For a couple of minutes, Marcus Sherels was the goat of the game for the Vikings, but that didn't last long. His interception return for a touchdown was redemption for an earlier fumble. Plus, get more than two dozen notes that help tell the tale of game.
The NFL career of Marcus Sherels
went from off-again to on-again in the span of less than two minutes Saturday night in the Vikings' 20-7 win over Seattle, as he went from goat to hero in a hurry.
Neither offense looked very sharp early – the Vikings going three-and-out on their only drive of the first quarter and the Seahawks shooting themselves in the foot with penalties to kill their first two drives. Seattle was punting to the Vikings and Sherels, who was a cautionary tale of life in the NFL, was on the receiving end.
Sherels was signed by the Vikings May 4, 2010 – a week after the draft in the flurry of signings made immediately afterward. He was brought in to work at the post-draft minicamp and was behind the 8-ball to make the team. On Sept. 4, he was included among the final batch of cuts to get down to the 53-man roster. A day later, he was signed to the practice squad. On Sept. 28, he was cut from the practice squad to make room for TE John Nalbone. On Oct. 13, Sherels was re-signed to the practice squad when Nalbone was released. Prior to the final game of the 2010 season, he was activated to the 53-man roster, but his place on the Vikings roster remained far from secure.
When he fumbled a punt that gave Seattle the ball in Vikings territory, it appeared as though Sherels had taken himself out of contention for a roster spot with one critical mistake. However, he clearly wasn't hanging his head over the potentially career-crippling turnover.
"Any time you put the ball on the ground in our league, that's a detriment," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "We talk all the time that you don't want to turn the ball over. Is it a detriment to the point whether or not you make the squad or not, [but] you've got to put it in context and it's not to that point. But it's an emphasis on our part to protect the football and take the football ball. We'll always emphasize that."
Three plays later, Sherels made a second game-changing play – this time for the better. Tarvaris Jackson tried to zip a third-down pass into wide receiver Golden Tate
, but the ball hit off his hands and deflected into the air. Sherels alertly reacted, adjusted to pluck the ball out of the air and had the presence of mind to take off running, racing 64 yards for a touchdown that gave the Vikings a lead they didn't surrender.
"To see that happen by a young guy that's fighting to make this team is big for our team," Frazier said.
On a night when it looked like Sherels had committed career suicide, he not only recovered from the miscue, but may well have enhanced his chances of making the roster.
The Seahawks outgained the Vikings 331-322, but did so by running 81 plays, while the Vikings ran just 56 plays.
Seattle killed itself with penalties, committing 10 accepted penalties for 84 yards.
The Vikings' punt return coverage was stellar. Seattle returned three punts for a total of five yards, and the Vikings held the Seahawks to a 22-yard average on kickoff returns.
Donovan McNabb completed his first six passes of the game and looked sharp, finishing his night completing 6 of 8 passes for 81 yards. Christian Ponder was hot and cold, completing 6 of 12 passes for 63 yards. Joe Webb worked with the third team and completed 4 of 8 passes for 44 yards.
Both Ponder and Webb made plays with their feet. Ponder scrambled three times for 15 yards, including a called bootleg, and Webb rushed twice for 11 yards.
Jackson struggled all night, completing 11 of 21 passes for 75 yards with the critical pick-six interception. Backup Charlie Whitehurst got the crowd back into the game, completing 14 of 19 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. Rookie Josh Portis completed just 2 of 9 passes for 13 yards, but scrambled four times for 46 yards – the most yards of any rusher in the game.
Lorenzo Booker again led the Vikings in rushing, carrying seven times for 37 yards, but the play of the game was put in by Tristan Davis, whose only carry of the night turned into a 35-yard touchdown.
The top two running backs in the Seattle offense – Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett – combined for 10 carries for 10 yards.
Adrian Peterson had six carries for 16 yards – his 2.7-yard average the worst per-rush average of any of the seven Vikings that had a carry.
A total of 23 players caught passes in the game – 12 for Seattle and 11 for the Vikings.
While the Vikings didn't have any huge individual games, they had completions of 17 yards to Kyle Rudolph, 19 yards to Juaquin Iglesias, 21 yards to Michael Jenkins, 21 yards to Devin Aromashodu, 23 yards to Emmanuel Arceneaux and 23 yards to blazing speedster Jim Kleinsasser.
Arceneaux's only catch ended in disaster. What looked like it would be a touchdown in the fourth quarter turned into a turnover, as the ball was punched out on the 2-yard line and sailed out of the end zone for a touchback, giving the ball to Seattle on the 20-yard line.
The Vikings kept Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe, Anthony Herrera and Greg Camarillo out of action and only had Jared Allen and Kevin Williams play the first series before they called it a night.
By contrast, players like fullback Ryan D'Imperio and DE Adrian Awasom played nearly the entire game. Awasom not only blew up a third-down pass play in the first quarter against Jackson, he sacked Portis on the final play of the game.
If Jackson wasn't looking over his shoulder with Whitehurst before Saturday's game, he was after it. After struggling throughout the first half, Jackson turned the game over to Whitehurst, who led the Seahawks on an impressive 16-play, 89-yard drive that took 8 minutes, 40 seconds.
There may not be a quicker third quarter all year. The Vikings took the opening kick and had an 11-play drive that elapsed 6:26 off the clock. Seattle's first drive was the 16-play marathon by Whitehurst that took the game into the fourth quarter before it ended.
A couple of young players who stood out during the game included CB Cord Parks, who made three tackles and defensed a pair of passes, as well as Tony Carter, who made a big punt return tackle on special teams and had a breakup in the final minutes that turned the ball over on downs. Carter, who wasn't signed until after the first few days of training camp, nearly had two picks and raised eyebrows along the way.
Center Jon Cooper got in the spotlight on a fluke play that, in the end, didn't count. Toby Gerhart took a carry up the middle, getting twisted and landing on his back. When he did, the ball popped out like it might be a fumble. Cooper moved like a panther and grabbed the ball in mid-air and advanced it eight yards. However, the ball was ruled down and Cooper's day in the spotlight (and the stat sheet) was negated.
Linebacker Mark Washington was injured on the opening kickoff of the second half, but, as far as on-field injuries were concerned, the Vikings came out relatively injury-free.
At halftime, Seattle enjoyed a slim lead in total yardage (139-132), but it wasn't due to their play in the second quarter. The Vikings outgained Seattle 129-36 in the quarter and held the ball for more than 10 minutes.
Sidney Rice only caught two passes for 11 yards, both coming in the final two minutes of the first half on consecutive plays.
The Vikings were as dominated as possible in the first quarter, yet held a 7-0 lead. Seattle held the ball for 13 minutes and had 103 yards of total offense, as opposed to just three yards for the Vikings. The Seahawks ran 25 offensive plays in the first quarter, as opposed to just three plays for the Vikings.
Leslie Frazier lost his first challenge on a difficult call on a sideline pass to Mike Williams. The call on the field stood, making Frazier 0-for-1 in challenges.
The Seahawks won their only challenge, but it came with a cost. On the punt-return fumble by Sherels, the ruling on the field was that he was down and the whistle blew. After Pete Carroll challenged the call, it was deemed Sherels did fumble, but, because the whistle blew, the touchdown that would have been scored on the return was negated and, three plays later, Jackson threw the interception that turned the tide of the game.
Mistral Raymond had a chance for a pretty easy interception in the first quarter in the Seattle end zone, but the ball went through his hands for an incompletion.
The Vikings came out with a wishbone offense on the first play of the game. McNabb had Peterson lined up directly behind him flanked on either side by Kleinsasser and Kyle Rudolph.
In a local TV interview, Jared Allen was asked if he was looking forward to returning to the new-look Metrodome. As always, he was brutally honest, saying, "We need a new stadium. The Metrodome is the worst facility in the NFL."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.