Notebook: Vikings Accomplishing Goals

The Vikings are looking like a much different team than they have been in the recent past, but it's working just fine for them. They are correcting the mistakes of the previous week and moving on. Plus, new and quotes on Chester Taylor, Troy Williamson, Jason Carter, Mike McMahon and more.

In a correct-it-and-move-on league, the Vikings are doing just that – taking their preseason games into the film room, seeing the mistakes of the previous week and rectifying them.

Two games ago, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Vikings won 17-10, but they weren't happy about allowing the Steelers' only touchdown on their opening drive of the game.

Against the Baltimore Ravens Friday night, facing the starters for the first half, the Minnesota defense shutout Steve McNair and Company, and the offense was able to move the ball against a normally stingy Baltimore defense, even if they were able to put only three points on the board early – in their first drive of the game.

"Overall, the other goal for this week that we talked about was coming out and starting fast, and I think we started very fast," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "Offensively, we put points on the board; we need seven instead of three, but that was a key drive to start the game. Defensively, to get three-and-out but for that taunting penalty … we stopped them right after that, so I was pleased offensively and defensively that we started very quickly."

The defense held the Ravens to 86 total net yards in the first half, and cornerback Fred Smoot started the touchdown scoring with a 69-yard interception return of a McNair pass intended for Mark Clayton.

"The guy (Smoot) made a good play on the wide side of the field, tried to get Mark to come in and go back out and he did that. The guy made a good play," McNair said. "The ball maybe should have been out in front of him so Mark would at least have a chance at the ball."

Smoot stepped in front of a short pass and raced down the Baltimore sideline for an easy touchdown after picking up one block from E.J. Henderson.

"Fred Smoot's interception for a touchdown, that's the Fred Smoot I know from the Washington Redskins," Childress said. "That's the guy I stood close to and watched compete, and I'm glad that he could get that back. Nothing like a little confidence."

Offensively, while the running game continued to struggle, the passing game flourished. Running back Chester Taylor, who played for the Ravens for four seasons, said that was because Baltimore was setting up to stop the run.

While Brad Johnson received the most playing time of any of the four quarterbacks who played for the Vikings and went 9-for-15 for 95 yards, an impressive tandem is starting develop among the second-team offense.

Rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and undrafted rookie wide receiver Jason Carter are starting to connect more and more. One play in particular was a sign of development for both the pitcher and catcher.

"They (the Ravens) rolled the coverage to that side. It was a Cover 2 on that side," Jackson said. "My tight end, Doogie (Jeff Dugan), did a great job of holding the safety off and he (Carter) was wide open and I just got him the football."

The deep pattern from Carter, and the correct recognition from both players, resulted in a 77-yard touchdown reception.

"I saw them go Cover 2, and when they went Cover 2, the cornerback tried to get to the outside and tried to make me go outside," Carter said. "I just leaned him out a little bit and pushed him off me, got back into my route, and Tarvaris made a heck of a pass and the rest is history."

But just because Carter led the Vikings with 107 yards receiving doesn't mean he's ready to step into the starting lineup – or even assured a final roster spot. He still needs to concentrate on his punt returns, the skill that will most likely earn him a roster spot if he performs well again Thursday night in Dallas.

"Probably the most important and most impressive thing that J.C. does, and I just told him this in the locker room, is that he fields those punts," Childress said. "As a rookie, that's no small feat. Whether it's Pittsburgh, whether it's here, whether it's Monday Night Football, that's a huge thing, not an easy thing to do, but he can bring it back for you."

To date, Carter has returned 10 punts for an average of 7.8 yards per return. He's looking more comfortable there and in the receiver role.

"I feel like I am at about 85 or 90 percent in doing the little things right," he said. "There are still a few blocks that I can stay on a little bit longer. Like I said, some catches I feel if I get my hands on them, I don't care if it's a bad ball or not, it should be my ball."

For his part, Jackson feels comfortable with the offense, just as he has shown through three preseason games.

"I think pretty much everything is in. We don't run everything in preseason. I know that there is going to be something here and there," he said.

WHO NEEDS DOWNFIELD THREATS?

Most Vikings fans figured Troy Williamson would be the receiver stretching the defense with his impressive speed. But in the West Coast offense, Williamson's role has changed dramatically.

Last year, Williamson was used almost exclusively to try and stretch the field during his somewhat limited rookie exposure. This year, he is doing many more intermediate routes in traffic and trying to get yards after the catch, an important element in this offense.

"That's pretty much what they got me for. They put me in a position that they want me in, and I do what I have to do as a receiver," Williamson said. "Three points is good, but six is better, so you have to make sure to get into the end zone."

Williamson doesn't have a preseason touchdown yet, but he has caught eight passes for 64 yards.

GAME BY GAME

Chester Taylor continues to work on getting his running game in order, but against his old team the average was still, well, average at best. He rushed 10 times Friday night for 27 yards.

"I believe every week it's getting better. We are just feeling each other out, because it is all a new offensive line with a new running back," Taylor said. "I believe that when we hit Washington, we'll be at full stride and be all right."

The Vikings travel to Washington on Sept. 11 in their regular-season opener on a Monday night.

Despite the continued struggles of the running game, Taylor enjoyed playing against his old teammates, who nicknamed him "50 Cent" because they say he looks like the rapper.

"It was real good, like playing on the playground against all of your friends, knowing them and them talking smack," Taylor said. "We all had fun out there. It was the preseason, and we are all just trying to get ready for the regular season."

MORE McMAHON STRUGGLES

Another player who isn't putting up big numbers is quarterback Mike McMahon, who entered the preseason as the No. 2 quarterback but has presumably been surpassed by Jackson.

McMahon improved somewhat in limited action Friday night, completing 2 of 5 passes for 64 yards, but he isn't focusing on that making up for his previous two outings in which he was a combined 2 of 11 for 51 yards, no touchdowns and an interception – a miserable 8.5 passer rating.

"I'm not really focused on that too much. I am just going out there and trying to make the right reads, decisions and do the right thing with the football," McMahon said. Tarvaris did a great job (Friday night) as well. He threw a really nice ball in the hole and got a touchdown. I am not going to sit there and say he did this and I did that. I'm like, ‘Hey, what can I do?' That is the only thing that I am worried about."

McMahon entered the game to a smattering of boos while Jackson came in after him to louder applause.

"You know that is going to happen. Any time you have a performance like last weekend and you come out and throw an incompletion this week, that's expected," McMahon said of the boos. "But you have to block it out, you don't hear it. You're a professional, you just need to move forward."

McMahon survived the initial roster cutdown the Vikings performed on Saturday, and no other viable veteran quarterback options were released from other teams Saturday.

QUOTH THE RAVEN

While the Vikings were generally pleased with their performances Friday night, the Ravens were not happy about taking a 30-7 beating from the Vikings, even if the game was closer than the final score would indicate.

The strongest comments came from Ravens head coach Brian Billick, the former offensive coordinator of the Vikings.

"Just a miserable performance. Miserable performance," Billick said. "It is unfortunate to play that way, which is going to require us to do some things this next week that you would not like to do in the last week of a preseason game to get correct the things we need to get corrected. The mental errors, the mistakes that were made were perplexing."

When asked about playing in the Metrodome, Billick added: "That performance would have gotten your ass kicked at home as well."


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