The plot well before the Vikings and Indianapolis Colts took the field Friday night was Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison testing the Vikings defense to determine if the first two preseason games were a mirage or if Minnesota's defense really had improved over last season.
It took exactly 4:01 to find Minnesota's defense may have to repeat a grade, but like the first preseason game against New Orleans, the Vikings defense regrouped after the first drive and contained Indianapolis' dangerous weapons from there on out — all the while allowing the quarterbacks some wiggle room, but coming up with the big play when they needed it most.
It ended with Randy Moss being the difference maker, catching two bombs for two touchdowns and Michael Bennett getting the Vikings' other touchdown with the first-team offense, as Minnesota moved to 3-0 on the preseason with a 28-21 win over Indianapolis.
Manning ended the game (read: first half) 18-for-30 for 208 yards, but threw two interceptions and one touchdown. Backup Mark Rypien was 17-for-22 for 183 yards and a touchdown, but threw a game-ending interception.
Meanwhile, Daunte Culpepper finished 9-for-15 for 172 yards and two touchdowns while again avoiding the costly interceptions. His big-play man, Randy Moss, was big again, catching two passes — both touchdowns — for 128 yards. Backup Todd Bouman finished 6-for-8 for 45 yards and an interception.
The Colts opened with the ball and it took Manning seven plays to drive his offense 78 yards to a touchdown. It started with Manning to Harrison for 9 yards, then 31 yards, then James ripped off a 17-yard run. James and Harrison accounted for all five gains on the drive before Jerome Pathon caught another Manning masterpiece. Audibling more than he stayed with the play sent in, Manning also used his uncanny deception ability to look the defense to the left all the while waiting for Pathon to uncover in the middle of the field. When he did, Manning had no problem putting the ball on his numbers for a 7-0 lead with 10:59 to play.
The offense didn't look any better in the first quarter, either, failing to pick up a first down on any of their first three drives. Meanwhile, the defense forced one three-and-out series and gave up a 36-yard drive that resulted in a field goal for Indianapolis and a 10-0 lead with 2:09 left in the first quarter.
The defense got things turned around in the second quarter, finding their stride against Manning, and when Kailee Wong picked off a ball that caromed off of Harrison, the Vikings were in business on the Colts 35-yard line.
Two passes to Byron Chamberlain put the Vikings on the 20-yard line. From there, rookie Michael Bennett took care of business, picking up 6 yards on the outside, then going inside behind Jim Kleinsasser for the remaining 14 yards to the end zone for the first Vikings score of the game at 9:36 of the second quarter and pulling to within three points at 10-7.
The defense shut down the Colts on their next two drives before the Vikings offense showed some life at wide receiver — specifically Randy Moss. It took just one play and the Vikings had the lead. Quarterback Daunte Culpepper found Moss cutting across the middle of the field 20 yards deep, and when Moss picked up a sideline-sealing block from Andrew Jordan 10 yards downfield he was gone, hurdling the final defender. The play went 74 yards in 14 seconds and gave the Vikings a 14-10 lead with 3:35 to play in the first half.
The lead held even though Manning was starting to get on a roll in his two-minute offense, but that ended quickly when Robert Griffith came up with the Vikings' second interception of the half.
The 14-10 score held to halftime, but in the second half Moss and Culpepper picked up where they left off. On the fourth play of the opening drive, Moss burned the Colts' second defense for a 54-yard touchdown just 1:56 into the second half for a 21-10 Vikings lead.
The Colt followed suit on offense, both with using their second unit and with scoring on a long pass play. With Mark Rypien in the game, he took Indianapolis past midfield, then hit running back Jim Finn with a screen pass. Finn slid through numerous arm tackles and worked his way down the sideline for a 45-yard touchdown with 8:06 left in the third quarter, making it 21-18 after a successful two-point conversion run by Brett Millican.
From there, things turned a little more sloppy as both teams' second-teamers entered the game. After putting together an eight-play drive under Todd Bouman, the quarterback forced a pass in the end zone and was picked by cornerback Clifton Crosby.
The defense forced the Colts out of the game in three plays, but running back James Wofford promptly fumbled the ball back to Indianapolis. It converted with a three-play drive that tied the game, 21-21, on a 43-yard field goal with 14:50 to play.
After each defense stopped the opposing offense, the Vikings got the lead back with another explosive play. It was another wide receiver, but this time it came on special teams. Nate Jacquet fielded a punt and found a seam, slashing his way down the left sideline, then cutting back to midfield for a 76-yard touchdown. That put Minnesota in the lead at 28-21 with 11:14 to play.
The Vikings closed the game with an aggressive second-team defense with linebacker Jim Nelson getting the final of three Vikings interception and ending any Colts hope.
Defense Holds Up, So Does Perfect Record
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