Brad Childress had an opportunity to pick up a win in his first preseason game as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, but Childress had seen enough plays from his first-, second- and third-team units and elected not to force overtime with a last-second field goal.
The net result was a 16-13 loss to the Oakland Raiders when J.T. O'Sullivan's pass to the end zone was intercepted as time expired. It capped the preseason opener for the Vikings, one in which they started the game with a fumble on the opening kickoff and responded to take a 7-6 lead by the time their first-team units had left the field.
Childress said his team accomplished some of the things he wanted to in his foray in the head-coaching realm: communication between coaches and players, looking for players to set themselves apart and seeing players run the new systems implemented on offense and defense. In those categories, the starters appeared to get passing grades from Childress, while things got sloppier as the game went on – typical for preseason action.
In vintage Brad Johnson fashion, the veteran QB finished with an 88.9 rating, completing 5 of 6 passes for 32 yards and leading the Vikings on their only touchdown drive of the game. Tarvaris Jackson, the rookie who saw the most extensive action at quarterback, also put in a good showing, going 7 of 13 for 60 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.
The running game was a challenge for the Vikings, with starter Chester Taylor rushing nine times for 18 yards and backups Ciatrick Fason and Mewelde Moore also averaging less than 2.2 yards per carry. Jackson, the quarterback, was the leading rusher with 36 yards on three rushes. No Vikings running back had a run of more than 4 yards, but Minnesota's defense kept it in the game throughout.
The first-team defense didn't allow a first down or a completion, and overall the defense held Oakland to 3.4 yards per rush and 200 yards passing, but the Vikings also garnered five sacks.
Troy Williamson's 2006 debut didn't get started the way he would have liked when he received the opening kickoff, returned it 17 yards and fumbled away his first opportunity to impress the new coaching staff. Oakland's Ryan Riddle recovered, but the Raiders were forced into a field goal and a 3-0 lead when the Vikings defense held despite allowing Aaron Brooks to scramble for 8 yards on the opening play.
The Vikings offense went three-and-out with Johnson completing two short passes, but the defense continued its strong play early in the game and forced a punt when defensive end Erasmus James sacked Brooks for 7 yards on third-and-12.
This time, the offense responded. Starting near midfield, it used two runs from Chester Taylor and an encroachment penalty to move the chains for the initial first down of the game. Another encroachment penalty followed by a 7-yard completion to Koren Robinson picked up another first down. The Vikings continued their methodical approach to offense with an 8-yard pass to Troy Williamson and a 3-yard run by Taylor, but the big play was Oakland's third penalty of the drive, a 17-yard pass interference penalty on Nnamdi Asomugha covering Williamson. Tony Richardson capped the drive with a 3-yard dive on the next play and the Vikings had a 7-0 lead with 5:11 to play in the first quarter.
Minnesota's first-team defense continued to stifle the Raiders with pressure on Brooks, but Sebastian Janikowski converted the good field position into points with a 55-yarder through the uprights to bring Oakland within one point at 7-6 with 4:10 left in the first quarter.
Johnson completed his only pass attempt of the next drive, hitting Marcus Robinson for a 12-yard first-down completion, but the Vikings were unsuccessful in establishing their running game on the final drive with the first-team offense.
Oakland's first-team offense faired a little better against the Vikings' second-team defense, picking up first downs on two LaMont Jordan runs and Randy Moss' only reception of the game – a 16-yard completion with Dovonte Edwards in coverage. A muffed snap on the center-quarterback exchange and a Ross Kolodziej sack ended the drive and brought out the second teams for both clubs.
Mike McMahon's two series were uneventful, as he went 1-for-4, before the Raiders' second-string quarterback, Andrew Walter put up points on his second series with a 67-yard bomb to Johnnie Morant, who got behind defensive backs Ronyell Whitaker and Greg Blue to give Oakland a 13-7 lead.
With Oakland winning the battle of the second-teamers, McMahon was pulled and rookie Tarvaris Jackson inserted in the second quarter. He helped convert one first down with a 9-yard run, but gave way to the punt team when he just missed connecting with tight Richard Owens.
Although Oakland's Walter completed four consecutive passes during one stretch of his next series, he wasn't able to find the long score and after eight plays the Raiders were punting back to Minnesota.
This time, Jackson looked more like a professional veteran than a Division I-AA prospect, especially efficient receiving the ball with 31 seconds to play. After an 8-yard pass to Moore, the quarterback pulled down the ball and scrambled for 10 yards and a first down. Needing to move quickly, he followed with an 11-yard pass to Owens and a 17-yarder to Moore to set up a 41-yard field goal as time expired in the first half with the Vikings trailing 13-10.
With Walter still in the game to open the second half, the Vikings finished his first two drives of the second half with interceptions by Cedric Griffin and Dontarrious Thomas. In between those possessions, the Vikings offense failed to get a first down, but Jackson combined with J.T. O'Sullivan – filling in for a shaken-up Jackson for six plays during the middle of the series – to bring the Vikings into range for a 29-yard Longwell field goal to tie the game at 13 with 55 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Raiders, under the direction of Marques Tuiasosopo, answered with a scoring drive of their own. Rod Smart, of former "He Hate Me" XFL fame, moved the chains with a 9-yard run, but it was a 29-yard pass to Rick Gatewood that put the Raiders in field goal position at the 16-yard line. Oakland picked up one more first down, but a Ray Edwards sack and forced fumble nearly gave the Vikings possession. Oakland recovered the fumble and Janikowski followed with a 28-yard field goal for a 16-13 lead with 8:30 to play.
The Vikings responded with a 64-yard kick return from Kevin Kasper, but a run for no yards and two incompletions from O'Sullivan forced Longwell on for a 55-yard attempt, one he pushed wide right with 7:24 left in the game.
Minnesota's third-team defense allowed only one more first down in the ensuing two possessions, but the Vikings offense wasn't able to finish the job despite great field position on the Raiders 43-yard line following a Kyle McKenzie sack and forced fumble that C.J. Mosley recovered.
O'Sullivan completed two passes and the Vikings got as close as the 24-yard line, but he also took a sack that took them out of field goal range with less than four minutes to play.
When the defense gave O'Sullivan one more chance to win the game, he moved the ball but came up short once again. On the final drive, he started from his own 26-yard line and completed two passes for a combined 35 yards, taking the Vikings across midfield. However, an intentional grounding penalty took them out of field goal range. On fourth-and-20 from the 49-yard line, O'Sullivan connected with Josh Davis for 27 yards to the 22-yard line. But with more than 60 offensive plays already in the books, Childress had seen enough plays and opted not to send the game into overtime with a field goal attempt. Instead, an incomplete pass and a last-ditch pass into the end zone that was intercepted sealed the 16-13 win for the Raiders.
The decision moved the Vikings to an 0-1 preseason record under Childress, but one he can live with as long as he took away some positives from the game.
Vikings Fall to Oakland, 16-13
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