The starters' night ended quickly, but the Vikings reserves were the ones that created the scoring Saturday night in a 28-7 win over St. Louis.
Tarvaris Jackson lasted only six snaps over one series, finishing 2-for-4 for 11 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions and one first down.
But it was the reserves that poured on the points against the Rams. Sage Rosenfels led the Vikings on three scoring drives as he got the majority of the time among the three quarterbacks and looked sharp. Rosenfels completed 23 of 34 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns.
"Sage did some nice things in terms of getting comfortable in the offense and the guys he was playing with," Vikings coach Brad Childress said.
Rookie Joe Webb continued the momentum when he entered the game in the fourth quarter. He completed four of his first six passes in his first series and capped his opening drive of the preseason with a 2-yard touchdown pass to the corner of the end zone for TE Mickey Shuler, earning a hearty handshake and congratulations from Childress on the sidelines.
"You can see his athleticism," Childress said. "He's got a good command of the football. He just needs to grow in our system."
By the time the preseason opener came to a close, the special teams allowed the only Rams points, giving up a 93-yard punt return to Danny Amendola in the first quarter. But throughout the game the Vikings defense held firm and kept the Rams largely off balance. Not only did the defense not surrender any points, it also allowed only eight first downs.
But without Brett Favre and with only a one-series appearance by the starters, Rosenfels took advantage of his extended action. He picked up five first downs in his first four series, but after the special teams put Minnesota in a 7-0 hole it was the punt cover team that set up the first Vikings touchdown.
Chris Cook punched the ball out of Amendola's hands as he fielded another Chris Kluwe punt and the Vikings recovered on the St. Louis 16-yard line. Rosenfels picked up a first down with an 8-yard pass to FB Ryan D'Imperio and, three plays later, found Logan Payne for a 2-yard touchdown pass with 12:13 left in the first half.
Rosenfels' next two touchdown passes would be much more explosive. On his next series, he turned third-and-10 into a 65-yard touchdown pass when he found TE Garrett Mills with a step on his defender for a 14-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
With the defense doing its job, holding No. 1 overall draft pick Sam Bradford to consecutive three-and-out drives to close out the first half, the Vikings maintained that lead until halftime.
The first two series of the second half were three-and-out efforts by the Vikings as well, but with 3:14 left in the third quarter, Rosenfels found WR Marko Mitchell wide open on a blown coverage. Despite an underthrown pass, Mitchell still made it a 71-yard touchdown for a 21-7 lead.
Webb continued the momentum when he led the third-team offense on a touchdown in his first NFL series in the fourth quarter. He converted his initial third down with a 13-yard strike to WR Ray Small and then scrambled 15 yards on his next third-down opportunity. Webb went back to Small for another 13-yard pass for a first down, and eventually the Vikings were facing third-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Webb used a play-action fake and found TE Mickey Shuler in the back corner of the end zone for the final score of the game and a 28-7 win.
It was hardly a perfect game – then again, preseason openers never approach that. The Vikings had 10 penalties and the second-string offensive line took some time to settle down, but the positives far outweighed the negatives in the first live action of the season.
The Vikings converted 50 percent of their third downs and held St. Louis to only 21 percent conversion rate. They didn't give up any first downs on the ground, outgained the Rams 414-150, garnered six sacks and dominated the time of possession 36:48 to 23:12.
It was just the Rams and it was just the preseason opener, after all, but a dominating performance beats the alternative for Vikings fans.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Reserves lead Vikings in dominating fashion
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