The Vikings under Dennis Green experienced many strong preseasons, as "The Sherrif" won his first seven preseason games with the Vikings and only had two losing preseasons in 10 years.
Green's preseason success didn't transfer with him to Arizona in 2004, as the Minnesota Vikings showed their steadily progressing talent in a 23-6 preseason-opening win.
With Green as the Vikings coach, the defensive line gradually deteriorated. In Mike Tice's third season as coach, the defensive line led the way with seven sacks, and the Vikings got big passing plays from Randy Moss and Marcus Robinson.
During the first half, when the starters saw multiple series, the Vikings came away with a 13-3 lead, one in which they looked determined to get in a rhythm before pulling starters.
The first drive ended badly for quarterback Daunte Culpepper. After picking up yards in short chunks and aided by two penalties, a pass interference on a throw to Moss and a late hit on Bennett out of bounds, the Vikings were set up nicely at first-and-10 on the 42-yard line. Instead of hitting a wide-open Jermaine Wiggins in the right flats, Culpepper lofted a softball into triple coverage in the end zone. One defender tapped it up and Quentin Harris came down with the ball in the end zone.
The defense did it's job, with a Kenny Mixon sack being a key start to the defensive season on first down, and the Vikings were set up on the 39-yard line.
Again, the Vikings drove into Cardinals territory, but this time it was Aaron Elling who couldn't complete the job. His 51-yard field goal drifted wide left.
Instead, the Cardinals were the first to score. On their second drive of the game, a solid dose of Emmitt Smith — three carries for 21 yards — helped drive Arizona to the 28-yard line. Neil Rackers converted on a 46-yard field goal for a 3-0 Denny lead with 3:58 left in the first quarter.
After a pair of three-and-out series for both teams, Culpepper and the passing offense started stretching the field. It started with consecutive passes of 16 yards to Nate Burleson and 15 yards to Wiggins. The third play of the series was the charm. Moss got behind cornerback Duane Starks for a long completion and safety help was late and took the wrong angle, resulting in a 48-yard touchdown with 13:24 left in the first half.
The Vikings had their 7-3 lead, and that would be it for the skill position starters.
On Minnesota's next drive, Gus Frerotte started hot. His first completion found Wiggins for 13 yards, but, two plays later he hit it big. Frerotte found Robinson streaking down the left sideline. Robinson outran the first line of pursuit and turned it into a 55-yard gain to the 12-yard line. Frerotte stuck with his playmaker, going to Robinson three straight times following the big gainer, but each one fell imcomplete before Elling pitched in a 30-yard field goal for a 10-3 lead with 8:45 left in the half.
Arizona followed suit by putting in their backup QB, Shaun King, but he didn't experience the offensive flow of Frerotte. The Vikings stopped him on three downs, culminating with a Kevin Williams sack on third down.
Frerotte continued to move the offense, picking up first downs on a 14-yard pass to tight end Richard Angulo and a 24-yard pass to Nate Burleson. However, after driving to the 18-yard line the drive stalled, and Mike Tice had to settle for a 36-yard Elling field goal with 1:57 left in the half, which would end with the Vikings leading 13-3.
The Cardinals opened up the second half the same way they closed the first half — with a missed field goal.
Frerotte, however, cooled down, opening up the Vikings' first possession of the second half with an interception.
Arizona took advantage on the ensuing possession, converting fourth-and-11 with a 12-yard scramble by King. That set up a 33-yard field goal from Rackers to bring the Cardinals within a touchdown at 13-6 with 4:49 to play in the third quarter.
The Vikings answered decisively, with rookie Mewelde Moore taking a handoff and finding Nate Burleson blocking along the left sideline. The two turned the third play of the drive into a 39-yard touchdown run and a 20-6 lead with 51 seconds left in the third quarter.
The third-string held the line with two sacks in Arizona's next possession, and Shaun Hill continued to drive the Vikings offense, converting the first third down with a 24-yard audible to Aaron Hosack, but the drive stalled once into scoring position and the Vikings settled for a 46-yard field goal from Dan Orner.
The final score of the game made it a 23-6 win for Minnesota in its "revenge" match against Green and the team that knocked the Vikings from the playoffs last year.
Green started his Arizona preseason 0-1 and Tice got some confirmation that his younger players can convert their athleticism from the practice fields of Mankato to the game field in the Metrodome.
Vikings Start Strong, 23-6
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