For a team looking for bright spots Sunday night, the Vikings had struggles on offense, defense and special teams that combined to make it a disheartening third preseason game.
It seemed clear from the outset that, with the exception of Adrian Peterson, who was on the field for only two plays and didn't touch the ball or get touched by a defensive player, the Vikings were the team taking the game more seriously. Their starters played into the second half, while the 49ers began pulling their starters after one quarter. But it was gaffes by all three units that turned the game around and turned the game into a blowout.
The first problem came in the first minute of the game. After taking the opening kickoff, the Vikings' first drive ended quickly, as Christian Ponder was stripped of the ball by Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith recovered on the Vikings 11-yard line. While Minnesota's defense was able to make a stop, the 49ers were so close that a chip shot field goal gave them an early 3-0 lead that would never be seriously challenged.
Although the Vikings had done a nice job early on San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, allowing him to complete just one of his first seven passes, faced with a third-and-10 from his own 34-yard line with six minutes to play in the first half, Kaepernick completed six straight passes – driving the 49ers down the field on an 11-play series that ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Quinton Patton to give them a 10-0 lead with 2:39 left in the first quarter – marking the end of the night for many of San Francisco's offensive front-line players.
With San Francisco pulling many of its starting defensive players in the second quarter, the Vikings used a turnover on a Chad Greenway interception to put the offense in scoring position. The Vikings made the most of it, as Ponder threw a 1-yard touchdown to fullback Zach Line to cut the deficit to 10-7 with three minutes to play in the first half and, for the first time, it appeared as momentum might be on the Vikings' side.
That feeling would last for all of 5 seconds. Return man Lavelle Hawkins ended that with a 105-yard kickoff return that gave San Francisco a 17-7 lead with 2:45 to play in the half, which would become a 20-7 halftime lead after Ponder threw an interception on the next drive.
For a game the Vikings were taking more seriously than the 49ers in terms of trying to get some cohesiveness with the offensive, defensive and special teams players that are expected to carry the team once the regular season begins, things didn't go well. The offense sputtered, the defense didn't get the job done on third down and the special teams allowed a momentum-shifting touchdown. In the end, all three phases of the team combined for an ugly game in what is supposed to be a tune-up for the regular season.
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.
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