The Vikings seemed to tighten up their pass defense, but the Ravens had success running the football, which was also the case with the Seahawks in the preseason opener. Plus, get more than 30 notes to help to tell the tale of the game.
While the Vikings' starters were all smiles after dominating the Baltimore Ravens
in a game that wasn't as close as the 23-15 score might indicate, there was a continuing preseason trend that began last week in the opener and continued Saturday night – allowing big plays in the running game.
Run defense has been the hallmark of the Brad Childress era. In 2006, the Vikings spent much of the season chasing down the all-time modern-day record for least rushing yards allowed. Last year, the defense again led the NFL against the rush and, at times, got teams to abandon the rush completely.
That hasn't been the case in the first two games of the preseason. In the opener against Seattle, the Vikings allowed Maurice Morris
to gain 62 yards in the first quarter on just six carries and, as a team, Seattle ran nine times for 82 yards against the first-team defense.
Saturday night, Ray Rice
– filling in for an injured Willis McGahee
– did the same. His first carry from scrimmage gained 42 yards and he finished the game with 77 yards on just eight carries and a touchdown. Quarterback Troy Smith
got into the act as well, scrambling three times for 35 yards.
While the Vikings would eventually dominate both sides of the ball, it is something that remains a concern. With dynamic runners like Ryan Grant
, Joseph Addai
, DeAngelo Williams
and Reggie Bush
on the schedule for the first five regular-season games, having difficulty with a pedestrian back like Morris and an untested rookie like Rice has be reason for pause.
The Vikings ended up surrendering an uncharacteristic 126 yards rushing. It didn't hurt them in the end and, because of their big lead, the Ravens essentially abandoned the run on their own accord. It is still early in the season, but the Vikings' first-team defense will have to tighten up on the run because the opponents aren't going to get any easier as the team continues the preseason and heads into the regular season.
The Vikings dominated just about every statistical category in the game. The team won the battles for first downs (24-15), total yards (339-237), rushing yards (133-126), passing yards (206-111), third-down efficiency (11-19 [57 percent] to 4-10 [40 percent]) and time of possession (34:35 to 25:25).
Individually, Jackson was sharp once again, completing 7 of 11 passes for 82 yards and one TD and rushing twice for 22 yards. Gus Frerotte completed 4 of 9 passes 69 yards and a touchdown. Brooks Bollinger completed 7 of 15 passes for 63 yards and John David Booty completed just 1 of 3 passes for 9 yards and one interception. For the Ravens, rookie Joe Flacco completed 10 of 15 passes for 74 and was the only Ravens QB not to throw an interception. Troy Smith completed 3 of 5 passes for 25 yards with a pick and rushed three times for 35 yards, while former starter Kyle Boller completed 8 of 12 passes for just 40 yards with one interception.
Rookie Albert Young led all Vikings with 46 rushing yards on 12 carries, including a 21-yarder late in the game that forced the Ravens to burn their final two timeouts. Adrian Peterson rushed eight times for 30 yards, Chester Taylor ran six times for 23 yards and Maurice Hicks had nine carries for just 12 yards. Ray Rice led all rushers with 77 yards and a TD on eight carries. The rest of the Ravens running backs ran just five times – Cory Ross with 10 yards on three carries and La'Ron McClain with four yards on two carries.
Twelve different Vikings caught passes, led by Martin Nance, who had three catches for 74 yards. Sidney Rice had three catches for 31 yards and Hicks, Bobby Wade and Naufahu Tahi each had two catches. The Vikings had some big plays from Peterson, whose only reception covered 22 yards, Visanthe Shiancoe, whose lone catch was good for 19 yards, and Robert Ferguson, whose only catch was a 5-yard touchdown. Former University of Minnesota star Ernie Wheelwright had five catches for 37 yards, but the leader was tight end Adam Bergen. He caught the first completion of the game for Baltimore and the last – finishing with six catches for 39 yards.
Linebacker Erin Henderson was the only Viking with more than three tackles. He finished with eight, seven solo and one assist.
Jared Allen got his first two sacks as a Viking and nearly had a third, but Smith was able to escape his grasp and run for 19 yards to keep a Ravens drive alive.
Peterson didn't start the game, giving way to Taylor for the starting nod.
Bernard Berrian also didn't suit up because of an apparent toe injury.
Both teams were able to run effectively despite the game being a matchup of the top two rushing defenses of the last several years.
Unlike last week when the Vikings came out passing exclusively, on their first drive of the game, the team ran 11 plays – six passes and five runs. One of the runs was a Jackson scramble designed to be a pass.
On the first drive, Jackson completed four of six passes – all to different receivers – for 53 yards and a touchdown.
Pat Williams was extremely active in his first game of the preseason, chasing down Smith on a scramble as well as corralling Rice after he bounced a run to the right side. Williams had a knee contusion in the second quarter when teammate E.J. Henderson ran into him trying to tackle Smith, but Williams walked off under his own steam and appeared to be fine, returning to the game a few plays later.
Smith looked like a QB that hasn't had much experience under center in live NFL situations at times. He had to burn two timeouts early – one after a routine running play and the other after a sack – both in situations that there should have been plenty of time to regroup and run a play.
Rookie Darius Reynaud was given the job of returning kicks with the first team.
The Viking dominated the first quarter, outgaining the Ravens 132-73 and converting their first five third-down opportunities.
The Vikings has 92 yards passing in the first quarter, as opposed to just seven for the Ravens.
Darren Sharper appeared to be injured early in the second quarter, but remained in the game and the Vikings were glad he did. He laid a huge shot on wide receiver Yamon Figurs and intercepted a pass that led to a Vikings field goal at the end of the half to take a 20-7 lead.
After having five turnovers in the first game, the Vikings had just one Saturday. The team was a minus-5 on giveaway-takeaway ratio in the first game. They were a plus-2 Saturday. The Ravens had fumbles from both Boller and Flacco, but Baltimore recovered them both.
Nance continues to make a case for the team to keep him. Not only did he make a sensational touchdown catch, he also caught a 32-yard pass in which he was drilled on the sideline but held on to the ball.
Linebacker Derrick Pope may be looking to replace the presence of Heath Farwell on special teams. He laid a huge hit on Figurs on a kickoff return midway through the second quarter.
Maurice Hicks wasn't very elusive Saturday. Not only did he gain just 12 yards on nine carries with a best run of four yards, he also dropped an easy dump-off pass.
The Vikings didn't have to punt until less than two minutes remained in the first half.
The Vikings dominated the first-half numbers, outgaining Baltimore 234-132. The Vikings ran 19 times for 80 yards and had 154 yards passing, while the Ravens ran 12 times for 110 yards, but had just 12 yards rushing. The Vikings held the ball for 17:56 of the half, primarily because they had 14 first downs to just six for Baltimore.
The Ravens threw just five passes in the first half while running 12 times. In the second half, Baltimore threw 27 times and ran just three times.
Linebacker Rufus Alexander had an up-and-down game. He single-handedly blew up a couple of screen passes with convoys in front of Rice, but also had a personal foul for roughing the passer in the third quarter.
Ravens punter Sam Koch had better hope his job is secure. He averaged just 29 yards on six punts – 52 yards on one punt and less than 25 yards a kick on his other five.
Tahi is doing his best to make it hard to cut him. He showed some strong running skills on the dumpoff passes he was thrown and did a solid job of lead blocking for Young.
Jaymar Johnson did his best to impress the coaches, making a diving catch for a first down and returning a punt 19 yards to set the Vikings up in solid field position.
Steven Hauschka might not make the Vikings roster, but, as they say, he put down some good film for other teams to look at. He made all three of his field goal attempts from 21, 34 and 48 yards and scored 12 points. Another potential attempt never made it to his foot when Chris Kluwe couldn't handle the snap.
Center Tim Mattran suffered an ankle injury in the second half and left the field on a cart. He was injured when he was rolled up by Young, who was engaged with a blocker and backed into Mattran.
On John David Booty's first pass of the game, he side-armed a throw that was intercepted by cornerback Derrick Martin.
The Ravens defensive touchdown led them to go for a two-point conversion, which was a no-lose situation. If they didn't covert, they would still be 10 points down and need a TD and a field goal to tie. By making it, they cut the Vikings' lead to eight points – which was technically just a one-score deficit.
On his first pass attempt of the game, Flacco was stripped by Otis Grigsby, but an alert Oneil Cousins recovered the ball.
Cornerback Brandon Sumrall turned some heads with a sweet one-handed interception of Flacco. After the Vikings' next drive stalled, Sumrall split two defenders on the punt coverage team and laid out return man Tom Zbikowski with a perfectly timed hit.
For fans in the Twin Cities area, Jared Allen, who had two sacks Saturday, will be signing autographs at the Mall of America from 2:30-4 p.m. Sunday.