Heinicke states his case for Vikings roster

Taylor Heinicke went undrafted, but he’s making the Minnesota Vikings’ roster decisions tougher.

There has been considerable debate as to whether the Minnesota Vikings are going to keep two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster or if they will keep the customary three. With his NFL career potentially on the line, third-string quarterback Taylor Heinicke made his case with a pair of second-half drives that propelled the Vikings to a 28-14 win over the Dallas Cowboys in an impressive turning point of the game to keep head coach Mike Zimmer a perfect 8-0 in preseason action.

Heinicke entered the game to start the second half, as the Vikings opted to pull Teddy Bridgewater and Shaun Hill after one quarter each with the Vikings trailing 14-13 and the team’s string of preseason perfection on the line.

After an exchange of punts to start the half, Heinicke took over on his own 27-yard line and drove the Vikings the length of the field. He started the drive with his legs, scrambling out of trouble for a 14-yard rush that became a 29-yard gain when Cowboy Rod Sweeting hit Heinicke after he went into a hook slide.

Heinicke continued to roll the Vikings down the field at high speed, completing a 9-yard pass to Dominique Williams before Williams converted a first down on a 9-yard run. On the next play, he completed a 12-yard pass to Isaac Fruechte deep in the red zone. Williams took it in from there with a 6-yard run and a 3-yard scoring run to give the Vikings the lead again, but Heinicke wasn’t done.

With the team ahead by five points, the Vikings opted to go for a 2-point conversion and the play that was called didn’t materialize. Heinicke was forced to improvise and was able to buy time and throw a perfect pass to tight end Chase Ford, who was in blanket coverage, to convert the attempt and give the Vikings a 21-14 lead with 8:58 to go in the third quarter.

While that drive was the eventual game-winner, his next drive was just as important to winning the game.

After a three-and-out by the Cowboys, Heinicke had the ball on his own 44-yard line with 7:30 to play in the third quarter. He converted three first downs with passes of 11 yards to Stefon Diggs, 7 yards to Ford (with a penalty tacked on) and 21 yards to Diggs to keep the clock rolling and the Cowboys unable to stop it.

While the drive ended with a missed 43-yard field goal from Blair Walsh that could have given the Vikings a 10-point lead, the field goal attempt came on the 10th play of the drive – the first play of the fourth quarter. Heinicke and the Vikings offense had successfully bled the final 7:30 of the third quarter, reducing the time Dallas would have to make a comeback bid that never materialized.

At a time when the Vikings’ decision-makers are looking at the final makeup of the active roster, they now have a new conundrum on their hands. After going 11-for-11 in his second-half stint, there are 31 teams that took notice, much less the Cowboys and Jerry Jones.

Granted, it was against backup competition, but considering how poorly the two backups the Cowboys threw out at the Vikings played, if the Vikings attempt to go with two quarterbacks and try to slide Heinicke through waivers to the practice squad, we could see a repeat of what Kansas City did with Tyler Thigpen in 2007. The Vikings tried to get cute and got burned.

It’s most likely the Vikings have made up their mind about how many of the 53 players on the final roster will be quarterbacks, but, if that decision was to keep just two, Heinicke may have them re-thinking that stance, thanks to a two-drive turning point of the game that is going to have other teams taking notice.

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