The last preseason game is often the least telling, but the Minnesota Vikings at least learned that their kicker can convert in pressure situations.
Despite confusion from holder Brad Johnson before the snap, Paul Edinger made a 35-yard field goal attempt as time expired to give the Vikings a 23-21 win in Seattle.
Minnesota's 3-1 preseason record was capped with a game in which quarterback Daunte Culpepper played two series, moving the offense down the field efficiently on the first drive before throwing his first interception of the preseason, then following that with a 1-yard sneak for a touchdown on his second and final series.
Culpepper ended an immensely successful preseason in which he was 36-for-44 passing, a completion percentage of 82, for 520 yards. Minnesota's running game continued to struggle, however, as rookie Ciatrick Fason's first start netted him only 12 yards in eight attempts. Butchie Wallace led the Vikings with 33 yards on 11 attempts.
Edinger finished the game making three of four attempts, hitting from 43, 48 and 35 yards and missing a 38-yarder to the left.
The Vikings opened their preseason finale with the ball for the fourth consecutive preseason game and looked sharp without their top two running backs. Culpepper continued his trend of spreading the ball around. He began with consecutive completions to Nate Burleson for 17 yards. After a 5-yard run by Fason and a bomb to Troy Williamson that was knocked away at the last instant, Culpepper came right back with an 11-yard pass to Marcus Robinson, followed by an 8-yard scramble. Fason powered his way to a first down with two second-effort runs before he and Jim Kleinsasser combined to move the chains for the fifth time on the opening drive. However, on the 11th play of the drive, Culpepper fired for Burleson and cornerback Kelly Herndon moved through the wide receiver for the interception inside the red zone.
Seattle took advantage of Culpepper's first miscue of the preseason, but it didn't have ideal field position. It wouldn't matter. QB Matt Hasselbeck marched his Seahawks easily through the Minnesota defense. He started with a 24-yard pass to Darrel Jackson, who was wide open in the middle of the field. One penalty and two Shaun Alexander runs later and Seattle was at the 36-yard line. It only took two plays from there, a 12-yard pass to Jackson and a 24-yarder to Jerramy Stevens, who beat his linebacker in coverage for a touchdown with 6:41 remaining in the first quarter.
This time, the Vikings offense drove and scored. After a 25-yard kickoff return from Williamson, Culpepper went to work for his final series. He started with Burleson again for 6 yards, and, one play later, Moe Williams picked up a first down with a second effort, 9-yard run. After a sack, Culpepper rebounded with a 20-yard first-down pass to Travis Taylor. The offense went backwards, thanks to a holding call on Marcus Johnson and a 2-yard loss on a screen pass to Williams. But, facing third-and-22 from the 38-yard line, Culpepper found Robinson in single coverage, converted the throw, and Robinson out-muscled the defense until the 3-yard line. Williams took two carries for 2 yards before Culpepper sneaked over the goal line to tie the game 7-7 with 1:07 left in the first quarter.
That brought an end to the starting quarterbacks for both teams, and it showed. The teams exchanged two possessions each, with the Vikings defense getting the better of the Seahawks in the last of that succession when Spencer Johnson started the series with a sack of Seneca Wallace and, one play later, Erasmus James sack him again and forced a fumble that Johnson recovered.
Minnesota's second-team offense couldn't move the ball for the third straight series, but the turnover allowed it to be in field goal position for Edinger, who converted a 43-yarder for a 10-7 Vikings lead.
Seattle tried to respond with an extended 16-play drive. Mixing the run and the pass, the Seahawks moved all the way to the 2-yard line before a holding call snuffed the drive and forced a field goal attempt. However, safety Will Hunter shot up the middle and blocked the Josh Brown 31-yard attempt to keep the Vikings' three-point advantage, one they held until halftime.
The second half started with an exchange of possessions before the Seahawks found offensive success in their running game. Marquis Weeks started the first-down conversions with an 11-yard run and continued it one play later with a 5-yard scamper. Finally, facing third-and-7, fullback Leonard Weaver banged it outside for a 31-yard touchdown run and a 14-10 Seattle lead with 6:30 left in the third quarter.
Shaun Hill took the Vikings to midfield before punting, but on Seattle's second play of the ensuing drive, linebacker Raonall Smith went high for an interception to set up Hill's offense on the Seahawks 24-yard line.
Despite the third holding call of the game against Nat Dorsey, the offense was able to overcome. Keenan Howry started with a 14-yard reception. One penalty and one play later, Howry took a reverse for 9 yards to the 6-yard line. On third-and-5 from the 6-yard line, Hill threw incomplete for Ryan Hoag but got an unnecessary roughness call on blitzing safety John Howell. The call set the Vikings up with first down on the 3-yard line. Wallace came through with a run that he cut to the outside for the touchdown and a 17-14 Vikings lead nine seconds into the fourth quarter.
The Vikings' road woes of recent past appeared to rear their head again when Josh Scobey returned a kickoff 52 yards across midfield. Seattle took advantage with backup Seneca Wallace still in the game. He picked up the initial first down with a 10-yard scramble. Weaver then took carries for 17 yards, and Brock Edwards set up a touchdown with a 10-yard reception at the 1-yard line. From there, Weeks gave the Seahawks a 21-17 lead with his 1-yard dive at 11:28 of the fourth quarter.
Hill responded by leading the Vikings into scoring position on two key plays, a 41-yard pass interference penalty on Howell and a 14-yard pass to Jeff Dugan. However, Edinger wasn't able to convert a 38-yard field goal attempt, leaving it wide left.
Linebacker Heath Farwell gave Edinger another chance when the defender picked off third-string QB David Greene's first pass attempt at the 23-yard line. This time Edinger was good from 48 yards to pull the Vikings within one point, 21-20, with 1:41 to play.
After Minnesota forced the Seahawks off the field in five plays, Hill got two more big plays. On third-and-7, he hit wide receiver Christopher Jones for a 21-yard reception, and on fourth-and-16 he lofted a prayer that Ryan Hoag hauled in for 44 yards. That allowed the Vikings to run the clock down to 5 seconds before calling on Edinger one last time, a pressure kick that may have sealed his employment. Despite confusion before the snap, Edinger managed to put a low knuckler through the uprights from 35 yards out as time expired, giving the Vikings a 23-21 win and a 3-1 preseason record.
Vikings Find Last-Second Win, 23-21
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