The Minnesota Vikings improved to 3-0 in the preseason Saturday, as they defeated rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals 20-9 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Most of the starters for both teams played nearly the entire first half in what was viewed as the dress rehearsal for the regular season.
All eyes were on Murray in his third preseason game, and while the results were a mixed bag, he made some solid plays through the air. Overall, Murray went 14-of-21 for 137 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
ESPN's Josh Weinfuss noted that Murray showed improvement in comparison to his last outing against the Oakland Raiders:
Josh Weinfuss @joshweinfuss
Overall, Kyler Murray looked sharper against the Vikings than he did last week against the Raiders. He made some beautiful throws but the only point of concern were his two throws to the end zone, both of which were long. Other than that, Murray looked... https://t.co/E0nvXHky6U
The 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick's best throw of the day was a deep ball down the sidelines to Damiere Byrd in the first quarter that went for 33 yards:
He also connected with fellow rookie KeeSean Johnson for a 29-yard gain in the second quarter on a throw that was nestled perfectly in between the Minnesota cornerback and safety:
Johnson led all receivers in the game with seven grabs for 85 yards and made a case to be considered for Arizona's No. 3 wideout spot behind Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk.
While Murray is undoubtedly a threat to do damage with his legs after rushing for over 1,000 yards last season at Oklahoma, he gained just nine yards on four carries in Saturday's game.
Although Murray was far from perfect, he outplayed Vikings veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins. While Cousins was without No. 1 wide receiver Adam Thielen, the one-time Pro Bowler was completely out of sync.
Cousins went just 3-of-13 for 35 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, and his 29-yard strike to Stefon Diggs late in the second quarter was essentially his only impact play of the game:
There may be some cause for concern regarding Cousins' form with the regular season approaching, but it wasn't all bad for Minnesota's offense.
Seeing his first action of the preseason, running back Dalvin Cook rushed for 88 yards on two carries, including an 85-yard touchdown run in the first quarter:
According to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Cook's 85-yard outburst represented the longest touchdown run in Vikings preseason history.
Both NFL Network's Tom Pelissero and ESPN's Ryan Clark pointed out that Cook may be the biggest key to Minnesota's offensive success in 2019:
Cook has been limited to just 15 regular-season games in his two-year NFL career because of injury, but with a career yards-per-carry average of 4.7, he may be poised for a huge breakout in 2019 if he can stay healthy.
The Vikings made sure to preserve his health by getting him out of the game following his touchdown run.
Cook's score was the only touchdown of the first half, and Arizona entered halftime with a 9-7 lead thanks to three Zane Gonzalez field goals.
After a scoreless third quarter, Minnesota's third offensive unit went to work, which has been the Vikings' hallmark over the past two preseasons.
Third-string quarterback Kyle Sloter led a six-play, 80-yard drive that was punctuated by a seven-yard touchdown run from running back Mike Boone:
The Vikings were unsuccessful on their two-point conversion attempt, giving them a 13-9 lead with 8:20 remaining in the game. Sloter then put the contest away with 50 seconds left when he found fullback Khari Blasingame for a 15-yard touchdown on a 4th-and-2 play:
Sloter enjoyed another strong performance, as he went 6-of-7 for 102 yards and one touchdown, and he potentially put himself in the conversation to unseat Sean Mannion as Cousins' primary backup.
Minnesota will wrap up its preseason slate Thursday on the road against the Buffalo Bills, while the Cards will head to Denver to take on the Broncos on Thursday.