Preseason Game 2 report card: Failure, not just because of a 26-16 loss score but because of bad execution.
The offensive line was below average in picking up the stunts and blitzes of Kansas City, therefore causing the first-team offense to stall. The first-team defense bent often and broke sometimes. The special teams had better coverage and set up the only first-half touchdown for the Vikings with a fumble recovery and another late-game penalty that allowed Kansas City to retain possession after punting. Overall, the Vikings have to improve on their two preseason performances to date to make the playoffs.
Maybe the most disappointing aspect of Minnesota's 10-point loss in Kansas City was the play of the first-team offensive line, which allowed pressure to get to quarterback Daunte Culpepper, which in turn limited Randy Moss to only two catches in the first half. Culpepper was sacked three times in a full first half of work. A second strike against the offensive line was the false-start penalties that helped bring drives to a halt, which followed a penalty-filled game against Jacksonville. At halftime, when most of the starters were still in for both teams, the Vikings trailed 16-10, which was a pretty accurate representation.
Kansas City opened with the ball in good starting field position at their own 42 after the special teams allowed a long game-opening return. After an incompletion, the Chiefs went to their bread and butter, running back Priest Holmes, maybe the best in the league. He started with two runs of 8 yards each, but the explosive play was a 27-yard pass to up-and-coming wide receiver Marc Boerigter. Once at the 15-yard line, a false start and no yardage-producing plays forced Morten Andersen into a 38-yard field goal for an early 3-0 lead.
Sacked twice in the first three plays by an aggressive Kansas City defense, the Vikings brought on the punting unit. Ironically, the poor offensive line play set the stage for the Vikings' first real positive play by their special teams this year. When Dante Hall let the punt go through his hands, Jack Brewer swatted it on the way by and Moe Williams jumped on it at the 14-yard line.
The offense took advantage. An 8-yard pass to Onterrio Smith was converted to a first down with a neutral-zone infraction. A 2-yard run and a 1-yard dive over the top gave Smith his second touchdown of the preseason and the Vikings a 7-6 lead with 8:15 left in the first quarter.
Both defenses held for an exchange of punts, but as the game moved to the second quarter, the Chiefs offense -- the highest scoring offense in the NFL last year -- was warming up. Quarterback Trent Green hit Johnnie Morton for 12 yards, then tight end Tony Gonzalez for 19, which had another 15 tacked on with a facemask penalty on Chris Claiborne. Holmes and Morton picked up two more first downs, and the Chiefs looked to be in a rhythm at the 7-yard line. The Minnesota run defense stiffened, and Green threw low for Gonzalez on third down. Andersen came on again and delivered a 21-yard field goal for a 7-6 game with 11:31 left in the first half.
Meanwhile, the Vikings offense continued to struggle with the Kansas City pressure and turned it back over to the Chiefs on three downs. Green would only need two plays to get his offense into the end zone for the first time in their preseason. Paydirt happened with a 58-yard pass to Boerigter, giving them a 13-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
The Vikings appeared to get their offense rolling, as Hunter Goodwin and Doug Chapman combined to pick the initial first down and two Culpepper scrambles moved the chains again. A 12-yard pass to D'Wayne Bates and an encroachment penalty put the Vikings in solid position on the 38-yard line, but a false-start penalty on each of the tackles were surrounded by three incompletions to quickly halt the drive.
After forcing Kansas City to punt, Culpepper had the Vikings marching again at the end of the second quarter, taking them across midfield to the 26-yard line. But when the Kansas City defense ran a stunt and Culpepper stepped up in the pocket, former Packer Vonnie Holliday met him square on for a 4-yard sack on third down. Kicker Aaron Elling hit a 48-yard field goal with 1:07 to play to draw Minnesota within three points at 13-10.
A porous defense gave the Chiefs one last stand, however. Derrick Blaylock picked up a first down with runs of 9 and 4 yards, then backup quarterback Todd Collins hit Morton with strikes of 16 and 14 yards to the 35-yard line. One reception later, Andersen was back on the field for a 43-yard field and a 16-10 lead as time expired in the first half.
A turnover allowed the offense to score one touchdown in the first quarter, but at halftime the Chiefs' domination and Vikings' struggles showed in the statistics. Minnesota had just 100 yards of offense with its starters and Kansas City produced 283 yards against a secondary that started without Ken Irvin and saw Denard Walker leave with a re-aggravated hamstring. Suddenly, the secondary was young again and it showed.
The second half was typical preseason, with more penalties and little of interest besides a few turnovers and strong play by Nate Burleson. He continues to rise through the receiver ranks and gave the Vikings their only second-half score with the last of his six catches, a 1-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to bring it to the final score of 26-16.
Kansas City isn't an easy team to beat, as they return with the highest scoring offense in the NFL from last year. But the Vikings did have opportunities that were killed either by missed blocking assignments or penalties. This year they have more talent, but those kind of mistakes will have to be corrected in order for that talent to appear in the postseason.
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