EAGAN (FOX 9) - It was only one drive and it didn't involve Dalvin Cook, but it's hard not to be satisfied with how the Minnesota Vikings offense got started at New Orleans Friday night.
It was the first audition for Kevin Stefanski and Gary Kubiak with the keys to the Vikings' offense. It wasn't perfect, but it ended in a touchdown. The very first play of the night was an indication of where the Vikings' offense could go this season. Kirk Cousins faked a run to rookie Alexander Mattison with play action, sold the run and delivered a 15-yard strike over the middle to Stefon Diggs.
The only problem is it was negated by a holding penalty. Cousins finished the drive a perfect 4-of-4 passing for 65 yards and a touchdown to Mattison.
"It's always good when you have limited reps to go out there and move the ball, get some first downs. It obviously helps when you put the work in OTAs, Training Camp, and then you're able to go out there and you move the ball," wide receiver Adam Thielen said. "It definitely feels good but at the same time, it's one drive of a football game."
Thielen had a 35-yard catch from Cousins down the near sideline on that drive that was initially called a touchdown, but after review it was determined he was down at the 1-yard line. It set up Mattison's first NFL touchdown, on a play action pass and roll out, though it doesn't officially count since it was a preseason game.
Mattison, who finished with 30 yards rushing in his first professional game, got three of his nine carries on the first drive. While it's difficult to glean anything in detail from a total of eight plays, Mike Zimmer had to be satisfied with getting seven points from his first-team offense.
Cousins finished his only drive with a perfect 158.3 rating.
"Offensively we looked a lot like what I envision it to look like. Run, play action, pass, and good protection, we had really good protection in the ball game," Zimmer said.
Cousins also had two completions to Kyle Rudolph on the drive. The first went for a 10-yard gain, and the second came on play action and went for 20 yards over the middle.
Maybe the most impressive play of the drive, and the most critical, Cousins made with his feet. In the shotgun on a third-and-long, he faced immediate pressure and scrambled 11 yards for a first down to keep the drive alive.
It was an option that didn't happen a lot last season. And if Friday was any indication, there will be balance in the offense this season. The first drive featured four runs and four passes. For the game, the Vikings rushed 27 times for 215 yards. They were 19-of-27 passing for 247 yards and three touchdowns, one each from Cousins, Sean Mannion and Kyle Sloter.
"I think you certainly saw the run game and the pass game marrying together. I think that is really no secret to who we are, so I think that was good to see," Stefanski said. "But it is really hard to gauge too much off of that being that they are so vanilla and we are so vanilla. Pleased with the production, but we have a long way go.
Their focus now is to carry that first drive over into Sunday night's first preseason home game against the Seattle Seahawks at U.S. Bank Stadium.