Preseason III: Highlights, Lowlights And Notes

In a dominating first-half performance, the Vikings offense racked up yards and the defense smothered the 49ers. But that wasn't all that happened, good and bad. The Vikings suffered a number of injuries and searched for solutions to depth concerns.

EFFICIENCY IN ACTION
How efficient was the first-team offense in the first half? They had nine first downs rushing and nine passing. They accumulated 326 total net yards. They rushed for 133 yards. Daunte Culpepper threw for 200 yards and two TDs. Randy Moss, Nate Burleson and Kelly Campbell combined for 173 yards on 15 receptions. Michael Bennett had 91 yards rushing on 11 carries.

The defense was nearly as efficient, if unheralded. It shut down San Francisco's offense in three plays on the 49ers' first three drives of the game and shut them out through halftime. The 49ers had only 61 net yards of offense in the first half — 21 rushing and 40 passing.


M*A*S*H

* Cornerback Ken Irvin was taken to the sidelines with assistance at 7:43 of the first quarter after a hard hit on running back Kevan Barlow. He returned to the game shortly afterward.

* The biggest injury scare of the game for the Vikings happened early in the third quarter on a Michael Bennett run. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie got cut down from the side when a 49er fell into his right knee. He lay on the carpet for a few minutes before they pulled him up and he walked off on his own power. He was held out of the game with a right knee sprain, and Bennett sustained the same injury on the same play.


CHALLENGES COMING

Mike Tice loves to throw the challenge flag. While officials will review those challenges during the game, the Vikings have started a post-game review for officials around the league. Last year the Vikings started burning DVDs of the game right after the contest. The NFL liked that concept so much that they are now having all teams follow their lead and hand the officials a DVD on their way out the stadium to review on a laptop during their plane ride home.


SECONDARY DEPTH

For all the overblown hype about the Vikings' lack of depth in the secondary — who doesn't have depth problems at one position or another in the NFL these days — the team doesn't look so loaded on the injury table compared to their opponent, the 49ers. While the Vikings didn't suit up safety Tyrone Carter, cornerback Brian Williams and wide receiver Marcus Robinson, the 49ers didn't dress 14 players, a few of them starters. QB Ken Dorsey, WR Bosley Allen, S Tony Parrish, S Dwaine Carpenter, FB Fred Beasley, FB Jasen Isem, TE James Jordan, TE Kevin Ware, LB Saleem Rasheed, C Brock Gutierrez, T Jerome Davis, DT Isaac Sopoaga, DE Brandon Whiting, DE Andrew Williams.


SECONDARY DEPTH II

Apparently the cornerback situation isn't all that concerning to the Vikings. Their star free agent, cornerback Antoine Winfield, was getting reps on the first-team punt return unit.


SECONDARY OPTION

Marcus who? With Tice publicly criticizing receiver Marcus Robinson's ability to heal his hamstring soreness and taking the rest of the preseason off, Nate Burleson could soon have the coaches sticking with him as the No. 2 receiver. The offense sure didn't miss a beat. In the first half, Burleson, a 2003 third-round draft choice, had five catches for 89 yards.


RUN FIRST … AND SECOND

After two sub-par rushing games to open the preseason, the Vikings made a concerted effort to get Michael Bennett going in the first half against San Francisco. He showed he still has it when the defense isn't stuffing the line of scrimmage and overplaying the run. Bennett rushed 11 times for 91 yards in the first half.


THIS AND THAT

* This year the head coaches are allowed to call timeouts, and Tice made sure he took advantage of that at the end of the first half. When Moe Williams caught a pass near the sideline but was immediate blasted in bounds, Tice was right there to call time with 5 seconds remaining. Aaron Elling rewarded Tice by missing the 44-yard field goal attempt wide left.

* Strategy paid off in the second quarter. The Vikings went with a no-huddle offense, and it ended up costing the 49ers a timeout.

* In their ever-searching quest for a punt returner, the Vikings sent Nate Burleson onto the field in the second quarter to field a punt. Instead, the 49ers punted it into the end zone for a touchback.




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