Vikings lackluster on offense, fall 14-10 to Jaguars

MINNEAPOLIS — Mike Zimmer needed a teaching tool, and he got one.

In their preseason home debut, the Minnesota Vikings didn’t give the fans much to cheer about. The result was a 14-10 loss to Jacksonville on Saturday, Aug. 18, at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“To be honest with you, I’m glad we didn’t win that game, because we didn’t deserve to win,” said Zimmer, Minnesota’s coach.

No, the Vikings didn’t deserve a victory. The offense was erratic. The special teams had breakdowns. The defense generally played well, but it almost always does.

The Vikings had opened the exhibition season Aug. 11 with an impressive offensive performance in a 42-28 win at Denver. So much for the momentum carrying over.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins opened the previous game by marching the Vikings 75 yards for a touchdown and completing all four of his attempts in his only series.

Cousins played four series Saturday, and he completed just 3 of 8 passes for 12 yards. He was sacked once for 11 yards and under pressure on some other occasions.

“I think he can play a lot better,” Zimmer said.

The Vikings actually did have opportunities to win. They led 10-7 before allowing Rashad Greene to return a punt 56 yards to the Minnesota 4 with 2:03 left in the game. It was the second straight game the Vikings have allowed a long punt return.

After a 1-yard TD run by Brandon Wilds with 1:55 left that put the Jaguars up 14-10, third-string quarterback Kyle Sloter marched the Vikings to a first down at the Jacksonville 22 with 55 seconds remaining. But the next four plays, two of them sacks, resulted in a loss of three yards.

Sloter was solid, completing 10 of 15 passes for 82 yards. And Mike Boone, an undrafted rookie trying to make the team as the third running back, carried 13 times for 91 yards.

Other than that, there wasn’t much offense. The Vikings had just 238 total yards.

“There were a couple misthrows, a couple fumbles, a couple penalties,” Cousins said of how the first-team offense looked. “When you do that, it’s hard to move the football.”

The two fumbles were by Latavius Murray, who lost one. That came after he had fumbled just once all of last season.

“I just can’t do that,” Murray said. “I can’t turn the ball over. We all agree we could have played better. It starts with me.”

After carrying four times for 43 yards at Denver, Murray carried six times for just 12 yards. He started at running back for the second straight preseason game in place of Dalvin Cook, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament last October and has been sitting out for precautionary reasons.

The Vikings had 13 players on the 90-man roster not dress out. They lost to injury Saturday cornerback Mackensie Alexander (ankle), offensive linemen Cedrick Lang (leg) and Josh Andrews (ankle), defensive end Ade Aruna (knee), fullback Johnny Stanton (leg) and wide receiver Jeff Badet (evaluated for possible concussion). Zimmer said Lang is out for the season and didn’t rule out that Aruna also could be.

The injuries, special teams breakdowns and shaky offense contributed to Zimmer not being too pleasant after the game.

“Obviously, we didn’t play to our standards that we hold ourselves to, and Coach stressed that to us,” said wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, who had two catches for eight yards.

Tight end Kyle Rudolph agreed.

“Obviously, of course it’s disappointing when you have missed assignments and you turn the ball over and you do things that beat yourself,” he said.

Cousins was able to lead the Vikings to a 44-yard field goal by Kai Forbath for a 3-0 first-quarter lead. But Forbath in the second quarter, after Trevor Siemian had taken over at quarterback, missed a 41-yard attempt. That won’t help in his battle with rookie Daniel Carlson to be Minnesota’s kicker.

Minnesota’s touchdown came on a 1-yard run by Boone late in the third quarter for a 10-7 lead. Carlson, who had handled all placements at Denver, then came in to make the extra point. So Forbath didn’t get another attempt of any sort after his field-goal miss.

Overall, Minnesota’s defense played well. Safety Harrison Smith had a first-quarter interception of Blake Bortles that he returned nine yards to the Jaguars’ 23. But Murray lost his fumble on the next play.

Jacksonville did march 70 yards for 1-yard run by Leonard Fournette on the first play of the second quarter for a 7-3 lead. But the Jaguars only needed to go four yards for their winning touchdown.

Put it all together, and Cousins agreed with Zimmer that maybe losing Saturday wasn’t all that bad.

“It probably was not the worst thing in the long run to realize we have a lot of work to do,” Cousins said. “If you want to call it a wake-up call, that is fine.”