Vikings debut new offense in preseason win over Saints

Brett Martel Ap Sports Writer
Monday, August 12, 2019
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Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (25) celebrates his touchdown reception with tight end Irv Smith in the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Friday.

Kirk Cousins enjoyed his first true taste of Minnesota’s new offense — both from under center and watching from the sideline.

Cousins was flawless in his lone series in Minnesota’s new offensive scheme, backup Sean Mannion delivered a scoring pass under a heavy rush, and the Vikings defeated New Orleans 34-25 in the preseason opener for both clubs Friday night.

The game marked the Vikings’ first test of their new offense directed by coordinator Kevin Stefanski and influenced by adviser Gary Kubiak.

“To be able to rotate that many different players in at so many different positions throughout four quarters and continue to have sustained success moving the football, I think it does say a lot about Kevin’s play calling and about the system and about the execution,” Cousins said. “So many guys got involved in the game and made plays.”

During the one series in which the first-team offense played, Cousins drove the Vikings 81 yards for a touchdown in eight plays, completing all four passes for 65 yards. Cousins connected on a pair of short passes before finding Adam Thielen for 35 yards down the right side, setting up a 1-yard scoring pass to third-round draft choice Alexander Mattison.

“If you’re only going to play one series ... it could have been three-and-out, so to be able to go down there and score, you can’t draw it up much better than that,” Cousins said. “It’s not a lot to build on, so you take from it what it is. But if we’re going to have a drive, better to go down there and score and be that efficient than to do anything else.”

Mannion was 7 of 13 for 102 yards, highlighted by his 18-yard touchdown pass to rookie Olabisi Johnson as Saints defensive end Trey Hendrickson bolted into the backfield and hit the backup QB. Johnson, a seventhround draft pick and a candidate for Minnesota’s No. 3 receiver, made the catch while leaping and reaching back over the shoulders of veteran defensive back Patrick Robinson to bring in the ball.

Third-string Vikings QB Kyle Sloter also threw for a touchdown, finding Khari Blasingame from 2 yards out.

With Saints record-setting QB Drew Brees getting the night off, ex-Viking Teddy Bridgewater started. He played throughout the first half, completing 14 of 19 passes for 134 yards and one touchdown on an 18-yard pass to tight end Dan Arnold, who essentially gave that score right back early in the second half when he was unable to secure a pass from Taysom Hill and the ball squirted straight into the arms of defensive back Nate Meadors. Meadors easily returned his interception 30 yards for a touchdown.

Hill played throughout the second half, going 8 of 14 for 80 yards and one touchdown on Lil’Jordan Humphrey’s 33-yard, tackle-breaking catch and run.

Vikings second-year running back Mike Boone broke loose for a 64-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that put Minnesota up 34-25.

Former LSU track athlete and New Orleans native Cyril Grayson Jr. had a pair of crowd-pleasing moments with his 32-yard catch down the right side from Bridgewater and his 40-yard kickoff return.

“We just wanted to take a shot,” Bridgewater said. “Cyril is a guy who can run.”

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