much chaos in the pocket, I just climbed and felt like I could take off with man coverage, Great to be able to do that and hope we can do more of that throughout the season.”
Cousins hit Rudolph for one of his aforementioned/referenced catches, picking up 20-yards before dropping a (debatable) dime to Thielen that was initially called a touchdown on the field. That pass play gave the Vikings first-and-goal from the 1, which is where rookie Alexander Mattison capitalized on a pass from Cousins.
Mattison was asked about that play and said:
“It’s just one of those plays that we drew up and every time we ran it in practice, it was kind of that same type of look, So as soon as I saw the safety kind of bite down a little bit, I knew I’d be open. Kirk put a great ball on me, and then I just finished the catch.”
The Vikings offensive line looked decent, as well, which was encouraging especially as they were without last year’s most surprising player in right tackle Brian O’Neill (who was injured earlier in the week). He was replaced by Rashod Hill, who has been a liability at times in his career. The line was also working with a lot of new and young parts, with rookie first-round draft pick Garrett Bradbury taking over at center for new left-guard Pat Elflein.
The line is also running a new zone-blocking scheme courtesy of new offensive line coach Rick Dennison, who has been a part of offensive “advisor” Gary Kubiak’s team for years. Some have been concerned that with Kubiak and last year’s interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, there may be too many cooks in the kitchen for this Vikings offense.
However, with all the youth on the line, new wrinkles to the offense and new coaches on the sideline, everything appeared to be running smoothly last night at the Super Dome. That’s something that Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer commented on, as well:
“Obviously the offense going down and scoring and overcoming a [first]-and-20, Adam made a great catch, I thought Kirk made some really good plays, He scrambled with his legs. I was impressed with the communication of the offensive coaches tonight.”
Speaking of the Super Dome, it was mentioned during the television broadcast that there was new turf down in the Bayou that needed to be broken in. That may have been the determining factor as to why the oft-injured Vikings third-year running back Dalvin Cook didn’t end up getting any touches last night.
“I just didn’t want to put him out here on the turf,” Zimmer said.
While we’ll want to see whether or not Cook can make it the full 16 games this season, considering the fact that last night was the first pre-season game of the year, it’s definitely a better safe than sorry situation. Beyond the aforementioned Mattison, the Vikings also gave backs Ameer Abdullah and Mike Boone (as well as De’Angelo Henderson) shots to show what they can do Friday night.
Abdullah, the former Nebraska stud, showed why he was both available and cheap after starting his career with division rival Detroit. Abdullah is lightning quick but isn’t built for the NFL from a physicality standpoint. The Vikings have hoped that he’ll be able to contribute on special teams as both a returner and gunner, a position that is relatively wide open even after a week (plus) at training camp.
Abdullah also showed his promise as he picked up a big chunk of yardage on a run play for the offense, which showed the potential he might have if he’s the change of pace guy that they utilize at or under five times a game. However, he also showed some iffy-to-awful decisions in bouncing the ball outside despite having some holes between the tackles as well as outright dropping the ball when he attempted to switch hands leading to a fumble that was recovered by the Saints.
Boone, on the other hand, had a great 64-yard touchdown that ultimately put the game out of reach for the Saints. The Vikings know what they have from Boone as well, as he’s been on the roster since last season. He may not be as flashy as Abdullah, but his floor is a lot higher.
Next up the Vikings face the Seahawks next Sunday, the 18th, at 7:00 pm in Minneapolis.
Stay tuned to VikingsTerritory.com/purplePTSD.com for all your coverage and if you’re looking for tickets to that game and are sick of paying the (on average) 20% fees that come along with EACH ticket, you can take advantage of our new ticket page! We have an exclusive partnership with TicketClub.com, that with discount code: SKOLptsd gives you a ONE YEAR Premium membership on their national network for FREE! Click Here and enter discount code SKOLptsd to enter: