Without LaDainian Tomlinson to start Friday's third preseason game and Drew Brees being pulled off the field early, the Vikings' 19-16 win over San Diego was a difficult preseason contest to judge.
Vikings coach Mike Tice kept his starters in the game for much of the first half while San Diego took a markedly different approach.
What started as a 7-0 lead for San Diego's first-team offense turned into a 16-7 halftime lead for the Vikings, when many of their offensive starters were also pulled from action. That led to a 19-16 win for Minnesota that told very little about each team.
"Just like San Diego, we're no different than other teams," Tice said. "We're not showing a lot of offense either."
Daunte Culpepper finished 12-for-14 for 197 yards in a little more than three drives and left the game trailing 7-6. He connected often with Nate Burleson, who led all receivers with five catches for 97 yards. The Vikings' running game continued to be average behind a remade offensive line, averaging 3.9 yards per carry, led by Adimchinobe Echemandu's 55 yards on 14 carries.
The Vikings offense was erratic to start. A leg whip on Marcus Robinson to start the game put Culepper and company in an early hole. However, after an incompletion, Culpepper stepped up in the pocket and found Travis Taylor in the middle of the defense for a 27-yard gain and first down. Moore followed that with a 16-yard run off right tackle with an impressive stiff arm, but the drive stalled there.
San Diego's opening drive didn't stall. Three straight rushing plays brought the initial first down, but a Napoleon Harris sack on first down put the Chargers in a hole. That hole wasn't big enough against a defense still trying to find its chemistry. Keenan McCardell caught a 10-yard pass on second down, and when Michael Turner broke contain on Dontarrious Thomas it resulted in a 17-yard run. The Chargers followed with consecutive completions of 16 and 21 yards before two incompletions finally brought on a third down. McCardell converted that into a 16-yard touchdown for a 7-0 Chargers lead with 5:34 left in the first quarter.
Minnesota countered with a passing attack of its own, as Culpepper hit Burleson for 16 yards, Taylor for 12 and Burleson for 34 more across midfield. Moore took it inside the red zone with an 11-yard pass, but Culpepper lost the ball on his next pass attempt before jumping on it for a 12-yard loss. Eventually, that forced Paul Edinger onto the field for a 25-yard field goal with 15 second remaining in the first quarter.
San Diego brought in Philip Rivers at QB, and he drove the Chargers to midfield before the Vikings defense forced a punt.
Minnesota's offense continued to pile up the yards, and Burleson remained a favorite target of Culpepper. On the drive's opening play, Burleson took a pass for 33 yards and, following two Culpepper runs for 12 yards and a defensive penalty, Burleson moved the chains again with an 8-yard reception that had 15 yards added to the end on a facemask penalty. One Burleson reception later, Edinger was back on the field for a 30-yard field goal to pull the Vikings within one point, 7-6, midway through the second quarter.
The defense held San Diego again, and Culpepper opened his fourth series with a 36-yard bomb to Troy Williamson. That's all it took for Culpepper to be pulled in favor of Brad Johnson.
"I've never seen it either," Culpepper said of being pulled mid-drive. "The boss man said he's seen enough. When he says that, I have to come on out. It's the preseason."
The drive stalled, but not before Edinger nailed a 50-yard field goal, his third of the game, to give Minnesota its first lead, 9-7.
Johnson got one more shot before halftime when the defense shut down San Diego in three plays. Backup running back Adimchinobe Echemandu picked up the first down with a 14-yard reception, followed by an 11-yard throw to Robinson. The Vikings continued to drive past midfield on another 14-yard Echemandu reception. Sitting at the 41-yard line, two pass interference penalties on San Diego did most of the damage before Echemandu piled over the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown and a 16-7 lead to end the half.
With San Diego's third team in to start the second half, the Chargers offense continued to sputter, and the Vikings kept in a combination of their second- and third-string offense. The result was a workhorse drive from Echemandu that ended in a 20-yard Edinger field goal and a 19-7 Vikings lead.
The Chargers were finally able to put together a scoring drive, their first since the game-opening drive. This one came on the heels of two big receptions to tight end Duncan Reid, the first a 32-yarder and the second a 14-yarder. Nate Kaeding capped the drive with a 46-yard field goal with 18 seconds left in the third quarter.
One possession later, Derek Farmer did the work to get the Chargers into the end zone, touching the ball on three of the five plays for 38 yards before a 13-yard touchdown pass to Carl Morris drew the Chargers to a 19-16 deficit with 3:48 to play in the game but ended the scoring.
The Vikings came away relatively unscathed in the injury department and took advantage of a Chargers team that was ultra-concerned with those possibilities, moving to 2-1 on the preseason.
Vikings Down San Diego, 19-16
Viking Update Top Stories
Cutler returns, praising Vikings defenseBears QB Jay Cutler is returning to action and expects some rust, but he has immense respect for the Minnesota Vikings defense.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 2:43 PM
VIDEO: Bradford breaks down offensive issuesWhile Sam Bradford has generally had an impressive start to his time with the Minnesota Vikings, that didn't translate last week. He discusses the offensive struggles against the…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 2:33 PM
VIDEO: Zimmer blasts report, talks BearsMinnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer defends his character after an erroneous report that was later corrected went viral, but Zimmer settled in to talk Bears mostly on Thursday.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 1:39 PM
Vikings look to turn the pageComing off their first loss of the season, the Minnesota Vikings are looking to shake the label of being soft and get back to their winning ways at Soldier Field Monday, a place…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 12:28 PM