Turnovers Sink Vikings in Preseason Opener

The Vikings got respectable play from their quarterbacks, but four fumbles and a porous pass defense allowed the Seahawks to come away with a 34-17 win in the preseason opener.

The Vikings came into their first preseason game looking mainly to get a bead on their younger players, but the overall feeling of the players and head coach Brad Childress was that the team has work to do in nearly every area after taking a 34-17 beating at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks in the preseason opener.

"I don't have very many initial impressions of the young guys," Childress said. "… This was a test. We've been teaching for two weeks. We teach for another week and then we test again next Saturday night in Baltimore. With that said, we've got work to do."

It wasn't just the rookies who struggled against the Seahawks. The Vikings' first-team defense, without Pat Williams and Madieu Williams playing, gave up 76 yards on the first drive and 40 yards on the second drive before exiting with a 10-0 deficit.

By the time quarterback Tarvaris Jackson left the game one series after Seattle starter Matt Hasselbeck, the Vikings had pulled within three points, 17-14.

The Vikings' first-team offense performed admirably and Jackson finished with a strong opening performance, completing 8 of 11 passes for 118 yards, one touchdown and a 137.7 passer rating, but the defense allowed Hasselbeck to do even better, completing 7 of 8 for 70 yards, a touchdown and a 142.7 rating.

All total, the Seahawks quarterbacks had too much success, with Hasselbeck, Seneca Wallace and Charlie Frye combining to complete 24 of 31 passes for 257 yards, four touchdowns and a 140.7 rating. However, the Seahawks let second-stringer Wallace play the majority of the game while the Vikings split their quarterback reps more evenly

Rookie John David Booty attempted 18 passes, Jackson 11, Gus Frerotte seven and Brooks Bollinger 2. Like Jackson, Frerotte looked fairly sharp, completing 4 of 7 for 60 yards while Booty finished a respectable 9 of 18 for 82 yards in his first outing as a pro.

But the Vikings' biggest problem offensively wasn't their quarterback play, rather a propensity for turning over the ball. Booty threw one interception on a deflected pass, but the running backs, quarterbacks and tight ends combined for five fumbles, losing four of them.

"Obviously when you turn it (over) five times and give up 17 points, it's very difficult to defend short fields, and good football teams take advantage of that," Childress said.

From the outset, the Vikings' pass defense didn't look improved over its 2007 performance, as Hasselbeck knifed through it with ease. He started with an 18-yard pass to Bobby Engram and Maurice Morris followed with rushes of 20 yards and 4 yards before the Seahawks returned to the air, and it still looked easy. Hasselbeck connected with Engram, Nate Burleson and even Jordan Kent on consecutive attempts and the Seahawks had a 7-0 lead with Kent's 18-yard yarder over Cedric Griffin.

Jackson looked sharp to start the game, connecting with Jim Kleinsasser for 13 yards after rolling out and hitting Bernard Berrian for 10 yards on a play that was called back on an Anthony Herrera hold. Jackson returned to throw another strike to Visanthe Shiancoe, who caught the 9-yard pass and turned upfield before fumbling it away when he was hit. Safety Deon Grant fell on it and Hasselbeck was quickly back in action.

The Seattle offense continued to click, as Morris took the first play of the drive 21 yards around right end and nearly broke it all the way before safety Tyrell Johnson brought him down in the open field. Hasselbeck followed with a 10-yard pass to TE Will Heller and the Seahawks were inside the red zone. They nearly picked up another first down but came up 1 yard short on a 7-yard pass to FB Leonard Weaver. Olindo Mare gave the Seahawks a 10-0 lead with a 21-yard field goal.

This time, the Vikings offense kept its groove going, starting strong and finishing the drive. Jackson started it with a 24-yard completion to Berrian. After two incompletions, Jackson went back to Berrian for a 19-yard completion on third down. On the next play, Jackson rolled right and connected with Thomas Tapeh for a 6-yard touchdown with 5:52 remaining in the first quarter.

Despite Seattle's second-team offense and the Vikings' second-team defense entering the game, the beginning of the Seahawks' next drive was met with similar success as the first-teamers. Morris picked up the initial first down with a runs of 7 and 9 yards, and T.J. Duckett converted another on a 7-yard run. Seneca Wallace followed with completions to Courtney Taylor and Nate Burleson to move from the 45-yard line to the 17. After a Julius Jones run, Jed Putzier capped the drive with a 15-yard touchdown reception for a 17-7 Seahawks lead with 1:35 to play in the first quarter.

The Vikings kept their first-team offense in for a final drive and the Seahawks followed suit with their defense, but offense continued to rule the game. Jackson opened the drive with a 9-yard pass to Sidney Rice and converted third-and-6 (after a penalty) with a short pass to Bobby Wade in which the shifty receiver made would-be tacklers miss before being hauled down 28 yards later. Jackson went right back to Wade for 10 more yards. One play later, Rice drew a pass interference penalty on Marcus Trufant (who also missed tackling Wade on his big play) in the end zone. The 1-yard touchdown plunge didn't come easy for Chester Taylor, who was denied twice before leaping across the goal line with 2:29 elapsed in the second quarter to draw the Vikings within three points, 17-14.

The second-team defenses finally started to settle in, with the Vikings forcing Seattle off the field in three plays and the Seahawks returning the task by eventually stuffing the Vikings on a fourth-and-1 run despite previously allowing runs of 29 and 8 yards by Maurice Hicks and a 14-yard pass to Martin Nance.

The Vikings defense allowed one first down on a 12-yard Jones run, but it clamped down on third-and-1 and stuffed Jones to force a second consecutive punt from Seattle, handing it back to the Vikings offense for its final drive of the half.

Frerotte picked up a first down with completions of 8 yards to Hicks and 13 yards to Aundrae Allison, and the offense was on the move once again. Allison continued to show his explosiveness with a 25-yard reception, but former Vikings defensive tackle Howard Green brought down Frerotte for a 7-yard sack. Steven Hauschka came on for the 35-yard field goal to tie the game at 17-17 in the final minute of the first half.

With Brooks Bollinger opening the second half for the Vikings, he never got to pass on his first series. Rookie running back Albert Young got the first two carries and was given a walloping hit by linebacker David Hawthorne, who jarred the ball loose. CB Kevin Hobbs recovered for the Seahawks, who were set up in Vikings territory.

Duckett did the dirty work, but was fortunate to get a facemask called against Minnesota DT Letroy Guion on a play in which Duckett fumbled and DE Martail Burnett recovered. Thanks to the penalty, the Seahawks not only kept the ball but advanced it. One play later, Wallace was hitting Trent Shelton for a 7-yard touchdown and a 24-17 lead with 11:44 to play in the third quarter.

Bollinger brought a quick end to his next drive, losing the ball while scrambling in the pocket and turning it back to the Seahawks.

While the Vikings defense held Seattle to a three-and-out, a lack of ball security was becoming a Minnesota epidemic. On John David Booty's first play, he handed it to Hicks, who took another big hit and fumbled it back to the Seahawks.

Starting at their 31-yard line, Wallace connected with TE John Carlson for 13 yards. Three plays later, Wallace had all the time he needed and eventually found Michael Bumpus at the 1-yard line and then went back to Bumpus for a 1-yard touchdown pass for a 31-17 Seattle lead.

The Vikings continued to turn the ball over when DE Lawrence Jackson caught Booty from behind and stripped it. This time, Jason Babin recovered and the Seahawks were back on the move. Wallace connected on passes of 14 yards to Bumpus and 12 and 23 yards to FB Owen Schmitt before the Seahawks settled for the final points of the 34-17 game on a 23-yard Olindo Mare field goal.

It wasn't until that point forward that Seahawks third-string quarterback Frye entered the game, leading to a couple series of mostly running plays from the Seahawks.

Offensively, the Vikings got an improved performance from their first two quarterbacks, but it was the team's inability to consistently stop Seattle's top quarterbacks that cost Minnesota its first preseason game in a season filled with high expectations.


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