ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Vikings coach Mike Zimmer entered Thursday night’s preseason finale with shaky confidence in recently acquired kicker/punter Kaare Vedvik, and a 27-23 loss to the Buffalo Bills probably did little to ease his concerns ahead of Saturday’s roster cuts.
Vedvik handled placekicking duties in the first half and, after making an extra point, pushed a 37-yard field goal wide right — his third miss in a row since the Vikings sent a 2020 fifth-round pick to Baltimore for him.
Vedvik later made a 27-yard kick, making him 1-for-4 on field goals for the Vikings this preseason. Dan Bailey made all three kicks against the Bills.
“I don’t know if I’m disappointed in it,” Zimmer said. “I know that he hit one. He’s a talented kid, and Bailey came in and kicked well. We’ll just have to evaluate it and see.”
As the Vikings, who finished the preseason 3-1, make initial decisions to trim the roster to 53 players by Saturday’s 3 p.m. deadline, they will weigh performances by the specialists and the bottom of the roster Thursday night, when many of the team’s established players watched from the sideline.
After halftime, Bailey drilled field goals from 43 and 54 yards, kicks that might have secured his job ahead of the Sept. 8 opener against Atlanta. He added an extra point.
“That was nice. Dan’s a big-time pro,” Zimmer said. “He treats everything professionally. I thought the ball jumped off his foot.”
A 23-6 Vikings lead evaporated as Buffalo scored three touchdowns over the final four minutes, the last coming with eight seconds left, to finish the preseason 4-0. The comeback was fueled by Marcus Murphy’s 79-yard punt return for a touchdown, during which Vedvik was one of three Vikings to miss the tackle.
Matt Wile handled the holds and one punt, a 33-yard boot downed at the Bills 8-yard line. Vedvik pinned the missed field goal on “a matter of inches” in the operation’s details. He said the 45-yard punt, returned for a Bills touchdown, was due to a slightly imperfect snap and punt.
“That ball was slightly inside, which causes you to come in and hit it a little bit left,” Vedvik said. “Slight breeze takes it even further left, which is bad for the punt and it’s even harder to cover.”
Only 52 players on the Vikings’ 88-man roster suited up for the preseason finale. They started third-string quarterback Kyle Sloter, who had an uneven performance in his second-ever preseason start. Zimmer has not said if the team will keep Sloter as the third QB.
“I’ve just tried to put my best foot forward in the three years I’ve been doing this. I feel I’ve managed to do that,” Sloter said. “Hopefully I get to stay, but if I’m the one who has to go, I can leave with my head held high knowing I put all my heart and effort into trying to better myself.”
Sloter took a seat late in the third quarter after completing 16 of 24 passes for 163 yards with one touchdown and an interception. He led four drives into Bills territory for an efficient night with a questionable decision or two.
Tight end Brandon Dillon caught what appeared to be a touchdown, a wide-open look from 23 yards away, but it was nullified by a holding penalty on right tackle Storm Norton. Three players later, Sloter found running back Ameer Abdullah for a 15-yard catch-and-run for a first-quarter touchdown.
The bad decision came in the second quarter, when Sloter forced a pass to receiver Dillon Mitchell despite the rookie being double-covered. Bills cornerback Lafayette Pitts intercepted it.
Bills quarterback Tyree Jackson led two fourth-quarter TD drives, including a 12-play, 75-yard stretch that ended the Vikings’ 11-quarter preseason streak without allowing a TD.
Some Bills fans missed Buffalo’s comeback as many left New Era Field after defensive end Karter Schult sacked Jackson and forced a fourth-quarter fumble. The Vikings defensive line depth fared well, evident again when defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo chased down Jackson on a third-down scramble to force a punt.
Other teams will likely keep tabs on the Vikings’ cuts this weekend as a deep defensive line group — with Odenigbo, Schult, Hercules Mata’afa and Armon Watts — will shed some NFL-level talent.
“I thought my chances were good last year,” said Odenigbo, a third-year player who has been cut twice. “I’m not going to jinx anything. Hopefully I can start getting ready for Atlanta.”