The Vikings' new receiving tandem of Troy Williamson and Bobby Wade looked to have a good rhythm with QB Tarvaris Jackson early. Plus, get dozens of game-day notes that help break down the game.
One of the biggest concerns that Vikings fans have had all offseason is whether the offense can click with a group of receivers that haven't achieved much in the way of career statistics and a quarterback with very limited experience.
While a little over a quarter of work isn't going to answer all of those questions, Tarvaris Jackson
and his first-team receivers more than accounted for themselves in the season-opening loss to the Rams.
The first team produced just three points, but Jackson got things done with his arm and his legs. He completed 8 of the 11 passes he threw for 83 yards and scrambled twice for 25 yards – finishing second on the team in that category.
He locked in on Troy Williamson
early in the game, completing three passes for 32 yards and two misfires – neither of which were Williamson's fault. For the oft-maligned Williamson, getting a rapport with his new quarterback is a top priority.
"The chemistry is going pretty good," Williamson said. "Me and (Jackson) have to keep doing what we're doing and the rest of the receivers to keep the offense (moving) forward."
On the only scoring drive the Vikings put together, it was newcomer Bobby Wade
that was the big man on offense, catching two passes that each gained 21 yards. Wade agreed that the offense is making baby-step progressions.
"We had a couple of good runs after the catch and Tarvaris delivered the ball well," Wade said. "We have some corrections that need to be made, but we're making good progress."
While Wade hasn't been a part of the Vikings' offensive malaise over the last year, Williamson said his perfect night of catching passes gives his confidence a much needed boost.
"It boosted (my confidence) just a little bit more," Williamson said. "We have to keep on going. I'm not where I want to be at, but the more I do, the better off I'll be."
And considering the importance Williamson and Wade will have to the Vikings offense, the entire team will be better off if their rapport with Jackson continues.
Thanks to a dominating second half statistically, the Rams outgained the Vikings 323-215. Both teams had 87 yards rushing, but the Rams threw 20 more passes than the Vikings and had 236 passing yards to just 128 for the Vikings.
As would be expected in a first preseason game, the Vikings had nine different players that ran the ball and 11 players that caught passes. The Rams had 15 different receivers catch passes.
Rookie Brian Leonard was the main attack for the Rams in the first half, carrying nine times for 36 yards and leading the team with five receptions for 30 more yards.
Despite leading all players with 10 tackles, Heath Farwell earned the wrath of Brad Childress following the game for a helmet-to-the-chest penalty. Childress said of the penalty, "I thought that was a foolish penalty and one that we're looking to eliminate. It let them out of a big third down and gave them a first down on the 45-yard line. Those have to go away.
Rams wide receiver Derek Stanley had three third-down receptions each of 18 yards or more in the second half.
The Rams held the ball for 11:25 of the third quarter, as opposed to just 3:35 for the Vikings, but the Vikings scored the only seven points of the quarter.
The Vikings had a controversial call late in the third quarter as Farwell drilled Fitzpatrick in the chest, causing his head to snap back and the official standing behind him called unnecessary roughness that helped keep the Rams drive alive. Later in that same drive, Vikings fans had visions of Antonio Freeman's miracle touchdown when a pass intended for wide receiver Derek Stanley was broken up by Tank Williams and the ball bounced off Williams' arm and before being hauled in by Stanley. The pass was ruled incomplete, but the Rams challenged the call and won. However, because the refs had blown the whistle, Stanley, who ran for a touchdown, was credited with a reception that was marked at the 35-yard line. The Rams would close off the 13-play drive with a field goal to tie the game 10-10.
After trailing 7-3 at halftime, the Vikings took the lead despite not having the offense on the field until 8:05 remained in the third quarter. The Rams took the opening kick of the second half and drove to the Vikings 27-yard line until Ryan Fitzpatrick was drilled in the chest by Heath Farwell and his pass was intercepted by Donatrious Thomas – his second pick of the game. His first interception came on the final play of the first half in the Vikings end zone. The second was returned to the other 82 yards for a touchdown.
The first half ended with the teams almost identical in total yards with the Vikings holding a slim 131-128 edge. The Vikes had 48 yards on 13 carries, while the Rams had 36 rushing yards on nine carries. The Rams completed 14 of 18 passes for 92 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. The Vikings had 10 completions on 14 attempts for 86 yards with no TDs and no picks. The Vikings held a time-of-possession edge of 16:47 to 13:13.
Individually, Jackson finished the game completing eight of 11 passes for 83 yards and a QB rating of 94.1. Peterson finished the first half with eight times for 21 yards.
Cornerback Marcus McCauley looked good in the first half, breaking up one pass and registering a pair of hard tackles.
The final drive for the Vikings first-team offense resulted in a 13-play drive that began with 1:33 left in the first quarter and didn't end until 9:30 remained in the half. Jackson had a pair of 21-yard completions to Bobby Wade, and Peterson had five carries on the drive.
The Rams opted not to give Steven Jackson much work. He didn't have any rushing attempts and caught two short passes for five yards.
The Vikings dominated the scoreless first quarter statistically. They outgained the Rams 101-47. The Vikings had six carries for 25 yards, while the Rams managed just five yards on three carries. Individually, Jackson completed six of nine passes for 75 yards and led the team in rushing with 25 yards on two scrambles. The Vikings running backs didn't fare as well – Mewelde Moore ran one time for four yards, Peterson ran two times for one yard and Taylor had one rush for minus-four yards. Troy Williamson led the receivers with three catches for 32 yards and Bobby Wade had a pair of 21-yard receptions. Taylor had one catch for one yard. For the Rams, Marc Bulger completed six of seven passes for 42 yards, with Torry Holt catching two of them for 26 yards.
On the Vikings' first series, Jackson threw three passes downfield – all to Williamson – two of which he caught and one that was overthrown. On the second series, T-Jack threw two more passes downfield – both to Williamson.
It didn't take long for penalties to hit both teams. On the opening kickoff, the Rams were flagged for being offside. On the re-kick, the Vikings were penalized for holding, turning a kick return by Williamson to the 41-yard line into a first-and-10 from the 24-yard line.
Anthony Herrera replaced Steve Hutchinson in the game. Hutchinson was excluded for what was termed "a personal matter he needed to attend to."
The Vikings' captains for Friday's game were Antoine Winfield, Chester Taylor and Heath Farwell. Former Viking Corey Chavous was among the Rams captains.
Original Vikings mascot Hub Meads blew the Gjallar Horn to start the Vikings introductions. Meeds, who simply walked onto the field at Super Bowl IV, became the team's mascot for the next two decades. The Vikings were introduced to the strains of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," which contains the classic line "from the land of ice and snow" – a tie-in to the Minnesota weather.
The inactives Friday for the Vikings were Steve Hutchinson, Wendell Mathis, Erasmus James, Jason Glenn and John Kerr. The Rams inactives were kicker Jeff Wilkins, LB Tim McGarigle, OT Ken Shackleford and WR Dante Hall.
From the "You Don't See That Every Day Department" comes this: Harvard is known for producing people that work in the NFL league office, not people who are NFL players. But both teams had Harvard grads play Friday – Matt Birk for the Vikings and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick for St. Louis.
Friday was a game of homecomings for several current Rams, including head coach Scott Linehan, defensive line coach Brian Baker, QB Gus Frerotte, OT Todd Steussie, S Corey Chavous, G Adam Goldberg and LB Raonall Smith.