A week earlier, Vikings quarterback Kellen Mond looked to be making great strides in his young NFL career. He made some national highlight shows with his performance in the preseason opener.
On Saturday, it was mostly a night of lowlights.
In Minnesota’s 17-7 loss to San Francisco at U.S. Bank Stadium, Mond got the first preseason start of his two-year career. But he completed just 10 of 20 passes for 82 yards and threw two ugly interceptions.
Mond had a meager passer rating of 21.2, a whopping 109.5 lower than the 130.7 rating he had in a 26-20 loss at Las Vegas on Aug. 14. In that game, he completed 9 of 14 passes for 119 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
“I felt like I was efficient in some really big ways, but in some other ways missing some throws and some reads,’’ Mond said about Saturday’s game. “Just got to go back and watch the film (Sunday) and make corrections and get better.’’
Now, there are serious doubts about whether Mond can win the battle with Sean Mannion to be Kirk Cousins’ backup. With Cousins missing the game against the Raiders after testing positive for COVID-19 and being a healthy scratch Saturday, the two have been splitting snaps in the first two preseason games. Mannion started at Las Vegas.
Mannion hardly was great against the 49ers, but he has a lot more experience and isn’t prone to as many mistakes. Mannion, entering his eighth season, completed 10 of 15 passes for 65 yards on Saturday with a passer rating of 75.7. He did go 4 of 4 on a drive in which the Vikings scored their only touchdown, a 3-yard run by Ty Chandler late in the second quarter.
Head coach Kevin O’Connell sidestepped a question about whether the Vikings might look elsewhere for a backup to Cousins. He stressed the need to continue to work with what the team has at quarterback.
“Ultimately, you would love to have come out of (the game) feeling like, ‘Shoot, they both moved the team and scored a lot of points,’ and we’ve got a heck of a hard discussion and conversation ahead as a staff and as an organization,’’ O’Connell said. “Although we didn’t (score many points), I still think there’s some real teachable moments.”
O’Connell said the “clock is going” on time left before the Sept. 11 regular-season opener against Green Bay.
“I feel like our starters are in a good spot for (the opener), and that where our emphasis is really on,’’ O’Connell said. “There’s a lot of jobs we’ve got to still allow themselves to play themselves out.”
After the game, O’Connell stressed the need to watch the film to evaluate the quarterbacks. It will show some ugly interceptions by Mond in the first and fourth quarters.
On Minnesota’s opening drive, not long after completing his first three passes of the game, Mond faced pressure and misfired badly on a throw down the left sideline to Bisi Johnson. It was picked off by 49ers safety George Odum, who returned it 34 yards to the Minnesota 48.
On Minnesota’s final drive, Mond threw a bad pass right into the hands of safety Tayler Hawkins with 2;31 left in the game and the Vikings trailing 17-7. That ended any possible chance of a comeback.
On the interceptions by Hawkins, O’Connell said Mond “lost track of where the post safety was, and tried to press to make that play.” Mond agreed it was a poor throw.
“We had a play called, a quick fade to one of our young receivers (Jalen Nailor) and he ended up inside releasing and I ended up putting it up and just I think gave the safety an easy pick,’’ Mond said. “So obviously that was a really bad mistake on my part.’’
Mannion, who left Saturday without speaking to the media, didn’t make any big mistakes even though his play was hardly spectacular. O’Connell did speak well of Mannion’s play on the touchdown drive, when his four completions went for 39 yards.
“With Sean, the consistency of, when you call something, you feel strongly about the execution level being high, because you know he’s going to communicate, articulate that play, and then he’s gonna go out and do his job,’’ O’Connell said. “I think Sean’s at his best when he doesn’t try to go much, and he throws completions. … He’s a very smart player.’’
For the preseason, Mond has completed 19 of 34 passes for 201 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and Mannion has completed 18 of 27 passes for 134 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. With there being no indication that Cousins will play in next Saturday’s preseason finale at Denver, Mond and Mannion will have one more opportunity to fight it out for the backup job.