With the Minnesota Vikings resting a majority of their starters in this game as the Denver Broncos trotted out numerous first-stringers, the result of this Week 1 preseason contest was perhaps inevitable, with Denver ending up 33-6 winners on the road.
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Javonte Williams Impressed — Williams saw only five carries, but he looked spectacular from the moment the ball came his way. He made a nice cutback for solid yardage on his first carry before bouncing it to the outside and stiff-arming a defender on his second attempt. Another impressive carry with some yards after contact and broken tackles that ended in the end zone for a touchdown was nullified by a hold from a wide receiver. Williams finished with 29 yards on five carries in the box score, but his performance looked impressive and he will be pushing for a big role within Denver’s offense.
“Wow,” Patrick Surtain II — That was the reaction of Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson, who was being interviewed as Surtain picked off Jake Browning and took it back for a touchdown. Surtain already had a pass breakup to his name by that point in the game, knocking away a pass intended for Ihmir Smith-Marsette, whom he had also been locking down during the team’s joint practices during the week. Surtain may be everything the Broncos expected him to be.
Kellen Mond Saw Plenty of Opportunities — After missing time due to COVID-19, Mond entered this game with just three days of practice under his belt. He was handed substantial playing time to try and accelerate a catch-up. Mond played almost three full quarters, entering the game in the second after Browning threw a pick-six and seeing out the contest.
It didn’t go well overall, but it was far from all his fault. He threw what looked like a touchdown pass into the back of the end zone only to see the ball knocked loose and ruled an incomplete pass. He completed just six of 16 attempts for 53 passing yards and appeared concerningly conservative at times, targeting receivers way short of the markers on third and fourth downs. Mond also flashed some athleticism on the ground, adding 25 rushing yards. This was a performance that may have been better than the stats, but not by much.
The Drew Lock Denver Has Been Waiting For — The Broncos have been desperately hoping one of their quarterbacks will step up and win the starting job, and Lock may have done just that with his performance early in this game. His stats were inflated by a bad coverage breakdown in the Vikings' secondary, resulting in an 80-yard touchdown pass, but it was an accurate throw from Lock.
Drew Lock is GUNNING for QB1 ????pic.twitter.com/mV0BeHXXG8
— PFF (@PFF) August 14, 2021
Even outside of that play, he was efficient and accurate against an undermanned Vikings defense, completing five of seven attempts overall for 151 yards and two scores. Last year, Lock had the seventh-best big-time throw rate in the league, but his down-to-down efficiency was bad enough to offset that. This game was a step in the right direction for that overall efficiency.
Cameron Dantzler Disappointment — The fact Dantzler was even playing in this game was a bad sign for the former third-round cornerback who flashed in his debut 2020 season. The Vikings rested almost anybody of consequence, so Dantzler playing suggests he has a lot of work to do to build on an encouraging rookie campaign.
He didn’t do anything to help that by being part of a disastrous coverage play in the Minnesota secondary that saw Drew Lock connect with K.J. Hamler for an 80-yard touchdown. Even if Dantzler was expecting help from the safety, he looked like he was running in sand compared to Hamler's speed.
Asim Rose Was a Bright Spot — There wasn’t much to be encouraged about from the Vikings, who started badly and proceeded to get worse, but Rose — an undrafted rookie — ended up with a major role in the game, gaining 100 rushing yards from 25 carries. Minnesota's offensive line wasn’t good, and 74 of those yards came after contact.
Rose had eight first downs and broke a couple of tackles. He also chipped in as a receiver, catching one of the two passes thrown his way for another 18 yards. With the Vikings resting starters and rookie Kene Nwangwu getting banged up, Rose enjoyed a much bigger opportunity to impress and was one of the few Vikings players to emerge from the game with any credit.