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The Vikings sat their starters on both sides of the ball (as well as quarterback Sean Mannion, who depending on whether you ask the team or fans online, is the back-up or third-string quarterback (respectively)) Thursday night, and for most of the game led the Bills in Buffalo. For those that turned the game off with five minutes left, it looked like Zimmer’s squad would finish the pre-season 4-0 before moving on to face the Atlanta Falcons next weekend. However, it was not to be as the Bills rallied late, overcoming a 17-point deficit and scoring three touchdowns in the final 3:53 to win 27-23.
With Cousins and Mannion on the sidelines, the fans got their wish and were able to watch their new favorite player EVER, Kyle Sloter, start the game with the 2’s and go against a non-third string group comprised of future insurance salesman. Sloter has had an amazing pre-season, which is typical for the player who is arguably the best pre-season player in team history and while his Thursday night wasn’t on the level of his other performances (that bordered on a word you don’t hear in the NFL very often, especially in the pre-season, perfection) he still had an okay night.
Sloter finished the game going 16-of-24 with 163 yards passing, one touchdown and one interception, and had a “fumble” that was called back as his arm was definitely moving forward as he was nearly sacked. He ended with a passer rating of 82.5, which was a far cry from his other three appearances this pre-season, in which he had ratings of 143.2, 129.5 and 158.3. His completion percentage on the night was also about 20 points under his average this pre-season (going from an average of over 85 to a still respectable 66.7).
Sloter was replaced by rookie Jake Browning in the third quarter, who hadn’t seen any game action since the first pre-season game against the Saints. Browning, who many thought would supplant Sloter this season (thanks to Sloter being mostly relegated to clipboard duty during OTA’s). Despite completing 8 of his 10 attempts, Browning had a ‘meh’-to-rough night, passing for only 46 yards and ending the night with an interception on a deep bomb that was far short of the end-zone.
Browning’s rating was a paltry 46.2, and while the Vikings could attempt to sneak him onto the practice squad, they’ve often only carried two quarterbacks in games during the Zimmer era and considering the lack of roster spots this hyper stacked (on paper) Vikings team has, Browning might be the odd man out this season despite his high upside, youth and seeming like a star in the making before his final year in Washington.
The Vikings dominated time of possession, something that has to make Zimmer happy despite the fact the Vikings lost the game, thanks to the strong run game across the board. De’Angelo Henderson led the running back group with 59-yards on 16 carries and a touchdown, while Ameer “I’m Still Here” Abdullah had 21-yards rushing on five carries and a 15-yard touchdown completion. Mike Boone had 19 yards rushing on six carries and Khari Blasingame had 19-yards as well, though on one more carry than Boone. That helped the Vikings control the clock for over 36 minutes and outpaced the Bills in terms of first-downs (with 25 to their 15).
Despite that control, Browning and the Vikings were unable to convert late-game possessions to extend drives and keep the game out of reach for the Bills. That allowed the Bills to score three touchdowns in the final four minutes of the game to stun the Vikings third-stringers, scoring the go-ahead touchdown with under ten seconds left.
New Vikings kicker Kaare Vedvik missed a 37-yard field goal early in the game after starting the game with a made extra point. That was the third miss in a row to start his Vikings career for the new kicker (that the Vikings gave a 2020 5th-round pick for last weekend), and while he made his next kick, it was a gimme (outside of the 2015 Wildcard Round) of only 27-yards. Veteran kicker Dan Bailey most likely solidified his role as the-2019 kicker (with Chad Beebe most likely holding for him), which makes you wonder what the Vikings will do with Vedvik and punter Matt Wile.
The loss puts the Vikings’ record under coach Zimmer in the pre-season at a still amazing 20-5. They face the Atlanta Falcons to start the 2019 season next weekend!