NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Kirk Cousins was flawless in his lone series in Minnesota’s new offensive scheme, backup Sean Mannion delivered a scoring pass under a heavy rush, and the Vikings defeated New Orleans 34-25 in the preseason opener for both clubs on Friday night.
The game marked the Vikings’ first test of their new offense directed by coordinator Kevin Stefanski and influenced by adviser Gary Kubiak. It looked effective for the lone series in which the first-team offense played.
Cousins drove the Vikings 81 yards in eight plays, completing all four passes for 65 yards. Cousins connected on a pair of short passes before finding Adam Thielen for 35 yards down the right side, setting up a 1-yard scoring pass to third-round draft choice Alexander Mattison.
Mannion was 7 of 13 for 102 yards, highlighted by his 18-yard touchdown pass to rookie Olabisi Johnson as Saints defensive end Trey Hendrickson bolted into the backfield and hit the backup QB. Johnson, a seventh-round draft pick and a candidate for Minnesota’s No. 3 receiver, made the catch while leaping and reaching back over the shoulders of veteran defensive back Patrick Robinson to bring in the ball.
With Saints record-setting QB Drew Brees getting the night off, ex-Viking Teddy Bridgewater started. He played throughout the first half, completing 14 of 19 passes for 134 yards and one touchdown on an 18-yard pass to tight end Dan Arnold.
But Arnold essentially gave that score right back early in the second half when he was unable to secure a pass from Taysom Hill and the ball squirted straight into the arms of defensive back Nate Meadors, who easily returned his interception 30 yards for a touchdown.
Hill played throughout the second half, going 8 of 14 for 80 yards and one touchdown on Lil’Jordan Humphrey’s 33-yard, tackle-breaking catch and run.
Vikings second-year running back Mike Boone broke loose for a 64-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that put Minnesota up 34-25.
Former LSU track athlete and New Orleans native Cyril Grayson Jr. had a pair of crowd-pleasing moments with his 32-yard catch down the right side from Bridgewater and his 40-yard kickoff return.
Minnesota rookie tight end Irv Smith Jr., a second-rounder out of Alabama, was making his NFL preseason debut on his 21st birthday in his hometown, where his father, Irv Smith Sr., once played tight end for the Saints. He was targeted seven times and finished with three catches for 21 yards.
Saints reserve offensive tackle Ulrick John went down with an apparent lower left leg injury. He was able to walk on his own, but left the field after being examined by team medical staff.
Vikings: host Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Aug. 18.
Saints: visit Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, Aug. 18.