NFL Minnesota Vikings

Audie Cole boosts Vikings past Bills with two pick-sixes

The Minnesota Vikings hosted the Buffalo Bills on Friday night in their second preseason game, coming away with an impressive 36-14 victory.

Although the majority of the Vikings’ points came courtesy of rookie kicker Blair Walsh, fellow 2012 draftee Audie Cole helped put the score out of reach for the Bills.

Cole, a seventh-round selection out of North Carolina State, was quiet throughout three quarters before blowing the Vikings’ lead wide open in the final few minutes of the game. After reading a Tyler Thigpen pass, Cole jumped the route, intercepting the pass and barreling his way into the end zone for the Vikings’ second touchdown of the preseason.

The rookie wasn’t done there, though. On the Bills’ next possession, Cole picked off another pass on an almost identical route, again taking the interception back for six points. The crowd erupted as the Minnesota bench cleared to congratulate the young linebacker. It’s safe to say that he locked down a roster spot.

Through two games, Cole is the Vikings’ leader in touchdowns. The only other Vikings’ preseason touchdown came on a one-yard pass from quarterback Christian Ponder to fullback Jerome Felton in the first quarter against the Bills.

Ponder followed up his first preseason performance with another impressive outing, compiling 136 yards and a score while completing 10 of his 13 passes. He looked confident in the pocket and didn’t get rattled by two early sacks. Although a large chunk of his yards came after the catch, Ponder played well and continues to show vast improvement from last season.

Backup quarterback Joe Webb had two big pickups on the ground (41 yards, 23 yards), but struggled with his passing. He completed only seven of his 15 attempts for 73 yards.

As for Walsh, the rookie out of Georgia had his plate full on Friday. Due to a Vikings offense that consistently stalled halfway into Bills territory, Walsh was called upon for six field goal attempts. Of the six, he converted on five including a long of 47. His only miss went wide right from 49 yards. Considering the inconsistency that he showed throughout his senior season, five of six is a great sign for Walsh’s future with the Vikings.

After giving up 260 rushing yards to the San Francisco 49ers in their preseason opener, the Vikings allowed the Bills only 68 yards on the ground. With improved play from both the defensive line and linebackers, the Vikings defense corralled the Buffalo runners and forced the Bills to pick up yards through the air.

Other players, including wide receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux (2 receptions, 50 yards), safety Harrison Smith (2 tackles, 1 defended pass), and running back Toby Gerhart (30 rush yards, 19 receiving yards), stood out against the Bills. Even starting wide receiver Jerome Simpson got in on the action, catching three balls for 43 yards, including an electrifying 33-yard catch-and-run during which he hurdled a defender in the open field.

Vikings cornerback Chris Cook and tight end Kyle Rudolph both left the game after suffering blows to the head. Tested for concussions after leaving the field, it’s believed that both starters will be fine heading into next week.

After suffering a crushing defeat in the first week of the preseason, the Vikings boosted their confidence after coming away with a valuable victory over the Bills. As a whole, Minnesota looked like a completely different team, and it was apparent in the end result.

The Vikings’ next preseason game will pit them against the San Diego Chargers next Friday at the Metrodome.

Make sure to follow Gil Alcaraz IV on Twitter and like him on Facebook.