DENVER- Kirk Cousins was perfect in his first game for Minnesota on Saturday night, completing all four of his passes, including a 1-yard touchdown strike to Stefon Diggs in the Vikings’ 42-28 exhibition victory over the Denver Broncos.
Case Keenum wasn’t nearly as sharp in his Denver debut.
He completed just 1 of 4 passes for 5 yards spanning two drives that went nowhere, lamenting after getting taken out that “I definitely did” want another possession. “I’ll be honest, I wanted one series with a few more plays and (to) score a touchdown.”
Cousins, the former Washington QB, was the crown jewel of this year’s free- agent class of quarterbacks, signing a fully-guaranteed, three-year $84 million deal in Minneapolis.
Two months after leading the Vikings to the NFC championship, Keenum signed a two-year, $36 million deal in Denver, and the Broncos traded Trevor Siemian to the Vikings to serve as Cousins’ backup – so long as he beats out another former Denver QB Kyle Sloter.
That left Paxton Lynch and Chad Kelly vying for No. 2 duty in Denver.
After Cousins’ single series – one in which he didn’t have to face Von Miller – Siemian led Minnesota on three scoring drives, most notably a screen pass to Roc Thomas that beat the blitz for a 78-yard score.
Siemian was 11 of 17 for 165 yards, two TDs and an interception against his old team.
Lynch, the former first-rounder twice beaten out by Siemian in Denver, was just 6 of 11 for 24 yards and an interception.
Despite 17 yards passing overall in the first half, the Broncos only trailed 24-14 at halftime thanks to Isaiah McKenzie’s 78-yard punt return for a TD and rookie Royce Freeman’s 23-yard TD scamper – Denver’s only first down before halftime.
Kelly threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to tight end Matt LaCosse to pull Denver to 27-21 and amid chants of “Kelly! Kelly!” he drove Denver 85 yards in 11 plays, capping the drive with a 19-yard strike to running back Phillip Lindsay to put the Broncos on top 28-27 with 10 minutes remaining.
Sloter, who was cut by Denver a year ago, responded by throwing a 9-yard touchdown pass to Chad Beebe with six minutes left to put the Vikings back on top. His strike to Jeff Badet for the 2-point conversion made it 35-28.
Safety Jack Tocho picked off Kelly at the Denver 30-yard line with 5:23 left, and Sloter sealed it with a 14-yard bootleg for the score on third-and-4.
Sloter was 9 of 11 for 69 yards and Kelly was 14 of 20 for 176.
Coach Vance Joseph’s faith in punt returner Isaiah McKenzie finally paid off when he sped down the Broncos sideline for a 78-yard TD late in the second quarter. Last year, Joseph stuck with McKenzie despite half a dozen fumbles.
Broncos are back at home next Saturday, as they host the Chicago Bears for Game 2.