The Vikings were fourth in the NFL in the total offense last season, their highest ranking in 16 years. So far this preseason the offense hasn’t shown up.
The Vikings were solid on defense in a 12-10 preseason loss to Indianapolis on Saturday night at U.S. Bank Stadium, but the offense continued to struggle. In two preseason games, they have yet to score an offensive touchdown.
Minnesota’s only touchdown Saturday came on a 33-yard interception return by linebacker Troy Dye in the first quarter for a 7-3 lead. But Indianapolis fought back and took the lead for good on Eddy Pineiro’s 28-yard field goal with 6:22 left in the game.
In the opener on Aug. 14, the Vikings didn’t use any starters on offense and it showed in a 33-6 home loss. On Saturday, though, they used nine starters. Most played the first three series, and Minnesota didn’t score on any of them.
Kirk Cousins got the start at quarterback, and completed 5 of 7 passes for 23 yards in his three series. On the third one, he at least got the Vikings in position for a field-goal attempt, but Greg Joseph was wide right from 51 yards.
It didn’t get any better when Jake Browning and Kellen Mond, battling to be the backup quarterback, had their turns. However, it must be said that Browning, who played most of the second quarter, did at least lead a drive that resulted in a 49-yard field goal by Joseph with 45 seconds left in the half for Minnesota’s only offensive points of the game. Mond led Minnesota to no points in the second half.
With the Vikings doing next to nothing on offense, late in the third quarter and early in the fourth bored fans began doing the wave while throwing their programs in the air. The public-address announcer called for them to stop for safety issues, but there were boos and it took several minutes before the fans actually stopped.
At least the defense, with six starters being used, looked good while not allowing a touchdown. The Vikings took the 7-3 lead when Dye intercepted Sam Ehlinger and ran down the left sideline for the score with 3:45 left in the first quarter. The Vikings also in the first half got an interception by nose tackle Jordon Scott on a pass by Ehlinger that was deflected at the line of scrimmage.
Overall, the Vikings used 15 starters Saturday after having used just one against Denver. The only starters not used on offense were wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who continues to work his way back from a shoulder injury suffered Aug. 6 in practice, and running back Dalvin Cook, who was rested. Wide receiver Adam Thielen left after the first possession with an apparent leg injury.
On defense, Minnesota used six starters. Not playing were defensive end Danielle Hunter (rested). linebacker Anthony Barr (undisclosed injury), cornerback Patrick Peterson (rested), and safeties Harrison Smith (rested) and Xavier Woods (undisclosed).
“I think we need to have a little success,’’ Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said before the game about the plan to play a number of starters. “I think we need to build a little confidence.”
Against the Broncos, the Vikings had their worst preseason loss since a 31-0 setback to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1984. Until that game, Zimmer, who took over as coach in 2014, had suffered his worst preseason loss 30-9 to Miami in 2017.
The Colts took a 3-0 lead Saturday on a 47-yard field goal by Rodrigo Blankenship with 4:54 left in the first quarter. After Dye’s interception return, Pineiro cut the deficit to 7-6 with 14:53 left in the second quarter.
After Browning had replaced Cousins at quarterback, the Vikings finally got some points on offense when Joseph made the 49-yard field goal. But Browning finished just 6 of 15 for 82 yards and a 58.2 passer rating.
Mond wasn’t much better statistically. He played the entire second half and completed 6 of 12 passes for 61 yards with a 64.9 passer rating.