The Vikings took the good with the bad during the first half — when most of the starters saw extended action — of their preseason opener against the Cardinals. Some new players were showing off their worth, while a couple of veterans had ups and downs.
Daunte Culpepper's season didn't get off toa sizzling start. After coaches talked all offseason about Culpepper making better decisions at quarterback, he made a poor choice on the first drive. He lofted a soft, arching pass into triple coverage, ending the first Vikings drive of the season with an interception.
Aaron Elling's preseason didn't start much better. His 51-yard attempt, the first of the season, sailed wide left. Elling later hit two shorter field goal attempts in the first half.
Jim Kleinsasser suffered a strained groin on the first drive, but he was back in the game on the second drive.
The young linebackers were showing their athleticism in the first half. Dontarrious Thomas was solid during his half of play and was used often as a blitzing linebacker. He laid a number of solid licks on Arizona's quarterbacks just as they released the ball, but he didn't pick up a sack.
Cornerback Brian Williams suffered a sprained left knee in the first quarter and was out for the game.
Vikings fan got to see a veteran punter in action. On his first punt, 39-year-old Darren Bennett lofted a high spiral for 46 yards. It shouldn't be news, but after last year's growing pains it's worth a mention.
How much of a storyline is Brock Lesnar, despite his only chance of seeing purple after the first week of September is on the practice squad? When he entered the game early in the second quarter on the kickoff coverage unit, his presence on the field was announced in the press box.
Rookie Kenechi Udeze's first stat registration was a pass defensed early in the second quarter when he knocked down a Josh McCown pass.
Culpepper ended his night with a 48-yard touchdown to Randy Moss at 13:24 of the second quarter. He finished 8 of 10 passing for 120 yards, one interception and one touchdown and left with a 7-3 lead.
While Culpepper's numbers looked good in the first half, the Vikings' rushing number didn't fare as well. They rushed nine times for 18 yards. Onterrio Smith ran five times for 10 yards, and Michael Bennett rushed three times for 4 yards.
Mike Tice's challenge-challenged ways continued. With 8:54 left in the first half, he challenged an incomplete pass to Marcus Robinson in the end zone. Robinson dove for a pass and landed while juggling the ball and his momentum had him sliding out of bounds on the new Metrodome turf. Tice's challenge failed.
The NFL has made no secret of the fact that it intends to penalize contact on a receiver beyond 5 yards this year. That sentiment was on display early. Ken Irvin got the first dose of it on the Cardinals' second drive the game, allowing Arizona to keep its only scoring drive of the first half alive on third down. In the second quarter, the Cardinals had two defensive holding calls on the same play, but the Vikings declined both when Jermaine Wiggins caught the ball for 13 yards. Late in the first half, Antoine Winfield was flagged for illegal contact, but that penalty was declined as well after a first-down completion during the 2-minute drill.
The young defensive line showed its potential early. On the Cardinals' first play from scrimmage, Kenny Mixon picked up a sack when Kevin Williams flushed Josh McCown into Mixon. Williams got his sack midway through the second quarter on quarterback Shaun King's first drive. Udeze had the Vikings' third sack of the first half with less than a minute left and the Cardinals in hurry-up mode.
Mike Nattiel was lost for the game with a sprained left shoulder. After the game, Tice said neither Nattiel nor Brian Williams will be playing next weekend.