A tumultuous week comes to a satisfying close, as the Minnesota Vikings finished the preseason 4-0 after beating the St. Louis Rams 27 to 25. Their final win of the offseason comes just days after losing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for the year to a dislocated knee and torn ACL.
Buoyed by a strong defensive effort and highlight plays from two running backs — likely the formula for regular season success — the Vikings overcame a sloppy start and underwhelming finish to win their second-straight game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Third-string quarterback Joel Stave opened the game for the Vikings, as starter-to-be Shaun Hill watched from the sidelines. Before kickoff, general manager Rick Spielman spoke to local media, emphasizing his confidence in Hill moving forward.
“I don’t think any of our coaches or staff in the building believe that Shaun can’t get us where we want to go, and our expectations are the same,” Spielman said, per Vikings.com. However, Spielman didn’t shelve the idea of adding another quarterback by Monday. “But we will look, just like we have every preseason, at every position when the waiver wire comes,” he added.
With the punishment Stave took tonight, it’s clear the Vikings will need extra help at the position. According to Andrew Krammer, Stave was sacked twice and hit seven times on 20 total dropbacks. He was rather ineffective, completing 9-of-18 passes for 76 yards before leaving the game with a reported hand injury.
Minnesota’s first three scores came as the result of turnovers. The first, a punt team fumble recovery by presumed Mr. Mankato, Jayron Kearse, set the Vikings up deep in Chargers territory, where Blair Walsh connected on a 30-yard field goal. On the next Rams possession rookie quarterback Jared Goff botched an under-center exchange. Stephen Weatherly located the ball, flipping field position and setting up Walsh for a 34-yard field goal.
Walsh’s successful conversion brought the Vikings within one, making the score 7-6 with 55 seconds left in the first half. On the very next possession, Mike Zimmer’s defense showed up again, with Toby Johnson turning a Justin Trattou deflection into a highlight-worthy interception.
Brad Sorenson, who was cut by the Vikings on Tuesday and re-signed the next day, replaced Stave and immediately flipped the turnover into a touchdown. He found Jhurell Pressley in the flat for a 28-yard touchdown, putting the Vikings up 13-7 at halftime.
Pressley continued to shine for the Vikings, returning a third quarter kickoff 106 yards for a touchdown. He may not make the 53-man roster, but Pressley’s Thursday night game thrust him into the conversation as a practice squad player. Not to be outdone, C.J. Ham rushed 15 times for 59 yards, capping his night off with a one-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to make the score 27-10.
The Rams made a furious comeback late in the fourth quarter, scoring two touchdowns to pull within two of the Vikings. Zimmer’s defense ended the game with a sack, as Zach Moore took Rams quarterback Sean Mannion down as time expired.
Tonight’s win marks a bittersweet end to the preseason for Minnesota. A perfect record is always a plus, but now, the Vikings must prepare for the regular season without their star quarterback. When asked after the game who would lead the team with Bridgewater out, Zimmer didn’t hesitate to answer.
“I’m gonna lead them…that’s why they hired me.”