There were plenty of places to throw around blame for the Vikings' 28-21 loss to the New York Jets, but special teams stood front and center in the humiliation department. We detail the blunders, along with two dozen other notes stemming from Friday night's loss.
It's starting to sound like a broken record that the Vikings special teams are anything but special. But Friday night, they were abysmal – often looking like the Keystone Kops and having the look of a bad high school team. Of the whopping 17 penalties committed by the Vikings (not to mention three offsetting penalties that didn't count), eight of them involved the special teams. And it ran from start to finish.
"I know we have a lot of young kids trying to make our football team, but there were too many penalties on special teams, it seemed like every time we were on special teams we had a push in the back, an offsides, or a holding," head coach Mike Tice said. "I know guys want to make the team, but you have to be smart."
Here's a breakdown of the ugliness.
FIRST QUARTER – A false start on Raonall Smith
backs the Vikings up 5 yards before Darren Bennett
shanks a 29-yard line drive. On the Jets first punt of the game, Willie Offord
is flagged for a block in the back and pushes the Vikings back 10 yards. On Bennett's second punt, a 36-yarder that got much of that on a roll, the kick comes back because Napoleon Harris
is called for holding. Bennett's second punt goes 50 yards.
SECOND QUARTER – On the Jets' second punt, returner Mewelde Moore
is out of position to make the fair catch he's called for and has to dive to make the catch – narrowly avoiding a fumble. Keenan Howry
takes over and, on his first kick return, he's brought down after just a 15-yard gain. On his second chance, he returns the kickoff 30 yards to the Jets 35 – only to have it come back to the 17-yard line because of an Offord holding penalty.
THIRD QUARTER – In true form of recent Rusty Tillman vintage, the Vikings are offside on the opening kickoff. The Jets' first punt of the half is muffed by Daryl Jones
and recovered on the 3-yard line by the Jets, who go in to score and take a 21-7 lead. On the next kickoff, new return candidate Avion Black
fumbles the kick and, in his struggle to recover it, stumbles and falls on the 20-yard line. On Bennett's next punt, he pops a 47-yard kick, but it is returned 18 yards for a 31-yard net. Finally, in his only field goal attempt of the game, Paul Edinger
hits the left upright on a 37-yard field failed attempt, but the miss was negated by a roughing-the-kicker penalty on the Jets.
FOURTH QUARTER – On the Jets' first punt of the quarter, the Vikings' Will Hunter
is flagged for an illegal block, which pushes the Vikings back. On Bennett's next punt, he booms a 51-yarder, but it is returned 37 yards to the Vikings 30 and leads to the eventual game-winning touchdown. On the extra point for that score, Rusty's Bunch has 12 men on the field and it is assessed on the next kickoff. On the next Vikings punt, Rushen Jones
is penalized for running out of bounds without being touched. Finally, as the Vikings have a chance to tie the game in the final two minutes, the Jets get off a 50-yard punt that is returned just 2 yards by Siaha Burley
One of Mike Tice's predictions before the season was that with all the new players added to the offense and defense that the special teams would be much improved. If anything, they may have officially hit bottom Friday night with a number of roster cuts being earned.
The biggest bright spot of the night was the play of rookie Troy Williamson. The first game pass thrown his way by Shaun Hill and pulled in for a 54-yard gain. The second was a 13-yard touchdown. Both plays showcased Williamson's blazing speed and ability to cover ground faster than the defenders trying to stop him.
"I thought he showed signs of why we drafted him," Tice said. "He has tremendous speed, is a playmaker and it was exciting to see him even though it was against backups."
There was some concern late in the game about a right leg injury to RB Ciatrick Fason. One of the few rushing highlights of the night, Fason had 19 yards on three carries, but got his leg pulled under him on the third carry and had to be helped from the field. He will be evaluated today, but it was originally announced as an ankle injury. He did not return
Although it didn't officially count, Paul Edinger didn't do himself any favors with a 37-yard field goal attempt that hit the left upright. It was negated by a penalty but was the only field goal attempt by either team. His battle with Aaron Elling still looks like a draw, since both kickers were putting their kickoffs at or near the goal line.
Few players had as rough a night as cornerback Brian Williams, who was out of position and burned for both of the Jets first-half touchdown passes.
A couple of key defensive secondary standouts were missing in action Friday – the Vikings Fred Smoot and recently signed Jet Ty Law.
Friday marked a homecoming for Sam Cowart, who was with the Jets last year and for offensive tackle Mike Rosenthal, who played all of his career home games at the Meadowlands with the Giants before signing with the Vikes. It was also a homecoming for Ted Cottrell, who was fired by Herm Edwards following the 2003 season.
In his brief appearance, Daunte Culpepper got off to a hot start – completing his first six passes to five different receivers.
It was a rough night for the starting running backs. The Jets' Curtis Martin had just two carries for zero yards in the first quarter and finished the game with just 6 yards on four carries. Michael Bennet fared no better. He rushed eight times for 14 yards – four times for seven yards in the first quarter and identical numbers in the second quarter before being pulled.
In two games thus far, Bennett now has 12 carries for 19 yards.
In the second quarter, Culpepper converted an improbable third-and-22 play with a 46-yard strike to Marcus Robinson.
The Jets were concerned about Chad Pennington's surgically repaired rotator cuff, but, if his final drive was any indication, they have little to be concerned about.
Pennington didn't get much playing time on the field. Prior to leading a scoring drive in the second quarter, in the first quarter-and-a-half, the Jets offense was on the field for just three minutes and 52 seconds and didn't have a first down.
The Jets would make up for lost production thanks to a Bennett fumble that allowed New York to score 14 points in just 2:07.
Turnovers will kill – the Vikings had three turnovers Friday, while the Jets had none.
Those turnovers cost the Vikings, since they dominated in total yardage – gaining 327 yards as opposed to just 223 for the Jets.
Both teams were 100 percent in the red zone – each converting all three of their red zone opportunities with touchdowns Friday.
The first clock management issue of the season for Tice came up late in the game. With all three time outs and trailing by seven points with 2:45 to play, the Jets were facing a third-and-9 after a short run on second down. Instead of declining the penalty and setting up a third-down situation in which the Jets were likely going to run, Tice accepted the penalty and the Jets ran the clock all the way down to the two-minute warning before punting to the Vikings. Had the Vikings stopped the Jets on third down instead of letting it go, they would have likely had about 2:30 on the clock with two time outs and the two-minute warning.
The Vikings finished with just 67 yards on 26 rushes – gaining just 27 yards on 15 carries with the first-team offensive line in the game.
Darrion Scott picked up a sack with 1:30 to play in the first half – the first sack of the preseason by the Vikings D-line. The Vikes would finish the game with three sacks.
Antoine Winfield brought the wood early, registering a team-best five tackles in the first half. Dontarrious Thomas finished the leader with four tackles, three assists and a sack.
The Vikings won the toss for the second straight game and scored the game's first points once again.
The Jets are now 4-1 in the preseason against the Vikings. Prior to Friday, the last meeting was in 1999 – a 38-17 Jets blowout.
For those who watched the game on CBS TV, the NFL ran a bunch of promotional commercials touting Kickoff Weekend 2005. Of the many voices heard, the final one to close out the spot is Vikings play-by-play announcer Paul Allen saying, "Welcome to the NFL."
The Vikings had to leave the Meadowlands hurriedly after the game. The team was scheduled to be the first charter flight out of the Newark airport in hopes of getting home as soon as possible. The charter is done by Northwest Airlines, whose mechanics were set to go on strike at midnight Eastern Time Friday night/Saturday morning.