The Vikings offense started in rhythm with a 10-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage at U.S. Bank Stadium. Teddy Bridgewater hit Stefon Diggs for 10 yards, and Jerick McKinnon followed with a 35-yard run. But the initial drive at the new stadium stalled at the 6-yard line, where Blair Walsh gave the Vikings a 3-0 lead with a 23-yard field goal.
The offense got the ball back quickly when Trae Waynes knocked away Philip Rivers’ second pass of the game and Harrison Smith intercepted it and returned it to the Chargers 44-yard line. Bridgewater scrambled for a 22-yard gain on third down and Minnesota was in the red zone again. Diggs picked up another first down with some shifty moves in the middle of the field, but once again the drive stalled, this time when T.J. Clemmings was beaten on a stunt and Bridgewater took a 9-yard sack. Walsh capped the drive with a 33-yard field and a 6-0 Vikings lead, one that held through the end of the quarter.
The Vikings tried but failed to get the running game going on their first drive of the second quarter, as McKinnon ran three times for 4 yards.
The Vikings’ next drive featured completions of 20 yards to Diggs and 11 and 18 yards to Kyle Rudolph before the tight end fumbled the ball away in Chargers territory at the end of his second catch.
The Chargers used a 25-yard pass to Danny Woodhead to get into the red zone, but a holding penalty and incompletion stalled the drive before Josh Lambo ended it with a 32-yard field goal and a 10-6 lead with 2:28 left in the half.
Bridgewater led an efficient and impressive two-minute drill, hitting Charles Johnson for passes of 6 and 19 yards, then Diggs for 22 yards before throwing a perfect pass in between high-low coverage for a 27-yard touchdown to Rudolph. When Matt Asiata was stopped short on a two-point run attempt, the Vikings ended up taking a 12-10 to the half.
INJURIES: Antone Exum was taken to the locker room for X-rays after suffering a leg injury while blocking for a kickoff return. For the Chargers, T Joe Barksdale and RB Brandon Oliver suffered injuries. Oliver was taken to the locker room on a cart.
The Chargers’ move to defer the opening kickoff backfired when Justin Trattou hit Kellen Clemens’ arm on San Diego’s opening drive of the second half and rookie Stephen Weatherly recovered on the 17-yard line. One play later, Shaun Hill connected with MyCole Pruitt, who ran 11 yards before fumbling into the end zone. Cordarrelle Patterson recovered for the touchdown and Hill hit Laquon Treadwell for the two-point conversion for a 20-10 Minnesota lead early in the second half.
The Vikings inserted Joel Stave at quarterback and he took drive-ending sacks on consecutive series, including one after the Vikings drove into the red zone following completions to Jarius Wright of 26 yards and David Morgan for 14 yards. The Chargers recovered the second one as the game moved to the fourth quarter.
Rookie Jayron Kearse made the big splash play of the fourth quarter when fourth-string QB Mike Bercovici wildly overthrew his target and Kearse made the easy pick, returning it 38 yards to the San Diego 38-yard line. The Vikings advanced to the 5-yard line, thanks mostly to a 15-yard pass to Treadwell, and Walsh finished the drive with a 23-yard field and a 23-10 lead with 6:24 to play.
It was a lead the stood as rookie CB Mackensie Alexander secured the margin of victory with an interception in the end zone with 2:18 to play.
STATS: Bridgewater finished 12-for-16 for 161 yards, a touchdown and a 127.3 rating. Hill threw only one pass for 11 yards that eventually turned into a touchdown when Patterson recovered the Pruitt fumble in the end zone, and Stave was 5-for-6, but took two costly sacks and fumbled twice, losing one. McKinnon finished with 56 yards on eight carries, Diggs had 71 yards on five catches and Rudolph had 56 yards on three catches, including a touchdown. Kearse, Smith and Alexander all had interceptions.
After not practicing most (Matt Kalil) or all (Xavier Rhodes) of last week, those two starters for the Minnesota Vikings have been ruled out for today’s game. Kalil appeared to suffer a leg injury in the Vikings’ practice on Sunday and left the field then. He returned for the start of Tuesday’s practice but exited early and hasn’t practiced since.
Rhodes suffered a reported hamstring injury in the second preseason game on a crack-back block that was penalized. He hasn’t practiced since that game.
QB Teddy Bridgewater was warming up prior to the game after practicing most of the week but sitting out the second preseason game with a sore shoulder. He threw numerous 40-yard passes in warmups, indicating the shoulder is well on the way back.