MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The pressure is on Minnesota’s offense to improve, and a more productive passing attack will depend partially on a diversified group of targets for Kirk Cousins.
Some of that depth was on display Sunday night against Seattle.
Rookie tight end Irv Smith Jr. and backup wide receiver Brandon Zylstra each had touchdown receptions, and the Vikings used a versatile offense to beat the Seahawks 25-19 in a preseason matchup.
“I honestly thought it was a really positive night,” said Cousins, who went 6 for 8 for 68 yards. “It’s a small sample size. It’s the preseason. You try not to read too much into it, but I came away feeling good about the first two drives and also really the rest of the offense the rest of the way.”
Second-string quarterback Sean Mannion took over for the third possession, which ended in an interception that safety DeShawn Shead returned 88 yards for a score. Mannion bounced back by finding Smith with a short throw into the end zone just before halftime.
The Vikings, who underwent an offseason scheme change with offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski and offensive adviser Gary Kubiak after an underwhelming first year with Cousins at the helm, had 409 total yards.
“We have so many different weapons, and coach Stefanski and coach Kubiak, they want to get us all in involved,” said Smith, a second-round draft pick from Alabama. “So they did a great job of that.”
Mannion went 11 for 14 for 88 yards. Kyle Sloter, who finished 11 for 13 for 116 yards, delivered the touchdown pass to Zylstra in the third quarter and directed another scoring drive capped by fullback Khari Blasingame’s 1-yard plunge.
Seattle’s pass rush was strong in the first half, but Minnesota’s much-scrutinized offensive line again avoided allowing a sack. Barkevious Mingo pressured Mannion as he threw before Chad Beebe was expecting the ball after a turn on a hitch route, prompting Shead’s pick-six. Cousins and rookie center Garrett Bradbury shared a botched under-center snap resulting in a fumble the Vikings recovered.
The first team took two turns for the Seahawks, too, and Russell Wilson went 6 for 9 for 82 yards after sitting out the preseason opener. He had a 33-yard completion to Jaron Brown, who has a starting wide receiver spot for now following the retirement of Doug Baldwin. D.K. Metcalf, the second-round draft pick from Mississippi, did not play, and coach Pete Carroll later said he’ll need minor knee surgery. Brown’s catch set up the first of four field goals by Jason Myers.
“I thought we did a really good job with tempo. Guys were in and out of the huddle making plays,” Wilson said. “I thought we moved the ball down the field against a very good defense.”
JUST KICKING IT
The Vikings gave Kaare Vedvik his debut a week after acquiring him in a trade with Baltimore. He punted three times for a 46.7-yard average, handled kickoffs and made his only extra point try. Dan Bailey, the incumbent kicker, made a chip shot field goal. Matt Wile, the incumbent punter, had only one attempt.
DAY OF REST
All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner watched from the sideline in a Seahawks sweatshirt, being eased back into action following a minor knee procedure . Defensive end Ezekial Ansah remains in rehab mode following offseason shoulder surgery.
The Vikings again held running back Dalvin Cook out as a precaution and gave rookie Alexander Mattison 10 carries for 41 yards. Mike Boone followed him with 21 rushes for 66 yards, plus a 45-yard reception. Right tackle Brian O’Neill was sidelined again, after suffering an arm injury two weeks ago.
Adam Thielen caught a 34-yard pass from Cousins, an over-the-shoulder ball near the sideline after he beat Shaquill Griffin in coverage. With the NFL encouraging teams in the preseason to test the new instant replay rule that makes pass interference reviewable, Carroll tossed his red flag to see if he could get a penalty on the Vikings. Thielen was bewildered, respectfully assuring Carroll and Wagner during the review that there was no foul.
“I was surprised. Like every fan watching the game, I’m interested to see how often that flag gets pulled and how often people want a look at every play,” Cousins said, adding: “Adam said, ‘If I can’t do what I did, then I can’t play.'”
The no-call was upheld. Then on the next play, Thielen drew a defensive pass interference penalty on Tre Flowers inside the 10.
Vikings cornerback Holton Hill was ejected in the fourth quarter for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Paxton Lynch, whose neck snapped back awkwardly from the impact. After needing some time for evaluation, Lynch, the leader in the competition to be Wilson’s backup, walked off on his own. J.T. Barrett replaced Lynch, who entered the concussion protocol after going 6 for 15 for 67 yards.
“He felt like he was OK, but he’s still got to pass those tests,” Carroll said.
Seahawks: Play at the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday night.
Vikings: Host the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday afternoon.
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