The offense generated a total of 478 yards and averaged 8.1 yards per play while putting 29 points on the board, despite four turnovers (three fumbles and one interception).
It wasn’t spectacular, but it was probably the best performance Tarvaris Jackson has had as a starter thus far. He made some difficult throws, was generally on target, spread the ball around and generally made good decisions. He did throw an ill-advised interception in the end zone when he should have thrown the ball away and lived for another down. He also held the ball too long on one sack and ran himself into another sack. Once he fumbled. But he completed 17 of 22 passes (77.3%) for 171 yards and picked up a first down with his feet on one occasion, rushing three times for 19 yards. The Vikings hope this was a performance for Jackson to build upon.
Chester Taylor showed why he indeed is no slouch, rushing for 164 yards on 22 carries (7.5 avg.), with a long of 38 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught 3-38. Taylor is incredibly shifty, nifty and elusive with tremendous balance, run vision and determination. He doesn’t have great true breakaway speed but is deceptively fast in the open field and is truly a complete running back. He was credited with a fumble on a handoff in the backfield when he was hit almost immediately.
Tony Richardson led the way on many of Taylor’s more productive runs. He also caught 2-19.
Naufahu Tahi had four carries for 10 yards, with a long of 6 yards, as he occasionally spelled Taylor. Mewelde Moore also had a couple carries, one for an 11-yard gain, the other a 2-yard loss on a play in which he had the ball stripped.
Adrian Peterson was inactive due to a knee injury.
Rookie Sidney Rice made an impact from the start with his end-around option pass that covered 79 yards to open the game. He also completed another pass for 15 yards. Neither pass was particularly pretty, but they (eventually) got there for big plays. Rice also caught a couple passes for 18 yards, one for a nice first-down conversion. Three other passes were intended for him on the day.
Troy Williamson made a nice diving catch coming back for that 15-yarder from Rice. He caught 3-34 on the afternoon, but also picked up 26 yards on an end around.
Bobby Wade led all Viking receivers with five catches for 45 yards. However, he fumbled on his first catch in what proved to be a day filled with turnovers. Wade also had a nice downfield block on the end around by Williamson.
Robert Ferguson wasn’t involved as much this week but caught one pass for 6 yards and delivered a key block on Taylor’s 38-yard touchdown run.
Aundrae Allison was inactive.
The Vikings officially opened the game with three tight ends starting – Jim Kleinsasser, Visanthe Shiancoe and Jeff Dugan. Shiancoe was on the receiving end of the opening-game’s trick play and finished with two catches for 94 yards. His lone miscue was an unnecessary spike after the long gainer that set the team back 5 yards for “delay of game.” Kleinsasser has one catch for 11 yards but was also instrumental in the success Taylor had running the ball on the afternoon. He delivered numerous key blocks on many of the team’s most successful runs from scrimmage. Dugan also saw spot duty at fullback.
Garrett Mills was once again inactive.
You don’t rush for 228 yards, average 7.1 yards per carry and score three touchdowns on the ground without an effective job by the offensive line.
The entire starting unit of Bryant McKinnie, Steve Hutchinson, Matt Birk, Anthony Herrera and Ryan Cook did a very nice job in the running game. They also held up well on pass protection. Three sacks were allowed, but one was Jackson’s fault for running right into the defender, the other he held the ball too long and the other was a cheapie for just a 1-yard loss when he broke the pocket and tried to run.
Taylor’s early-game score from 10 yards out was behind outstanding blocking to the left by Birk, Hutchinson, McKinnie and Richardson. On Taylor’s 38-yard scamper, a gaping hole was created to the right between Kleinsasser and Cook that sprung Chester into the secondary, but there were excellent blocks up and down the line on the play. Key blocks on a 29-yard run by Taylor were delivered by Herrera (took down the linebacker; might have been a hold), Birk, Cook and Kleinsasser.
On the downside, it was a bad combination block by Hutch and Birk that led to Taylor’s fumble in the second quarter. Hutchinson also gave up a pressure inside on one pass play that disrupted a potential third-down conversion.
The team’s run defense returned to its old ways, holding the Raiders to just 2.3 yards per carry on 27 rushing attempts. However, the pass defense gave up a lot of yards once again (344) but forced their opponent to kick field goals five times. They also recorded a safety.
Pat Williams led the charge from his nose tackle spot and was a force all afternoon. Big Pat led all Viking tacklers with 9 stops, including 2 tackles-for-loss and 2 stuffs at the point of attack for no gain. He also batted down one ball on the pass rush. Williams was pretty much unblockable most of the game.
Kevin Williams was also disruptive, although it didn’t show up as much on the stat sheet. He finished with five tackles, including one for a 6-yard loss and a pass deflection. He was also credited with one official quarterback hurry. Williams also drew a holding penalty in the third quarter when he had beaten the Raider lineman.
Kenechi Udeze had a solid afternoon at left end. He finished with two tackles and one quarterback hurry, but also provided disruptive pressure on a couple other plays. Udeze also drew a holding penalty on the pass rush on a play in which the Vikings sacked Culpepper anyway.
Ray Edwards also gave left tackle Barry Sims all he could handle much of the game. He finished with three tackles, one tackle-for-loss, an 8-yard sack and one official quarterback hurry. But it was also Edwards around Culpepper’s ankles when he took the intentional grounding penalty in the end zone for a safety. He beat Sims off the edge on the safety and bull rushed a tight end on the sack.
Brian Robison made a couple impact plays, including a sack (7 yards) and forced fumble that resulted in a Raider turnover.
Erasmus James played sparingly but showed a flash on one play as he beat the left tackle off the ball, around the corner and closed on Culpepper for an 8-yard sack.
Spencer Johnson (1 tackle) and Fred Evans got some reps inside and did okay. Johnson flashed good penetration on one play that resulted in a tackle-for-loss by Edwards late in the game. DE Jayme Mitchell was inactive.
E.J. Henderson was once again very effective. He finished with 6 tackles, 1 tackle-for-loss, 1 sack (for a 10-yard loss) and one quarterback hurry. He made some big hits and seemed very active once again.
Chad Greenway made some big plays, including a potential game-clinching interception that he got up and fumbled late in the game. He finished with 7 tackles, 2 passes defensed, the interception and a fumble recovery.
Ben Leber was solid. He recorded 6 tackles and one quarterback hurry. The entire front seven deserves much of the credit for clamping down on the run against the Raiders as Justin Fargas was held to just 60 yards on 20 rushing attempts (2.7 avg.) with a long run of just 13 yards.
Antoine Winfield returned to the starting lineup after missing two weeks with a hamstring injury. He wasn’t able to finish the game but reportedly did not have any setbacks and turned in a solid overall performance. Winfield was solid on coverage except for an impressive catch by Ronald Curry in the second quarter that should have been broken up. Winfield finished with one knifing, upending tackle.
Cedric Griffin gave up a couple big plays but otherwise played okay. He was beaten deep by Curry early for a 46-yard gain. Griffin did make one very nice open-field tackle to hold Fargas short of a first down. He finished with 7 official tackles on the day.
Charles Gordon saw some action in the nickel and played well. He was in on 3 tackles, including one nice open-field stop.
Dwight Smith (1 tackle) and Darren Sharper (3 tackles, 1 PBU) had fairly quiet games at safety. Sharper should have made a better play on the ball on the 49-yard completion to Curry with he and Winfield on the coverage.
Ryan Longwell was solid. His kickoffs were solid and he was perfect two field goal attempts (30, 38) and all extra points.
Chris Kluwe had a bit of an off day. He averaged 36.0 on four punts, but placed two inside the 20-yard line. The Raiders only netted 10 yards in returns of Kluwe’s four punts.
Not many great opportunities in the return game. Moore fielded punts, gaining 6 yards on one return, losing 1 yard on another and a fair catch on the other.
Troy Williamson returned 3 kickoffs for a 21.7-yard average. Gordon fielded one and had a nice 27-yard return. Dugan had an 18-yard return and Moore fielded the free kick after the safety and returned it for 20 yards.
Vinny Ciurciu was the day’s standout on coverage with a hand in 3 tackles. Gordon made 2 tackles on special teams. McCauley, Tank Williams, Farwell and Doss also recorded stops on special teams. Kickoff coverage was outstanding, as Dominic Rhodes averaged just 17.8 on 6 return attempts.
Brad Childress had his team ready to play this week. They came out strong and were effective on both offense and defense. Had they not turned the ball over so often it might have been a blowout. It would be pretty hard to criticize the play-calling given the overall productivity of the offense, and especially the success of a couple trick plays. It was a must-win game for Childress and he regained some credibility after a very bad loss the week before.
Defensively, it seems the Vikings have leveled off, especially given the caliber of their competition this week. Improvement will be needed when they face better teams in the weeks to come or the team’s struggling pass defense is going to continue to be exposed.