Andy Dalton went 4-for-5 on the first drive for 32 yards against the Vikings defense, with Xavier Rhodes giving up two receptions, but Trae Waynes with good third-down coverage before Mike Nugent missed wide right from 47 yards.
The Vikings followed with an ugly offensive series in which Teddy Bridgewater was pressured and hesitant. He was pressured on two pass plays and sacked on the other one.
The Vikings mostly went with their second-team defense in the second series against QB A.J. McCarron and a second-team Bengals offense. Cincinnati closed the first quarter with a 116-1 advantage in yards and 8-0 in first downs.
The Vikings defense held on fourth-and-1 at the 3-yard line when Emmanuel Lamur and Kentrell Brothers combined to drop a run play for a 1-yard loss, and Bridgewater and the Vikings offense responded against a second-team Bengals defense. Jerick McKinnon escaped a would-be safety in the end zone and helped lead the team out of the shadow of their end zone. But it was the passing game that brought some punch to the offense. Adam Thielen caught a high pass in traffic 22 yards downfield, Stefon Diggs converted a third down, and Charles Johnson caught a perfectly thrown 49-yard pass for a touchdown and a 7-0 Minnesota lead.
After the teams traded punts, A.J. McCarron placed a 40-yard pass right on Tyler Boyd with Jabari Price on coverage, then turned the big gain into a touchdown with a 3-yard toss when Mackensie Alexander came on a blitz and Jayron Kearse didn’t cover the short pass for Alex Erickson quickly enough. The result was a tie game at 7-7.
The Vikings took the final possession with 47 seconds left. After two short passes got them near midfield, Shaun Hill hit rookie Laquon Treadwell for an 18-yard reception, his first of the preseason. That set up Blair Walsh for a 51-yard field goal that hit the crossbar and bounced over for a 10-7 Vikings lead at the half.
Cincinnati ran nearly twice as many plays as the Vikings in the first half, 39 to 20, but the Vikings averaged 7.8 yards per play while the Bengals were at 4.9, outgaining the Vikings 193 to 155. Bridgewater finished 6-for-7 for 92 yards and a touchdown.
After exchanging punts to start the second half, Joel Stave entered as the Vikings’ third quarterback and looked comfortable, completing 6 of 7 passes for 63 yards on his first drive, including three to TE David Morgan for 38 yards and Treadwell twice for 16 yards, before C.J. Ham showed patience and footwork with a slippery 10-yard touchdown run and a 17-7 Vikings lead with 1:44 left in the third quarter.
After the teams traded interceptions – rookie CB Mackensie Alexander for the Vikings and a pass off the hands of Isaac Fruetche for a Bengals interception – the game moved to the fourth quarter.
With the Bengals throwing in a fourth-string quarterback Joe Licata, they found back-to-back explosive plays, hitting Rashaun Simonise for 47 yards when Antone Exum knocked Tre Roberson off coverage, and then hitting TE Matt Lengel for a 21-yard gain. Facing fourth-and-goal at the 5-yard line, Mike Nugent hit a 23-yard field goal to cut the Minnesota lead to 17-10.
After the Vikings went three-and-out, they had several missed tackles when covering a punt that Alex Erickson returned 80 yards for a touchdown, but being the preseason, the Bengals didn’t want to extend the game, went for the 2-point conversion and couldn’t hold onto the pass, as the Vikings held on for a 17-16 win when Jayron Kearse intercepted a fourth-down Hail Mary pass at midfield to end Cincinnati’s final possession.
The Vikings announced that WR Jarius Wright, CB Terence Newman, RB Adrian Peterson, CB Melvin White, CB Marcus Sherels, LB Edmond Robinson, LB Eric Kendricks, LB Brandon Watts, G Brandon Fuscso, DT Sharrif Floyd and DT Scott Crichton weren’t expected to play.
Trae Waynes replaces Newman at left cornerback, Jerick McKinnon replaces Peterson, Audie Cole replaces Kendricks, and Shamar Stephen is starting for Floyd. With Joe Berger at right guard for Fusco, John Sullivan will get the start at center.
The biggest names for the Bengals that weren’t expected to play were LB Vontaze Burfict, LT Andrew Whitworth and TE Tyler Eifert.