The Seattle Seahawks — as much a nemesis as the Vikings have had outside their own division in the Mike Zimmer era — are Minnesota’s only preseason opponent to make a return appearance on its 2019 regular-season schedule.
When the two teams meet again at CenturyLink Field in December, they’ll square off in a Monday night game that could bring both high stakes and compelling subplots, nearly a year after the Monday night loss that spelled the end of John DeFilippo’s tenure as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator and dealt a serious blow to their playoff chances.
Their meeting at U.S. Bank Stadium in Week 2 of the preseason Sunday night, though, felt like a decaffeinated precursor to the regular season, as both teams largely stuck to tried-and-true offensive concepts while their starters were in the game. The Vikings won 25-19, after preseason cult hero Kyle Sloter led a pair of touchdown drives and Sean Mannion shook off a pick-six for a second-quarter touchdown throw to Irv Smith.
They held the ball for 38 minutes, 10 seconds, gaining 409 yards while holding Seattle to 221, and converted 11 of their 18 third downs to keep drives alive.
“I thought we moved the ball well; we had a fumble early and then the interception for the touchdown,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “But we were plus-17 minutes in time of possession, which is always a good thing. It goes to show you converting third downs, sticking with the run at times when it looks like there’s nothing there, eventually you pop ’em.”
After Zimmer harped on the 13 penalties the Vikings committed in their preseason opener in New Orleans, they had just one in the first half Sunday night. But though officials threw fewer flags than in the Vikings’ first preseason game, they played no less significant a role.
Two plays after officials ruled Alexander Mattison had been stopped before he fumbled, nullifying a would-be Seahawks touchdown, Cousins fired deep for Adam Thielen, hitting him for 34 yards. The play stood after officials denied the Seahawks’ challenge that Thielen had pushed off on Shaquill Griffin, and on the next play, Cousins’ long throw to Thielen drew a 45-yard pass interference penalty that the Seahawks didn’t challenge. It put the Vikings at Seattle’s 6, before Kyle Rudolph’s clipping penalty eventually moved them out of the red zone and led to a Dan Bailey field goal.
In two drives, the Vikings’ first-team offense gained 89 yards on 18 plays, netting another 30 in penalties on the Seahawks. Cousins, who wasn’t sacked for the second consecutive game, went 6-for-8 for 68 yards. His biggest issues of the night came at the end of the Vikings’ first drive, when he threw too high for Mattison on a screen pass. On the next play, Cousins and Garrett Bradbury had a bad exchange that resulted in a loss of 4 yards, and the quarterback was leveled on a third-down incompletion.
The Vikings’ first-team defense faced a unique — albeit familiar — test in quarterback Russell Wilson.
Wilson went 6-for-9 for 82 yards. But while Sunday night provided a reminder of what they’ll have to contend with in December, the Vikings defense held Seattle to a field goal at the end of that first, 65-yard drive.
“Defensively, I think we can be better on third downs,” Zimmer said. “We had a couple busted coverages tonight that we don’t normally have. We’ll get back to the drawing board and go from there.”
Mannion, who took over for Cousins on the Vikings’ third drive, had a third-down throw for Chad Beebe intercepted and returned 88 yards for a touchdown after the receiver stopped his route.
But the backup quarterback came back on the next drive, hitting Mike Boone for 45 yards on a nice catch-and-run, and found Smith for a touchdown on a curl route before halftime.