Different starting quarterback. Different starting running back. Same result. The too-familiar script: The Vikings held close with another opponent but couldn't convert "close" into a "win."
With Kelly Holcomb starting for the injured Tarvaris Jackson and Adrian Peterson making his first appearance as the unquestioned featured back, the one-touchdown loss came to a team, the Philadelphia Eagles, that entered the game with the same 2-4 record as Minnesota had. But when Jim Johnson's defense kept Peterson in check, the Eagles were able to limit Minnesota's offense in a 23-16 game.
Peterson gained only 70 yards on 20 carries, a 3.5-yard average, and Kelly Holcomb completed 7 of 16 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown before being knocked out the game with a neck injury in the third quarter. Brooks Bollinger came on in relief and completed 7 of 10 passes for 94 yards, but head coach Brad Childress said he isn't thinking about a starter for next week yet.
The loss to his former employer was still too fresh and the inability to get his team on a winning track has been proving too elusive.
Instead, the Vikings offense turned only one of three of their red zone trips into touchdowns and the defense allowed Donovan McNabb to complete 23 of 36 passes for 333 yards and a touchdown. The defense also failed to create a turnover, and the special teams made a few critical errors as well.
Once again, it started well for the Vikings but ended in a loss.
After allowing the Eagles to pick up one first down with a pass interference penalty on Cedric Griffin, the defense didn't allow anything more and set the offense on its way to a game-opening touchdown.
With Peterson and Holcomb starting, the Vikings were the benefactors of two Philadelphia penalties for first downs on their opening drive. After Sidney Rice converted the initial third down with a 12-yard reception, safety Quintin Mikell was flagged for a late hit on Rice, moving the ball to midfield. On the ensuing third down, Sheldon Brown was offside on a third-down incompletion for another Minnesota first down, and then the Vikings went to the Peterson show. He touched the ball four consecutive times for a net gain of 33 yards to put the Vikings inside the 10-yard line. One play later, Holcomb found Visanthe Shiancoe in the middle of the field at the goal line for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 6:42 to play in the first quarter.
The Vikings got the ball right back when Heath Farwell recovered an onside kick, but the offense was put in a deep hole with a 9-yard sack by Trent Cole and a third-down intentional grounding that left them punting with fourth-and-29.
The Eagles struck for a big gain on their second possession when E.J. Henderson got caught near the line of scrimmage at the snap trying to give the appearance of a blitz and Greg Lewis took advantage by getting a step on the linebacker for a 50-yard gain to the 19-yard. McNabb converted a third down with a 12-yard pass to Matt Schobel to the 2-yard line, but Philadelphia's red zone struggles kicked in when Pat Williams stopped a run for no gain and McNabb threw two incompletions to bring on David Akers for a 20-yard field goal with 45 seconds left in the opening period.
Shiancoe gave the Vikings their only first down on the ensuing drive, but the defense had the Eagles pinned on their own 7-yard line. It wouldn't matter – McNabb took his team 93 yards for a touchdown, completing 8 of 9 passes on the drive that included receptions of 13, 13, 30 and 8 by Reggie Brown – the 30-yarder being challenged and upheld. This time inside the red zone, McNabb rolled to his right and a shovel pass to Westbrook picked up a 6-yard touchdown for a 10-7 Eagles lead with 5:46 left in the first half.
But Philadelphia wasn't done yet. After a three-and-out by the Vikings, Reno Mahe returned a punt 27 yards that only Kluwe saved with a tackle. On the first play from scrimmage, the Eagles caught the Vikings in a blitz and Kevin Curtis exploited it for a 33-yard pickup that he nearly broke for a touchdown. But the Eagles wouldn't have to wait long. Three plays later, Westbrook was diving for a 1-yard touchdown and a 17-7 lead with 2:19 remaining before halftime.
Holcomb answered with a drive that resulted in a field goal. Taylor moved the chains initially with runs of 9 and 2 yards, but it was Robert Ferguson who picked up two consecutive first downs – the first with the assistance of a questionable pass interference call on a play in which Ferguson appeared to slip and the second on a 34-yard reception down the right sideline. But once inside the red zone, the drive quickly stalled and the Vikings went backwards before Ryan Longwell connected on a 39-yard field goal with 58 seconds left in the second quarter, a kick that cut Minnesota's deficit to 17-10 at the half.
The second half literally started on the wrong foot for the Vikings. Peterson fielded the kickoff and stepped out of bounds at the 1-yard line and the offense couldn't advance it beyond the 2-yard line before Kluwe punted it away.
Philadelphia picked up where it left off in the first half, with Westbrook eluding would-be tacklers for 25 yards on the Eagles' first play from scrimmage in the second half, then getting 6 more on a run and an additional 15 with a facemask on E.J. Henderson. The defense stiffened and Philadelphia had to settle for a 27-yard Akers field goal with 10:46 left in the third quarter.
After an exchange of drive-ending sacks between the two teams that sent Holcomb to the locker room, Bollinger entered the game and led the team on a field goal drive. He started with consecutive completions of 13 to Rice and 5 and 12 to Shiancoe. They went to Peterson for four consecutive touches for 17 yards before Longwell eventually came in for a 32-yard field goal to make it 20-13 with 1:42 to play in the third quarter.
The Vikings decreased their deficit with another field goal drive. Bollinger started with a 10-yard scramble and then connected with Wade for 15 yards across midfield. A 12-yard pass to Shiancoe and a 17-yard run by Peterson put them at the 25-yard line, but they backed up from there before Longwell kicked a 48-yard field goal to make it 20-16 with 8:53 to play.
But that would be as close the Vikings would come.
The Eagles responded with their own field goal drive, starting with a 15-yard flea flicker to Brown. McNabb then connected with Curtis for 31 yards and Greg Lewis for 13 yards to put Akers in position for a 25-yard field goal to give them a one-touchdown lead again, 23-16, with 5:09 to play.
The Vikings countered with only one first down before punting back to Philadelphia with 3:20 to play and only one timeout remaining (a third-quarter timeout and an upheld challenge on Peterson's fielded kickoff at the 1-yard line took care of their first two timeouts). Curtis picked up the needed first down and the Eagles were able to run the clock down to 27 seconds before punting away. Sav Rocca responded with a booming 65-yarder that Wade fielded at the 1-yard line and returned to the 9, leaving an 18-yard checkdown pass to Taylor the as the final play of the game.
At 2-5, the Vikings find themselves far back in the playoff picture and grasping at a weaker NFC as their only consolation.
Vikings Drop Another One, 23-16
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