The Vikings won their first preseason game on two fronts – they had a 27-16 victory on the scoreboard and they escaped with no injuries, a major mission in preseason contests.
Minnesota also won the battle of the first-team offenses, with Kansas City bringing in last year's No. 1-ranked offense and the Vikings returning the No. 4 offense.
Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper started flawlessly, completing his first four passes and scrambling to avoid trouble. He punctuated the game's opening drive with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Nate Burleson. When Culpepper and a handful of other skill-position players left the game after two series, the Vikings had a 7-0 lead, one that was extended to 20-3 by the end of the first half.
Culpepper left the game 5 of 6 for 84 yards and a 158.3 passer rating. Backup Brad Johnson continued the efficient ways, going 9 of 12 for 87 yards and a 122.6 rating.
"They're both good at reading outs, getting the ball to the open receiver," head coach Mike Tice said of Culpepper and Johnson. "There was no pressure on them to get it to any one certain person. Every play is designed to have a key guy, a second guy and even a third guy. I think both those guys have a good grasp of what we want to do."
Mewelde Moore led all rushers with 62 yards on five carries, and Ryan Hoag led all receivers with 63 yards on five receptions.
Burleson gave the first-team offense a passing grade.
"I think we are probably somewhere around a B-minus," he said. "We did some good things out there. We don't want to be just good, we want to be something special. We want to get to that A-plus level and hopefully we'll get to Detroit (site of the 2006 Super Bowl) with that grade."
Culpepper got his team off to a quick start, going 4-for-4 for 70 yards and capping it with a touchdown pass to his new No. 1 receiver, Burleson. Jermaine Wiggins, the Vikings' leading receiver from last season, started the reception parade with an 8-yard catch for a first down after a Michael Bennett run to open the preseason. Bennett followed with a 12-yard reception, and Culpepper scrambled to his right on the next play and found Travis Taylor for a 17-yard gain. One play and one holding call later, Culpepper put an exclamation point on the drive after scrambling to buy time and finding Burleson across the middle. The third-year receiver shimmied his way through traffic and found paydirt 33 yards later for a 7-0 lead to open the game.
The new-look defense gave up a 21-yard run by Priest Holmes and a 13-yard reception to Chris Horn on consecutive plays to start the drive, but it buckled down from there, forcing two incompletions and holding Holmes to 2 yards on his next rush.
Culpepper's second and final drive saw only one completion on two attempts, as he and Bennett sat for the remainder of the game.
The Chiefs answered with a field goal drive, using the ground game to do the damage. Holmes started with 15- and 4-yard runs, followed by a Samie Parker reception to move the chains for a second time. Larry Johnson filled in for Holmes the rest of the way, and the rushing game continued to wear on the Vikings. Johnson's first carries of the night yielded 6 and 13 yards, but the Vikings defense put together a one-play goal-line stand when Kenechi Udeze stuffed Johnson for no gain on third-and-goal from the 1. Lawrence Tynes put the Chiefs on the board with a 19-yard field goal with 3:14 left in the first quarter.
With Brad Johnson in relief of Culpepper, the Vikings offense fizzled on his first drive. With Todd Collins in relief of Trent Green, the Chiefs offense put together its longest drive of the night, but it wouldn't pay dividends. After 13 plays and five penalties, the Chiefs lost out on the opportunity when Tynes pushed a 38-yard field goal attempt wide right.
Brad Johnson's line looked better after his second series, thanks to the legs of Mewelde Moore. Moore ripped off a 50-yard run on third-and-1, but got his own face-mask penalty at the end of the play. A 9-yard completion to Taylor and two Moore runs for a combined 9 yards put the Vikings at the 15-yard line. After an 8-yard flat pass to Keenan Howry, Moore set up the defense with a fake block on a defensive lineman and then slipped into the middle of the field for a 7-yard pass play for a touchdown and a 14-3 Vikings lead with 7 minutes left in the first half.
On Minnesota's next drive, a 19-yard pass to Ryan Hoag and a 25-yard run by Ciatrick Fason gave Aaron Elling a shot at a 40-yard field goal that he converted with room to spare for a 17-3 lead with 1:43 left in the half.
Kansas City wasn't content to sit on it, and after driving to the Minnesota 39-yard line squandered another scoring opportunity when Ralph Brown jumped a pass intended for Kris Wilson for an interception.
With just enough time to get into field goal position, Johnson delivered. He hit Howry for 19 yards and tight end Jeff Dugan for consecutive 6-yard completions. Hoag finished the game of field goal position with a 4-yard reception. With one second remaining, Paul Edinger was true on a 48-yard field goal and a 20-3 Vikings lead.
The Chiefs followed suit to open the second half. Ronnie Cruz put them at midfield with a 28-yard run and Dee Brown continued to grind it out against the Vikings run defense. Brown touched the ball five straight times for a combined 27 yards to the 12-yard line, but two incompletions forced Tynes onto the field for a 29-yard field goal, making it 20-6 with 9:40 left in the third quarter.
The Vikings got out of the shadow of their own end zone with a 25-yard pass to Hoag, but an off-target pass by Shaun Hill across the middle with was intercepted by William Bartee. The Chiefs offense didn't go far, but they got in position for Tynes to convert a 51-yard field goal to make it 20-9 with 2:27 left in the third quarter.
After an exchange of possessions, Shaun Hill led the Vikings on one last scoring drive. Ciatrick Fason did the best work, taking runs of 19 and 5 yards to start the drive, Midway through the 15-play drive, wide receiver Siaha Burley produced a 23-yard reception to keep the drive alive. Five plays later, facing third-and-goal from the 6, a defensive holding call allowed the Vikings new life on the 1-yard line. It took three plays to get it into the end zone, but Fason eventually produced the 1-yard dive to give Minnesota a 27-9 lead with 6:37 left in the fourth quarter.
After an exchange of possessions, Kansas City capped the scoring, 27-16. Fourth-string quarterback James Killian led the Chiefs on an 11-play, 82-yard drive that he capped with a diving 3-yard plunge into the end zone with 29 seconds remaining.
"I thought we got a little sloppy three at the end, but you figure some of the young guys are all of a sudden taking all the special teams and all the plays in the game, they're going to be very tired, and that's when there are going to be some lapses," Tice said.
No matter. The Vikings got through the first preseason game exactly how Mike Tice wanted – with a win and no injuries.
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