LAS VEGAS — Kellen Mond took the fourth shotgun blast, standing placidly in the pocket as the Raiders sent a three-man run after him. He saw Dan Chisena – one of his secondary options on the play – break free from cornerback Chris Jones on a deep drive, and Mond fed the ball to the receiver for a 22-yard gain.
“It was the decision: his first stepping was washed away, easy in the pocket, just going on pace and throwing an absolutely beautiful ball to Dan,” coach Kevin O’Connell said. “And then you saw him get to his third and fourth progressions, late [in the game] here for Jalen Nailor [for 16 yards] or Myron [Mitchell for 16 yards] on the back [of the play]. When you see him come back to that, that’s growth.”
Compare that to Mond’s last throw in the first half in the Vikings’ 26-20 loss to the Raiders in the first game of the preseason: he scrambled left, then right, avoiding a three-way run then as his teammates, first Bisi Johnson and Trishton Jackson, then Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Zach Davidson, raised their hands to ask for the ball. Mond threw past Jackson and into 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 play where he thought Mond had a chance for a touchdown. .
O’Connell approached his first preseason game, his first rite of passage as the 10th coach in Vikings history, with two goals: to keep the starting base healthy and to learn as much as possible about the young players who would take to the pitch at Allegiant Stadium on Sunday.
The first goal was easy, with all of the Vikings’ Pro Bowl skillful and five defensive starters not playing. If O’Connell can claim he succeeded in the latter, it may be because of experiences like Mond’s.
“I wanted to go out and 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 practices in the first half and some defensive lapses throughout; they gave up two scoring drives in the second half and allowed the Raiders to hold the ball for the final 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 from Mond, the Vikings might be able to hang on to something. .
Mond threw two second-half TD passes to Albert Wilson, going 9-of-14 for 119 yards. Sean Mannion, who played the first three series and returned for another in the fourth quarter, went 8 of 12 for 79 yards.
The Vikings beat the Raiders 172-94 in the first half, but ran for 66 penalty yards. They went 0 for 4 on third down and had just six runs on their two trips to the red zone.
Mannion passed Ihmir Smith-Marsette in the back corner of the end zone on the Vikings’ third drive, and O’Connell opted to send Joseph for a 20-yard attempt.
“My thought process was, ‘I can leave the ball high and safe, and we’ve got points in hand with a great kicker,'” Mannion said. “I’m being a little too cautious; we have other people in the game, if I can just move on. Maybe there’s something and maybe not, but whenever you’re in the red zone, you want to come away with seven”.
In Mond’s first series, the Vikings ran for 54 yards five times, with Chandler displaying the elusiveness he displayed in camp to extend runs that started with big holes in the middle. Nwangwu bounced outside 12 yards, before Mond missed Johnson on a fade, and after a 2-yard run from Nwangwu, the Vikings had to call in Joseph again after Mond’s third missed connection.
“I saw Kene on the right side,” Mond said. “He’s one of those where I probably gave the corner a little too much credit; his hips were a little lower on the pitch, and I thought he could still break on the ball. thinking about it obviously it’s easy to practice every time you get back on the sideline and watch it on video it’s some of those things where you keep training your eyes and have a little more confidence to tear these things apart.
Las Vegas, which led 10-6 at halftime, extended the 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 clearance gave the Raiders a first down.
Mullens made his third TD pass on a weak drop from linebacker Blake Lynch as Turner beat Parry Nickerson through the field. Nickerson tried unsuccessfully to strip the ball and Turner fumbled past rookie Akayleb Evans while safety Josh Metellus was blocked.
“In the end, can we improve the situation?” said O’Connell. “Third down and the red zone just wasn’t good enough for us to win.”
They returned home, after their very first game at Nevada State, hoping they had made some progress.
“It just keeps piling on the days and getting better,” Mond said. “I felt a lot more comfortable as I kept going.”