MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The Minnesota Vikings couldn't have asked for a much better start as they kicked off the NFL preseason in New Orleans Friday night.
Kirk Cousins and the first-team offense opened the game with an eight-play, 76-yard scoring drive. Cousins found Adam Thielen down the near sideline for a 35-yard gain initially called a touchdown, but after review he was ruled down at the 1-yard line. On the next play, Cousins rolled out and hit a wide open rookie running back Alexander Mattison for a touchdown.
Cousins finished his only drive 4-of-4 passing for 65 yards and the touchdown, and had an 11-yard scramble for a first down. He connected with Stefon Diggs in play-action for a 15-yard gain on the game's first play, but it was negated by a penalty. Cousins connected twice with tight end Kyle Rudolph for a total of 30 yards on the drive.
Cousins finished with a perfect 158.3 rating in his only drive. The Vikings beat the Saints 34-25 as Mike Zimmer improved to 6-0 in preseason opening games.
With Dalvin Cook not playing, Mattison got the start at running back and played the entire first half. Along with the touchdown catch, he had nine carries for 30 yards. Behind Mattison on the depth chart at running back, Ameer Abdullah ran for 63 yards in the first half, including a 42-yard run on a draw out of the shotgun.
Sean Mannion had a positive first half in his debut as the Vikings back-up quarterback. He finished the first half 7-of-13 for 101 yards and a touchdown to rookie Olabisi Johnson, one of several competing for the No. 3 wide receiver spot. Mannion was hit as he threw on the touchdown, and Johnson went up and made the back-shoulder catch for an 18-yard score. Johnson finished the first half with two catches for 35 yards.
Mannion also hit tight end Tyler Conklin on a play-action pass that went for 32 yards. Playing in his hometown on his 21st birthday, rookie tight end Irv Smith Jr. finished the first half with three catches for 21 yards.
Minnesota's first-team defense limited Teddy Bridgewater and the Saints to a 27-yard field goal on their opening drive. The field goal came after Trae Waynes broke up a Bridgewater pass intended for Michael Thomas. Bridgewater played the entire first half and finished 14-of-19 passing for 134 yards and a touchdown to Dan Arnold.
The Vikings sacked Bridgewater three times, but two by Jalyn Holmes and Ifeadi Odenigbo were negated due to defensive penalties. The first one that counted went to Hercules Mata'afa. Holmes later sacked Bridgewater on a third-and-long that forced a New Orleans punt. The only real downfall for the Vikings in the first half came in penalties. They had eight of them for 63 yards. The Vikings finished with 13 penalties for 136 yards.
Former Viking Latavius Murray finished the first half with three carries for 14 yards, and caught three passes for 22 yards. Former Viking Zach Line also returned a kickoff 23 yards for the Saints.
Nate Meadors had the defensive highlight for the Vikings in the second half. He intercepted a pass intended for Arnold and returned it untouched 30 yards for a touchdown.
In his first series as the No. 3 quarterback, Kyle Sloter hit Khari Blasingame for a 2-yard touchdown that gave the Vikings a 27-12 lead in the third quarter. The Vikings finished the scoring in the fourth quarter as Mike Boone won the race to the edge and ran 64 yards for a touchdown, giving Minnesota a 34-25 lead.
The Vikings host Seattle in their second preseason game a week from Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.