If the third preseason game is the most telling of the bunch, head coach Brad Childress has been told a number of things about his young team: They are not good enough to commit mistakes early and expect to score often, they may have found their No. 1 receiver, their special teams coverage needs to add more starters, and their defense may need to keep creating turnovers, points and offensive opportunities.
The Minnesota Vikings were able to move the ball on offense when they didn't make mistakes, but there were too many of those early, as the Seattle Seahawks built a 9-0 lead on the heels of those mistakes en route to a 30-13 win at Qwest Field.
Second-year quarterback Tarvaris Jackson showed flashes of potential followed by moments of youth on his way to completing 9 of 18 passes for 117 yards with no interceptions or touchdowns. But it was Bobby Wade who made the loudest offensive statement, catching five passes for 85 yards and throwing the team's only touchdown to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe after taking a handoff from Jackson. Meanwhile, Chester Taylor (eight carries for 61 yards) and Adrian Peterson (10 carries for 41 yards) paced the running game.
But the defense showed it has work to do as well, failing to register a sack and allowing Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to complete 12 of 17 passes for 129 yards. The defensive highlight was an interception by Antoine Winfield.
Mistakes unquestionably helped lead to the Vikings loss. Jackson fumbled his first snap of the night, setting up a Seattle field goal and starting a three-turnover night for the offense (Brooks Bollinger threw two interceptions in the second half). Yet, special teams might have been the worst facet of the Vikings' game, allowing several long returns, missing a mid-range field goal and averaging a net of only 24 yards on four punts.
The cumulative effect was a 30-13 loss in which the Vikings starters left early in the third quarter trailing 16-10.
The game couldn't have started much worse for the offense. On the opening snap, Jackson and Matt Birk didn't connect and Rocky Bernard recovered the muffed snap. Four plays after Bernard recovered, the Seahawks had a 3-0 lead on a 28-yard Josh Brown field goal 2 ½ minutes into the game.
It didn't get much better on the second series when a false start on Ryan Cook put the Vikings in third-and-9, and a pass to Sidney Rice came up 1 yard short. When the special teams also broke down and allowed Nate Burleson a 53-yard punt return, the Seahawks were in scoring position again.
Starting from the Minnesota 35-yard line, the Seahawks needed a couple of first downs and got them with a 17-yard pass to Bobby Engram and a 12-yard completion to fullback Mack Strong. But with the ball on the 6-yard line, the defense stiffened with two incompletions sandwiching a 2-yard run from Shaun Alexander. Seattle settled for another Brown field goal, this one from 22 yards, for a 6-0 lead with 8:59 left in the first quarter.
Jackson finally brought the offense on a positive drive with Peterson and Wade being staples. Wade started early with a 9-yard reception and Peterson moved the chains with a 3-yard run. Jackson and Wade connected for 13 yards and Peterson followed with two more carries for a combined 7 yards before Wade pulled down a 23-yard pass to the 22-yard line. Only a pass interference call would give the offense another first-down opportunity, but eventually the Vikings had to call on Ryan Longwell, who pushed a 38-yard attempt wide right to keep Minnesota scoreless.
Seattle used two big plays to put its offense in position for another score. Hasselbeck started with a 20-yard pass to Engram, and a 10-yard completion to Deion Branch on third-and-2 put them in range to eventually get Brown back on the field for a 46-yard field goal and a 9-0 lead 2:03 into the second quarter.
Once again, it was up to the defense to create a spark and this time it was Antoine Winfield's turn. On third-and-13, he undercut Engram's route across the middle and picked off Hasselbeck, returning the interception to Seattle's 43-yard line.
With Jackson having hit Wade on several short and intermediate routes, the two caught cornerback Marcus Trufant with a slant-and-go route that was good for 35 yards to the 8-yard line. One play later, Wade was showing his versatility, taking a misdirection handoff from Jackson, running toward the right sideline and lofting a touchdown pass to Shiancoe in the back of the end zone to pull within two points, 9-7, with 8:32 left in the half.
While the defense created an offensive opportunity, it wasn't able to respond by shutting down the Seahawks on their ensuing drive. Hasselbeck knifed through the pass defense, finding Branch for a first down and immediately picking up 24 more on a pass to TE Marcus Pollard. After a 10-yard run by Shaun Alexander, Hasselbeck went back to Pollard for 11 yards to the 11-yard line. From there, Seattle pounded it in with three straight runs, Alexander capping the drive with a 1-yard plunge for a 16-7 lead with 3:28 to play in the first half.
Instead of running a two-minute offense, the Vikings caught the Seahawks with two big runs early from Chester Taylor, the first for 9 yards and the second for 14 to nearly reach midfield. Jackson then looked solid for a few passes in connecting with Robert Ferguson for 11 yards on a slant before the two-minute warning and then appearing to get a 34-yard connection with Wade. However, the play was reviewed and the reception overturned. While Rice would give the team another first down with a 9-yard catch, three straight incompletions made it necessary for Longwell to hit a 47-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 16-10 at halftime.
While Seattle inserted backup Seneca Wallace to start the second half, Minnesota kept Jackson in the game for one more drive, one that featured a heavy dose of the running backs. Taylor brought the team from the shadow of the end zone to the 31-yard line with runs of 17 and 12 yards, which were followed by Peterson rushing for 10 and 13 yards across midfield. When a potential touchdown pass went through the outstretched hands of Troy Williamson, the drive began to stall and brought an end to the action for the starters.
Bollinger managed a final scoring drive for Minnesota before it all fell apart. He started with a 16-yard pass to fullback Naufahu Tahi, but the offense dug an extremely deep hole with offensive pass interference and offensive holding penalties on back-to-back plays. Before they knew it, they were facing third-and-30, but Bollinger hit TE Braden Jones for 24 yards and then scrambled for 9 yards on fourth down to set up a 49-yard field goal to make it 16-13 with 30 seconds left in the third quarter.
And then it got ugly quickly.
Thanks to a 38-yard kickoff return by Josh Wilson, Seattle was set up on its own 43-yard line, from which Wallace quickly found Ben Obomanu for a 57-yard touchdown and a 23-13 lead – and Seattle didn't sit on that lead very long.
On the fourth play of Minnesota's ensuing drive, the combination of a poor route and a weak pass to the right sideline produced an interception for Seahawks cornerback Kevin Hobbs, who returned it 39 yards for a touchdown to close out the scoring with 14:04 to play.
While the Vikings' first-team offense proved it could move the ball when it avoided mistakes, the team also found out it has plenty of things to work on during a short week of practice before the Dallas Cowboys enter the Metrodome on Thursday night.
Vikings Find Plenty of Work in 30-13 Loss
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