LAS VEGAS – Kellen Mond took the fourth-down shotgun snap, quietly in the pocket as the Raiders sent a three-man rush after him. He saw Dan Chisena—one of his secondary options in the game—break away from cornerback Chris Jones on a deep route, and Mond tapped the ball to the receiver for a 22-yard gain.
“That was the determination: His first progression was taken away, calm in the pocket, just progressed in rhythm and threw an absolutely beautiful ball to Dan,” said coach Kevin O’Connell. “And then you saw him reach his third and fourth progression, let… [in the game] there to Jalen Nailor [for 16 yards] or Myron [Mitchell for 16 yards] on the backside [of the play]. If you see him come back to that, that’s growth.”
Compare that to Mond’s last first-half throw in the Vikings’ 26-20 defeat to the Raiders in the preseason opener: He scrambled left and then right, dodging a three-man rush as his teammates, first Bisi Johnson and Trishton Jackson, then Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Zach Davidson raised their hands to call for the ball. Mond threw behind Jackson and out the back of the end zone as Smith-Marsette put his hands on his helmet, and O’Connell called for his second short field goal from Greg Joseph, after a game where he thought Mond had a shot at a touchdown .
O’Connell approached his first preseason game, his first rite of passage as the 10th coach in Vikings history, with two goals: keep the core starters healthy and learn as much as possible about the young players who would take the field at Allegiant Stadium on Sunday. .
The first goal was simple, with all of the Vikings’ Pro Bowl skill players and five defensive starters not playing. If O’Connell could claim he passed in second, it could be because of experiences like Mond’s.
“I wanted to win this game,” O’Connell said, “but we’re going to make sure we don’t miss an opportunity to have some real teachable moments.”
The Vikings lost due to their inability to complete drives in the first half and some defensive errors; they conceded two goals in the second half and let the Raiders hold the ball for the last 3 minutes and 44 seconds. But in some dynamic moments from young running backs Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu, flashes of defenders like Brian Asamoah and Patrick Jones and especially in the second half of Mond, the Vikings may have something to cling to.
Mond threw two TD passes to Albert Wilson in the second half, finishing 9-for-14 for 119 yards. Sean Mannion, who played the first three series and returned for one more time in the fourth quarter, scored 8 of 12 for 79 yards.
The Vikings defeated the Raiders 172-94 in the first half, but racked up 66 penalty yards. They went 0-for-4 on the third downs and got just six points from their two red zone trips.
Mannion shot past Ihmir Smith-Marsette into the far back corner of the end zone on the Vikings’ third drive, and O’Connell chose to send Joseph in for a 20-yard effort.
“My train of thought was, ‘I can leave the ball high and safe, and we have points in hand with a great kicker,'” said Mannion. “I’ve been a little too careful; we’ve got other people in the game, if I can just move on there. Maybe there’s something and maybe not, but every time you’re in the red zone you want to get away with seven .”
In Mond’s first run, the Vikings ran for 54 yards five times, with Chandler showing the elusiveness he showed in camp to extend runs that started with big holes in the middle. Nwangwu bounced out for 12 yards, before Mond Johnson missed on a fade, and after a 2-yard run Nwangwu run, the Vikings had to call Joseph up again after Mond’s missed third-down connection.
“I saw Kene on the right,” Mond said. “It’s one where I probably gave the corner a little too much credit; his hips were a little bit more towards the field and I thought he could still make a break on the ball. Looking back, of course it’s easy to coach yourself when you come back on the sidelines and you watch it on video. Those are some of those things where you keep training your eyes and have a little more confidence in shredding those things.”
Las Vegas, which led 10-6 at halftime, extended their lead to 10 points when Nick Mullens hit DJ Turner for a 34-yard touchdown on a drive where the Vikings’ illegal substitution penalty on a punt gave the Raiders a first down .
Mullens passed his third-down TD pass over a shallow drop from linebacker Blake Lynch as Turner beat Parry Nickerson across the field. Nickerson tried unsuccessfully to strip the ball, and Turner dodged rookie Akayleb Evans while security Josh Metellus was blocked.
“Can we eventually get situationally better?” said O’Connell. “Third down and red zone just weren’t good enough for us to win.”
They went home, after their very first game in the state of Nevada, in hopes of making some progress.
“It just keeps piling up for days and getting better,” Mond said. “I felt a lot more comfortable the further I went.”