Vikings lose to Raiders in the first preseason game, but get long looks at developing players

LAS VEGAS — Kevin O’Connell approached his first preseason game, his initial rite of passage as the 10th coach in Vikings history, with two goals: Keep the team’s established starters from injury and learn as much as he could about the young players who would take the field at Allegiant Stadium on Sunday.

The first objective was easy enough to achieve: Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks, Za’Darius Smith, Harrison Smith and Patrick Peterson all watched the game from the bench, with Kirk Cousins ​​out because of COVID- 19 and Irv Smith recovering from thumb surgery. But as the Vikings left the state of Nevada for the first time in team history, after a 26-20 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, O’Connell could say the second objective was a success, as well.

The Vikings lost the game in part because of their inability to finish drives in the first half and some defensive lapses throughout; they gave up two long-second half scoring drives that put the game out of reach. But after second-year quarterback Kellen Mond shook off a rough beginning to his day, he might have given Minnesota’s coaches reason to think he can develop.

Mond threw two second-half TD passes, finishing 9-for-14 for 119 yards and looking more decisive as he got into a rhythm throughout the game. His two touchdown throws to Albert Wilson were the Vikings’ only trips to the end zone in the game.

Sean Mannion, who started the game and returned for a stretch in the second half, went 8 of 12 for 79 yards.

The Vikings outgained the Raiders 172-94 in the first half, but were flagged for 66 yards of penalties. They went 0-for-4 on third downs in the first half, while settling for two short Greg Joseph field goals after both Mannion and Mond missed throws that coach Kevin O’Connell said in a halftime interview were there to be made.

Mannion overshot Ihmir Smith-Marsette in the back corner of the end zone on the Vikings’ third drive, and O’Connell opted to send Joseph in for a 20-yard attempt. It would be Mannion’s final throw of the first half, as the Vikings prepared to send Mond into the game after three series for Mannion to open the afternoon.

On Mond’s first series, the Vikings ran five times for 54 yards, with rookie Ty Chandler flashing some of the elusiveness he’s shown in camp and adding yards at the end of runs where he found big holes up the middle. Second-year back Kene Nwangwu bounced a run outside for 12 yards, before Mond missed Bisi Johnson on a fade, and after a two-yard run Nwangwu ran on second down, the Vikings had to call on Joseph again when Mond’s third-down dropback ended with him throwing the ball out of the back of the end zone.

The Raiders sent three pass rushers on the play, and Mond kept the play alive as he evaded rushers. Both Johnson and Trishton Jackson signaled they were open, and tight end Zach Davidson did the same later in the game. Jackson had already stepped out of bounds when Mond threw his way, firing behind the receiver in the end zone as Mond stepped to his right.

Las Vegas, which led 10-6 at the half, extended the lead to 10 points when Nick Mullens hit DJ Turner for a 34-yard touchdown on a crossing route. The Vikings had stopped the Raiders earlier in the drive, but they were flagged for an illegal substitution penalty on fourth down when Nickerson tried to run on the field late before a punt. Given new life, Mullens fit his third-down pass over a shallow drop from linebacker Blake Lynch as Turner beat Nickerson across the field. Nickerson tried unsuccessfully to strip the ball, and Turner eluded rookie Akayleb Evans on the way to the end zone while safety Josh Metellus got blocked.

Starting with the ensuing kickoff, though, the Vikings put together their first touchdown drive of the afternoon.

Chandler returned the kickoff 56 yards, bouncing off a tackle attempt at the Vikings’ 19 before cutting across the field. On a fourth-and-5 from the Raiders’ 36, O’Connell kept the offense on the field, and Mond hit Dan Chisena for 22 yards on a deep out route. He finished the drive three plays later, with a two-yard TD pass to Albert Wilson on a quick slant.

Mond would find Wilson with a 20-yard throw to the back of the end zone in the fourth quarter, capping a 75-yard drive that included a 21-yard strike to Myron Mitchell. The Vikings, though, could not get the ball back for a chance to take the lead, and the Raiders ran out the game’s final 3:44.

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