NOTEBOOK: Defense Not Satisfied

The Vikings only allowed three points in the first half of the preseason opener, but two of the defensive leaders say they have a number of improvements they can make. … One running back had little success, but two young back were impressive and didn't escape the notice of the head coach. … Daunte Culpepper's scrambling ability drew the praise of the Chiefs. … Get those quotes and notes and much more from the preseason opener.

The Minnesota Vikings get a passing grade in their first test of the preseason.

The first preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs brought much more good than bad. The first-team defense won its matchups with a couple of big plays early, bending a few times but not breaking. The first-team offense looked sharp right out of the gates and the second-stringers continued to show some explosiveness as well.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the 2005 Vikings defense and the 2004 version is attitude. Despite giving up only three points to last year's No. 1-ranked offense in the first half, the first-team defense wasn't overjoyed with its performance. They had reasons to feel like there is still work to do, but that sentiment might not have been present in years past.

"Pat Williams up the middle had a couple of stuffs right away," cornerback Antoine Winfield said. "I think that is what we are looking for. I don't think teams are going to run directly in the middle. I think teams are going to do what Kansas City did and bounce plays and stretch plays. Once we tighten that up we will be a lot better defensively."

Fact is, Winfield is one of the league's best tacklers at cornerback, so offenses trying to stretch a run play out may run into trouble on his side of the field. But that didn't stop one of the best rushing attacks from find success on Friday night.

Priest Holmes, one of the NFL's best running backs, had a whopping 10.5-yard average on four carries. His backup, Larry Johnson, was decent as well, gaining 37 yards on eight rushes.

"There were some plays in the defense that we could have played better as a unit," middle linebacker Sam Cowart said. "When you go back and look at the film, instead of being a 20-yard gain this could have been a 3- or 4-yard gain. That makes a big difference at the end of the game. That gets the offense back on the field.

"We did a good job in the red zone keeping them out of the end zone, but we need to be a lot better between the 30s."

Defensive end Kenechi Udeze stuffed Johnson for no gain on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line at the end of Kansas City's second drive, forcing a field goal.

Going against one of the best offensive lines and running attacks in the NFL can't be forgotten, but the Vikings defense also has some melding of new starters to smooth out. Cowart, however, said that wasn't a major factor.

"The chemistry did fairly well for the first game," he said. "We came through in a lot of checks. Everybody was playing the same calls. It wasn't like we were late on checks and had some guys playing man and some guys playing zone. We were fairly good on our checks and fairly good on our calls. That was a positive for us. I think as a defense we just have to recognize the plays and recognize the offense. For the first preseason game, we have to do a better job of the initial recognition of plays."

Cowart said the team is likely to do more game-planning for their next two preseason games.

SLOW RUNNING START

As a team, the Vikings averaged a nice 5.2 yards per carry, but the least impressive of the running backs was starter Michael Bennett. He rushed four times for 5 yards, a 1.3-yard average.

The consistency of the offensive line may have been a factor.

"I don't think we were firm enough in the beginning of the game, but we'll look at it," head coach Mike Tice said. "It's hard to tell, but I didn't think we were being forceful enough or aggressive enough, but the pass protection was pretty solid, but running the ball inside was not good enough for me. I thought we were a little soft in the middle."

That's understandable, considering the Vikings were without Pro Bowl center Matt Birk. Birk continues his rehabilitation from offseason hip surgery, but he has begun practicing on a limited basis. His backup, Cory Withrow, is a solid pulling center but doesn't have the strength of Birk.

"The second drive didn't go as well as we wanted to," quarterback Daunte Culpepper said. "We tried to be a little bit more physical, run the ball a little bit. We have to do a little bit better job in the running game."

Culpepper, Bennett and some of the other skill-position players only played during the first two series, totaling 11 plays. Most of the starting offensive linemen took about 30 snaps.

While Bennett didn't have good production, the Vikings' young stable of backups experienced much more success. Mewelde Moore stole the show with a 12.4-yard average, rushing five times for 62 yards. One of those runs was a 50-yarder. Moore's only catch, a 7-yarder, was for a touchdown. Rookie Ciatrick Fason looked great as well, picking up 55 yards on seven carries.

"Moore's a playmaker. It look like Ciatrick is a playmaker too," Tice said. "They both came in and made plays for us in the running game. … Certainly I thought Ciatrick and Moore showed their ability to break tackles, square their shoulders to the line of scrimmage and get upfield. I though they were very assertive in their decision-making process."

THE CULPEPPER FACTOR

In a battle of the No. 1 (Kansas City) and No. 4 (Minnesota) offenses from last year, the Vikings won without Randy Moss in their corner. In the first quarter, the only quarter that featured the entire first-team offenses for each squad, Minnesota outdistanced Kansas City 125 yard to 96 yards.

Holmes and Johnson gave the Chiefs the distinct advantage on the ground, gaining 69 yards to the Vikings' 12 in the first quarter.

But Culpepper had a great start, going 4-for-4 for 70 yards and a touchdown on his preseason-opening drive. Two of those completions came following scrambles, and that ability didn't escape Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil.

"On their scoring drives, they had two scrambles where they made big plays and then we gave up a long run in short yardage, and that really hurt," Vermeil said.

CULPEPPER IMPRESSES D.J.

Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson, a player many thought the Vikings might have a draft interest in, was impressed with at least one thing in his NFL debut – the size of Culpepper.

"Oh man, I didn't know Culpepper was as big as that," Johnson said. "I saw him on TV a couple of times, but in person he's a little bit bigger and faster. But I got a pretty good hit on him and I was fortunate enough to chase him out the pocket and make a bad throw."

Apparently that hit came on Culpepper's only incompletion of the night. He finished 5 of 6 for 84 yards and a touchdown in two series.

"Daunte Culpepper made a lot of good throws as far as getting him chased out of the pocket. We got a lot of pressure on him, but we couldn't contain him out of the pocket," Johnson said.

Johnson said Friday night was the first NFL he ever attended.

NO DOGHOUSE HERE

The spring camp absence of Corey Chavous didn't stop him being a captain of the game. Chavous and last year's special teams captain, safety Willie Offord, started the preseason by winning the coin toss.

WELCOME TO THE SHOW

On his first play as pro, Vikings fourth-string quarterback John Bowenkamp dropped back and was sacked for an 11-yard loss by fourth-string defensive end Zach Ville. Bowenkamp is a native of Lakeville, Minn., and attended the University of North Dakota.

ROUGH PLAY

One thing is for sure with the defensive line: The third-stringers were trying to make a name for themselves. Instead, on the Chiefs' last drive of the game, the Vikings were guilty of two roughing-the-passer penalties in three plays.

On a second-and-8 incompletion, David Bamiro ran over fourth-string quarterback James Killian. One play later, Earl Cochran gave Killian a forearm that sent him to the carpet, garnering another flag and another automatic first down as the game was winding down. One play later, the Chiefs scored the final points of the game when Killian dove for the end zone and absorbed a couple more hits in the air on his way to a TD.

TERRACE SUITE

The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission unveiled its new Terrace Suite, a 124-seat multi-level box located between the upper and lower decks of the Metrodome. It is touted to offer more comfortable seating, complimentary food, a full-service bar and dining. Tickets cost $350 apiece to the suite, and it is already sold out. The suite is located in the north end zone, opposite the Vikings tunnel.

"Metrodome upgrades like the Terrace Suite offer innovative and creative ways for tenants to generate new revenues while visitors benefit from a more comfortable, unique viewing experience," said Roy Terwilliger, Chair of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission. "From sporting events to cultural and community activities at the Metrodome, visitors are looking for a variety of options and amenities, and the Terrace Suite is an example of how the dome is changing to meet those needs."

The suite is a nice addition to the Metrodome, but it is still considered a band-aid for the Vikings, who still want to help build a state-of-the-art stadium complex in Blaine.



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