Backups Let It Slip Away

The Vikings built a 20-10 lead early in the third quarter, but as the Vikings moved further into their depth chart the Cardinals began looking better and better on offense. Lack of experienced depth is something head coach Mike Tice acknowledged after the 31-27 loss to Arizona.

Backups Let It Slip Away

The Vikings built a 20-10 lead early in the third quarter, but as the Vikings moved further into their depth chart the Cardinals began looking better and better on offense. Youth and depth are something head coach Mike Tice acknowledged after the 31-27 loss to Arizona.

It was everything the fourth preseason game is supposed to be -- boring, reserved, little action from the starters and a number of questionable calls both ways with pass interference.

The Vikings showed that the first-liners have talent across the board and that the depth is lacking in certain areas, as the game got away when the second -and third-teamers allowed their Arizona counterparts to come back from a 20-10 deficit in the second half to take a 31-27 win in the final game of the preseason.

The Vikings fell to 1-3 in the preseason and the Cardinals finished a surprisingly perfect 4-0.

Nearly all could be summarized in saying that the first-team looked solid, but the depth problems showed in third-string quarterback Preston Parsons and fourth-string running back Damien Anderson's second-half stats. Parsons completed 13 of 16 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown, with a 128.1 quarterback rating. Anderson rushed five times for 119 yards. It was that kind of a second half as the game got away.

"I was not happy that the backups played concerned," head coach Mike Tice said. "It seemed like every single person I challenged went out and made mistakes."

The bend-don't-break defense showed up on the first series. It started with a sack from Chris Hovan that was negated when Denard Walker was called for illegal hands to the face, but the play did knock out starting quarterback Jeff Blake before he had a chance to throw a pass. Enter Jeff McCown, who picked up a first down with an 11-yard pass to Bryan Gilmore. Facing third-and-10, McCown found Kevin Kasper for 11 yards, and after a 14-yard run by Marcel Shipp the Cardinals were in field goal position. A Lance Johnstone sack made the field goal 5 yards longer, but Bill Gramatica nailed the 47-yarder for a 3-0 lead with 8:10 to play in the first quarter.

The Vikings answered to tie the game with an 11-play drive. Moe Williams started it with a run and a catch to combine for a first down, and passes of 4, 6, and 8 yards to Randy Moss, Nate Burleson and Moss again picked up another first down. The Vikings moved into Cardinals territory but needed a 52-yard field goal to tie it up. Aaron Elling delivered with plenty of room to spare with 5:41 left in the first quarter.

An 11-yard coverage sack by Kevin Williams started the Vikings' ensuring defensive series, but the defense still yielded a first down before shutting Arizona down and forcing a punt.

The Vikings took advantage of a questionable pass interference call on Michael Stone while covering Burleson, and that moved the ball to the Minnesota 48-yard line. After two misfires by Culpepper, the boos starting echoing through the Metrodome, but a 13-yard pass to Moss on third down moved the chains. Culpepper sneaked for the final first down before hitting Nate Burleson on a hook pattern. Burleson sidestepped the coverage and turned to the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown and a 10-3 lead with 11:07 left in the first half.

But that lead lasted exactly 16 seconds when fourth-string running back Damien Anderson ripped off a 69-yard run up the middle on the first play of the next series. That quickly, it was 10-10.

With Gus Frerotte and the second-team offense inserted, the Vikings drove into Cardinals territory behind the rushing of Onterrio Smith and two Arizona penalties, but a 10-yard sack of Frerotte took Minnesota out of field goal range and forced a punt.

Arizona followed suit by driving into Minnesota territory on shodding tackling on runs of 11 yards and 32 yards by Anderson. However, once at the 15-yard line the Cardinals would only go backwards on one run and a Cedric Killings sack. Backup kicker Tim Duncan likely sealed his fate when he pushed a 39-yard attempt wide left.

The Vikings answered for the final score of the half. They got there on an 18-yard pass to Robert Baker and a 43-yarder to Kelly Campbell to the 5-yard line. Three incompletions and a penalty forced Elling onto the field for a 28-yard go-ahead field goal, making it 13-10 heading into halftime.

The Vikings opened the second half on a strong note. After a Robert Baker kick return out to the 40-yard line, consecutive passes of 23 yards -- to Keenan Howry and Baker -- put the ball on the 14-yard line. John Avery and Sean Berton did the rest, with Berton getting the touchdown on a 4-yard pass 3:28 into the third quarter.

Trailing 20-10, Arizona needed an extended drive to keep their undefeated preseason. Preston engineered just that. He opened the drive with three straight completions for a total of 55 yards. While the Vikings looked to have the drive contained inside the red zone after that, Parsons got loose on third down and scrambled 11 yards into the end zone to pull within three points at 20-17.

A 29-yard pass to Kenny Clark was all the Vikings could muster on their next drive, and Elling pushed a 47-yard field goal attempt wide right.

Parsons continued to move his offense, going 6-for-6 on his next series, capping it with a 20-yard touchdown to rookie Bryant Johnson for a 24-20 lead with 1:27 left in the third quarter.

Shaun Hill led the Vikings back into the end zone on his first drive, completing short passes to Baker, Berton and Avery for the initial first down of the series. After a 9-yard run by Avery, Hill found Clark for 6 yards and Nelson for 11 yards for two more first downs before another pass interference penalty on Stone put the ball on the 1-yard line. On second down, Larry Ned put it in the end zone for a 27-24 Vikings lead with 12:03 left in the fourth quarter.

Parson drove the Cardinals back into the end zone again, starting with an 8-yard pass to Johnson and a 19-yard run by Josh Scobey. Five plays later, a pass interference call on Carey Scott put the ball on the 1-yard line, and Parson took advantage of a hole over the right guard with a 1-yard sneak. Arizona regained the lead, 31-27 with 7:35 to play.

While the offense sputtered on the next series, the defense finally made a stand and gave Hill one more chance with 45 seconds to play. A 6-yard pass to Ned and three incompletions wouldn't get that done, and the Vikings would fall to Arizona in the most meaningless preseason game of the year -- except for those who earned their way onto Sunday's waiver wire.

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