Grading the game: Saints

The Vikings won the game, but that doesn't mean they played much better than average in a number of areas.

PASSING OFFENSE: B - The numbers weren't great but the unit was effective when it was most needed. Quarterback Gus Frerotte completed 19 of 36 passes for 222 yards with no interceptions and one touchdown. The scoring toss was a 33-yarder to Bernard Berrian on a play in which Berrian admitted he failed to run the correct route. That touchdown tied the score at 27 and came shortly after Frerotte had taken a big hit from Saints defensive end Will Smith. Frerotte was forced to miss one play after the hit. Berrian was listed as questionable on the injury report after hurting his knee in practice last Thursday but he had easily his best game since signing a big free-agent contract with the Vikings last spring. He caught six passes for 110 yards, including a long of 36. Berrian also drew a key pass interference penalty on Saints safety Kevin Kaesviharn that was good for a 42-yard gain and helped to set up the game-winning field goal by Ryan Longwell with 16 seconds left. Bobby Wade led all receivers with eight catches.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus - The highlight for the Minnesota running backs was Chester Taylor's 4-yard halfback option pass to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe that gave the Vikings a 17-10 lead in the second quarter. Adrian Peterson was held to 32 yards on 21 carries, an average of 1.5 yards per carry, and the Vikings finished with 44 yards on 26 carries. The lack of success on the ground was a bit of a surprise considering the Saints defense entered the game ranked 27th in the NFL and 20th against the rush. The 44 yards rushing was a season-low for the Vikings and marked the second consecutive game in which they did not top the 100-yard mark. The Vikings were over 100 yards in each of their first three games. Peterson's 32 yards was his season low and the third-lowest single-game total of his career. Peterson was held to 4 yards last December at San Francisco an 27 yards later in the month by Washington.

PASS DEFENSE: C - Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed 26 of his 46 pass attempts for 330 yards with a touchdown but he also was intercepted twice. Linebacker Ben Leber made a nice play to pick off a ball that was tipped twice by Saints receiver Lance Moore late in the second quarter. That set up a 33-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell near the end of the half. The Vikings did give up too many big plays to the Saints passing game, including a 52-yard completion to Devery Henderson in the first quarter that led to a field goal. Henderson had capped the previous drive by catching a 17-yard touchdown pass from Brees. Brees threw for 220 of his yards in the opening half.

RUSH DEFENSE: B - As usual this unit was once again a strength for the Vikings. The Saints gained 55 yards on 22 carries as a team - an average of 2.5 yards - and Reggie Bush finished with a team-high 29 yards on 12 carries (2.4 average). The Vikings entered the game with the NFL's third-ranked rushing defense (71.8 yards against per game) and this performance held that ranking firm. The longest running play of the night against the Vikings was by Bush and went for 10 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D-minus - It does not matter that Ryan Longwell made all three of his field-goal attempts or that Kevin Williams' block of a Martin Gramatica field-goal attempt in the first half bounced into the hands of Antoine Winfield and resulted in a 59-yard touchdown return. What matters is that the Vikings punt and kickoff coverage units were woefully inadequate and Saints running back Reggie Bush returned a third-quarter punt 71 yards for a touchdown and a fourth-quarter punt 64 yards for a score. Bush would have done more damage but he tripped on another third quarter return and was "held" to a 29-yard return. The kickoff coverage also failed to do its job. The Saints' Pierre Thomas averaged 33.6 yards on five returns with a long of 56 yards to open the game. That led a touchdown for the Saints on their opening drive.

COACHING: B - The Vikings certainly did not play a flawless game, but coach Brad Childress deserves credit for leading his team into the noisy and hostile Louisiana Superdome and coming out with a victory. A loss would have gone a long way toward ending any real hope the Vikings had of making the playoffs. Now, Minnesota is 2-3 and tied with Green Bay for second place in the NFC North behind the 3-2 Chicago Bears. The Vikings have division games against Detroit (at home) and Chicago (on the road) before getting their bye.

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