The Vikings' starters for their preseason opener played only a series, but even their starting lineup had a vastly different look than they are expecting for the regular-season opener Sept. 9.
Saturday in St. Louis, the Vikings were simply shorthanded. They left behind more than a handful of key starters, mostly because of injuries.
QB Brett Favre still hasn't reported to the Vikings and WR Percy Harvin has missed all but the opening two days of training camp because of migraine headaches and a death in the family. TE Visanthe Shiancoe (shoulder strain), center John Sullivan (calf), and LB J Leman (leg) were left behind because of injuries, as were WR Sidney Rice (hip) and CB Cedric Griffin (knee), both of whom opened training camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list and remain there.
But they also held out other stars who made the trip to St. Louis and suited up but didn't play, including RB Adrian Peterson, LB E.J. Henderson and DT Pat Williams.
Vikings coach Brad Childress said he anticipates Henderson playing next week against San Francisco.
In all, there were six starters on offense and three on defense that didn't play, accounting for more than one-third of the team's starters not even playing in the preseason opener.
Replacing them were QB Tarvaris Jackson, RB Albert Young, WRs Greg Lewis and Jaymar Johnson, C Jon Cooper and TE Jim Kleinsasser on offense, and DT Jimmy Kennedy, CB Lito Sheppard and LB Jasper Brinkley on defense.
The Rams held out three starters – RB Steven Jackson, G Jacob Bell and CB Ron Bartell.
FAVRE AND HARVIN UPDATES
The update on Harvin and Favre remains as it has been most of the past week – there is no update. Harvin continues to deal with his off-the-field issues and Childress had no update on Favre, who is considering a return for his 20th NFL season.
"I didn't have a vision before the game or at halftime and I'm talking to you guys now. There's nothing striking me. Nothing's change," Childress said.
MILLS FLEET AFOOT
TE Garrett Mills has had a non-descript training camp, but he made a bid to keep his roster spot with a strong showing in the preseason opener.
Mills was targeted six times and had four catches for 106 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown. In addition to breaking free of the defense for his touchdown, he added two receptions of 19 yards each.
While he took advantage of an opportunity to play more with Shiancoe not even making the trip, Mills was responsible for two of the Vikings' 10 penalties, being flagged for a false start and a hold.
As many times as Mills saw the ball, Logan Payne was targeted even more. Payne was the intended target a team-leading 11 times, making seven catches for 52 yards.
But no one took advantage of limited opportunities more than WR Marko Mitchell, who was targeted only one time, but made the most of it with a 71-yard touchdown.
MITCHELL BRINGS HEAT
The Vikings had an aggressive defensive front, but no one flashed more than reserve defensive end Jayme Mitchell, who is fighting to make the roster. The fifth-year end from Mississippi had two sacks, two tackles-for-losses, two quarterback hurries and a pass defensed.
"Jayme could always bring it off the edge. You just want to be consistent with it," Childress said.
The Vikings sacked Rams quarterbacks six times, four of those coming against No. 1 overall draft pick Sam Bradford.
Another defensive lineman who had a good night was DT Letroy Guion, who had a sack, a quarterback hurry, a tackle-for-loss and a pass defensed.
"Letroy has had a hell of camp and continues to play at a high level inside," Childress said. "He's grown in the system."
Erin Henderson was the team's tackle leader with six.
QUANTIFYING THE QUARTERBACKS
The pressure up front could account for some of the Rams' struggles at quarterback. Bradford led the team in passing yards, but he had only 57 yards and finished with an ugly rating for 58.8. None of the Rams' top three quarterbacks had a rating above 60.
For the Vikings, Rosenfels had a rating of 125.9 and Webb finished at 122.9. As a team, the Vikings' passer rating was 121.2.
A STRUGGLE ON THE LINE
Second-year pro Chris Clark, who spend last year on the team's practice squad, had a nightmare game against the Rams.
As a team, the Vikings had 10 penalties for 75 yards. Clark was responsible for four of those penalties – two holdings and two false starts – for 30 yards.
"I wasn't happy with the penalties in the first half," Childress said.
Clark did have a fumble recovery, but on that play he was blown away by DE George Selvie and was in position to recover the fumble because he was in the backfield.
Seven of the Vikings' 10 penalties were in the first half.
One series was particularly bad. After driving across midfield to the 27-yard line, they self-destructed. It started with Chris DeGeare's block in the back, which was followed by one of Mills' false starts. After a 2-yard loss by Toby Gerhart, Clark was called for a hold and Drew Radovich was flagged for a false start on successive plays. It quickly became second-and-33 back in Vikings territory.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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