The salve for the Vikings, at the end of a 33-6 loss to the Broncos in Saturday's preseason opener, might be in the fact most of their core players watched the game from the sideline.

Coach Mike Zimmer opted to sit more than 30 players on Saturday afternoon, sparing his veterans from injury risk before a season when the Vikings seem intent on an about-face from last year's youth-centered roster.

But the Vikings will still need to fill out their squad with many of the backups that played Saturday, and a 17-game season means they'll likely have to count on some of them at one point or another. To that end, little that happened on Saturday was a good sign.

The Vikings' first of two home preseason games was littered with missed tackles and blown coverage assignments on defense, as the Broncos totaled 282 yards on 28 first-half plays. Quarterback Jake Browning, who got the start with Kirk Cousins inactive, completed only five of his 10 throws for 31 yards and ended his day with an interception that rookie cornerback Patrick Surtain returned for a touchdown.

The Vikings were flagged for two first-half holding penalties, punter Britton Colquitt had an off day, promising rookie running back Kene Nwangwu left because of a knee injury, and third-round pick Kellen Mond wasn't much better than Browning in his debut.

BOXSCORE: Denver 33, Vikings 6

"I told them it was a very poor performance," coach Mike Zimmer said in a television interview at halftime. "We're going to scrimmage next week with this same bunch because we didn't tackle well, we made the wrong checks on defense with the safeties, we throw an interception for a touchdown, we went three-and-out on the first two series. Terrible punts. Other than that, it's been great."

Asked after the game about his plan to have the Vikings' backups scrimmage against each other this week, Zimmer said. "They need it. It showed."

After the Vikings stopped the Broncos' first drive with a Kris Boyd pass breakup in the end zone, Denver's first score came on a safety, when Dakota Dozier was called for holding Shamar Stephen in the end zone. Then, after a free kick to the Broncos' 20, Drew Lock hit KJ Hamler for an 80-yard touchdown off a play fake that got rookie Camryn Bynum to bite and left Cameron Dantzler trying to chase the former Penn State receiver downfield.

Missed tackles from Troy Dye and Myles Dorn turned two Lock completions into big gains on the Broncos' next drive, which ended with a TD pass off play action from Lock to Trinity Benson. The Vikings' next drive started with an Andre Mintze sack of Browning, after Stephen pushed center Mason Cole back into the quarterback, and two plays later, Surtain jumped an out route that Browning threw behind Ihmir Smith-Marsette, returning it for a touchdown that put Denver up 23-3.

Browning said the route on the interception was the same one he had available to him on the safety, but he scrambled because he saw a defender squatting on it. He didn't think better of the throw on the interception, and paid for it.

"[It's] just getting a feel for his demeanor and not just saying, 'All right, this is the coverage, this is where the ball's supposed to go' and just throwing it," Browning said. "You've got to get a feel for the demeanor. I thought other than that, I tried to play on time, tried to put the ball where it's supposed to be. You never really know until you watch the film, it's never as good as you thought, never as bad as you thought. We'll see."

Mond returned from the COVID-19 reserve list on Tuesday. When Zimmer was asked Wednesday if it was realistic for the quarterback to play Saturday, he said, "No." On Saturday, however, he said the plan was always for the third-round pick to play in the game.

Taking the rest of the quarterback snaps after Browning's interception, Mond completed six of his 16 passes, producing his best moment with an 8-yard scramble where he took a step to his right before cutting up the middle and producing a first down.

But with the Vikings trying to score at the end of the first half, Mond couldn't connect with Brandon Dillon, instead throwing out the back of the end zone. He directed a 15-play, 66-yard drive on the Vikings' first possession of the third quarter, but on a fourth-down throw from the Broncos' 2, Mond waited before throwing back across the middle for Whop Philyor, who bobbled the ball as he took several steps in the back of the end zone.

Officials ruled the pass incomplete before the Vikings' production crew could play more than the first few notes of "Let's Go Crazy" and fire off pyrotechnics to celebrate a touchdown.

"I just wish we could have came down with it," Mond said. "That would have been good momentum from the offense. Maybe it would have got us going even more if we were able to put six on the board instead of kicking field goals in the red zone."

The Vikings used two days of joint practices with Denver in lieu of game action for their first-string players this week. They could turn to the scrimmages Zimmer mentioned as a way to see how many of their depth players belong on the roster.

Many of those players will enter the week needing to make a stronger statement for a place on the team than what they delivered Saturday.

"As far as scrimmaging, yeah, good, let's go," Browning said. "Let's scrimmage every single day. Let's go live every day. Whatever it is, I would like that to happen."