Taylor Stars, But Defense Stages Comeback

In the first "Live Thud" scrimmage of Vikings training camp, the offense came out with a quick tempo and took an early lead, but the defense started to come together after an early deficit and showed fans signs of what they were looking for.

Through two series, scoring drives of 10 and 15 plays, the Minnesota Vikings offense was dominating the first training-camp scrimmage at Blakeslee Stadium in Mankato.

But from that point, the revamped defense started to provide hope for the 6,000 or so fans in the stands.

"I think we settled down, especially the younger players," defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell said. "For some reason, we were kind of nervous, the first time under the lights. But it was just practice.

"I thought our execution was pretty good, the new players showed up and made some plays."

Though the offense won the scrimmage on the final play, a 3-yard touchdown pass from Daunte Culpepper to Travis Taylor, new middle linebacker Sam Cowart felt pretty good about the defense's effort.

"The offense came out with a quick tempo, and they had the advantage," he said. "But we fought back and did pretty well.

"You always want to win, but in the end, if the Purple team wins, I'm all for it."

Without making any spectacular plays, the defense controlled seven of the final nine series, making six sacks. Ralph Brown dropped a certain interception, and there were some other nice pass breakups.

"The defense should have the potential to dominate," safety Darren Sharper said. "We're starting to come together, and we'll get better. You want to win, but the crowd wants to see the offense win."

Culpepper scored on a 4-yard run, and rookie running back Ciatrick Fason had a 3-yard touchdown run. Brad Johnson tossed a 31-yard touchdown pass to Taylor, the first of two TDs for the new Vikings receiver.

Aaron Elling was 2 of 2 on PAT kicks, and he made a 43-yard field goal. Paul Edinger was 1 of 1 on PATs and came up short on a 54-yard field goal. Darren Bennett hit a 66-yard punt.

"Focus and intensity were there, with the defense hanging in there to make it a game," coach Mike Tice said. "I think our defense still has a ways to go."

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