Chester Taylor proved he wasn't removed from the lineup for anything he did poorly, and he was as affable as ever after a 164-yard, three-touchdown performance in his return to the starting lineup in the Vikings' 29-22 win over the Oakland Raiders.
With Adrian Peterson sidelined for at least one week with a torn lateral collateral ligament, Taylor showed that a running back one year removed from a 1,200-yard season still has plenty of his own moves. The Vikings needed Taylor's consistency to complement an efficient, if unspectacular game, from Tarvaris Jackson, who was also making his return to the starting lineup following a series of injuries this year.
Jackson completed 17 of 22 passes for 171 yards, no touchdowns, an interception and a 79.9 rating. Jackson's performance was complemented by a better rating from wide receiver Sidney Rice, who completed two wide receiver passes on a reverse and end-around for a combined 94 yards, setting of a string of non-quarterback marks for passing.
Finally, the Vikings needed a stout defense, and they got it when it came to stopping the Raiders rushing attack. Led by Pat Williams' nine tackles, the Vikings limited the Raiders to 61 yards rushing on 27 carries (a 2.3-yard average). They weren't as successful against the pass, as former Viking Daunte Culpepper amassed 344 yards passing, but only had one touchdown and an interception.
The Vikings opened the game with trickery that yielded success they hadn't seen this year – producing the longest completion of the season. On the opening play from scrimmage, Taylor split out to the right, motioned back to his left and took the handoff. He, in turn, handed it off to Sidney Rice on the reverse, who took it back to the right side of the field before launching a pass to a wide open Visanthe Shiancoe. The tight end rumbled to the 5-yard line before being caught from behind. After Shiancoe caused a delay of game by spiking the ball, Taylor followed up with a 10-yard run for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead only 49 seconds into the game.
When the Raiders bobbled the ensuing kickoff and couldn't advance it past the 8-yard line, the Vikings were in prime scoring position again with the ball on the Raiders 41-yard line. Taylor pushed it inside the red zone with two receptions for a combined 23 yards and a run of 4 yards. Mewelde Moore advanced to the doorstep of the end zone with an 11-yard run, but instead of continuing to pound the ball at the Raiders, the Vikings elected to roll Jackson out of the pocket and he threw an interception to Nnamdi Asomugha in the end zone.
The safety's interception set up the Vikings' next score when he tried to advance it out of the end zone and was tackled on the 3-yard line. Three plays later, the defensive pressure caused Culpepper to intentionally ground the ball while he was in the end zone, giving the Vikings a safety and a 9-0 lead.
However, the Raiders would quickly be put back on offense near midfield when Bobby Wade caught and then fumbled a pass from Jackson. After Culpepper hooked up with Curry on a perfectly thrown 46-yard reception over Cedric Griffin, two sacks quickly forced Sebastian Janikowski onto the field for a 42-yard field goal to make it 9-3 with 4:45 to play in the first quarter.
Once again, the Vikings advanced with gains of 11 yards each by Taylor and Wade and 15-yard reception by Shiancoe. Taylor took it inside the red zone with a 17-yard run, but the Vikings brought on Naufahu Tahi for a change of pace. He gained 9 yards on two carries, but on third down he tried to break a run to the left and was tackled for a 2-yard loss, bringing Longwell on for a 30-yard field goal and a 12-2 Vikings lead.
The Raiders quickly answered with a touchdown drive engineered nicely by Culpepper. He started with an 11-yard pass to Jerry Porter before Curry came down with a jump ball between two Vikings defenders that gained 49 yards. Three plays later, Culpepper rolled out and found tight end John Madsen for a 10-yard touchdown to pull the Raiders within two points, 12-10 with 12:57 left in the first half.
When a bad handoff between Jackson and Taylor ended up on the ground, safety Jarrod Cooper recovered and the Raiders were taking a 13-12 lead – their first of the game – with a 30-yard field goal.
Minnesota answered with a short passing game that gained 11 yards each for Tony Richardson and Jim Kleinsasser before Taylor ripped off a 38-yard touchdown run for a 19-13 Vikings lead with 9:17 to play in the half.
The Raiders answered, however, with two field goals on their final two drives of the half, with the second one being set up when linebacker Chris Clemons knocked Jackson from behind and popped the ball out. When Warren Sapp recovered near midfield with 46 seconds left in the half, the Raiders needed only a 15-yard pass to Justin Fargas to set up Janikowski's 49-yard field goal with no time remaining to tie game, 19-19.
After giving up a net of 20 yards rushing in the first half, the defense continued to play the run well to start the second half, shutting down Oakland's first drive, and the Vikings' running game continued to produce with Taylor in. He took the first play from scrimmage 29 yards and followed that with a 15-yard run. However, a fumble by Mewelde Moore and an incomplete pass stalled the drive, and the Vikings settled for a 38-yard field goal from Longwell to retake the lead, 22-19, with 8:23 to play in the third quarter.
The Raiders continued to try to run, but it was a 31-yard pass to Jerry Porter that kick-started their third drive of the second half, putting them in the red zone. However, a sack by rookie Brian Robinson and forced fumble that Chad Greenway recovered put the Vikings offense back on the field with the lead, a lead they expanded on their next drive.
Williamson started it with a 26-yard run and Jackson followed with a 16-yard pass to Wade to start the drive. When the Vikings pulled off another pass from Rice – this one a 15-yard gain to Williamson, they were at the 6-yard line. Taylor was able to punch it in from there, starting the run with a dive but realizing he was too far away from the end zone, then getting his feet back on the ground to push the pile into the end zone for a 29-19 lead with 14:52 to play.
It wasn't until less than six minutes were left in the game that the Raiders put together another scoring drive. They needed their passing game to get it done and it started with completions of 6 yards to Tim Dwight and 28 yards to Porter. Culpepper found shorter connections with Fargas and Zach Miller, but the Oakland offense couldn't advance beyond the 34-yard line and Janikowski made it a one-touchdown game with a 52-yard field goal with 3:23 to play.
The Vikings were able to get one first down to milk the clock to the two-minute warning but eventually had to punt it away. It looked like the game would be over when Chad Greenway intercepted Culpepper's first pass, but when he tried to advance it, he was stripped of the ball and the Raiders recovered. They were only allowed the underneath passes – four in a row – and were generally tackled in bounds. But, after an 18-yard connection with Miller, the Oakland offense scrambled to spike the ball but was called for a false start with 12 seconds remaining. With a 10-second runoff for the penalty, all that was left was a Hail Mary to the end zone – one that Darren Sharper batted to the ground to preserve the 29-22 win.
The Vikings came away with a much-needed win for the players' psyche, but a repeated mantra in the locker room was to strive for more consistency from game to game. They'll get another chance for that next week when they travel to the Giants as their fight to stay even somewhat relevant continues.
Taylor, Defense Spark 29-22 Vikings Win
Viking Update Top Stories
Harrison Smith: No reason for changeThe Minnesota Vikings’ perfect season hit a brick wall Sunday at Philadelphia, but safety Harrison Smith said the panic on the outside of Winter Park isn't being shared on the…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 2:44 PM
Munnerlyn likes Cutler’s risk-taking waysCaptain Munnerlyn likened Jay Cutler to Brett Favre, calling him a “gunslinger,” but Cutler was at his best when he conformed last year.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 7:32 AM
Did Vikings have bounty system?In a new book released recently, the claim is made that the Minnesota Vikings had a bounty system in place at the same time the Saints were eventually swept up in the Bountygate…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 7:25 AM
Fusco: O-line problems correctableAs players and coaches watched film of Sunday's loss to Philadelphia, more than a few them got an uneasy feeling. Not because the Eagles dominated them as much as it appeared, but…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 4:15 AM