With two new faces in the receiving corps added in the last weeks and Percy Harvin making a surprise appearance after missing all but two full practices during training camp, it could take some time for the league's second-ranked offense in 2009 to reach its stride again.
Saturday night's performance would certainly indicate that. The Vikings' starters left the field trailing 13-10 against a middle-of-the-road Seahawks team and Brett Favre turned over the ball more than he put up points in a 24-13 win.
Favre's performance was very up and down. He had several big gainers – hitting Greg Camarillo, Adrian Peterson, and Percy Harvin for receptions of more than 20 yards apiece – but Favre also fumbled once (with another fumble that was averted by a penalty) and threw two interceptions. He finished the night completing 16 of 26 for 187 yards and a paltry 51.3 passer rating.
The ground game also was erratic. Peterson found a 24-yard touchdown, but his other 10 carries gained only 13 yards, and Toby Gerhart gained 30 yards on seven carries.
The uneven nature of the offense began from the outset. The Vikings' first drive couldn't have been much more erratic, starting with a 34-yard pass to Percy Harvin but ending two plays later with a 12-yard sack of Favre by Chris Clemons.
That three-and-out was followed by a 16-play drive that didn't end in points, with the Vikings electing to go for a touchdown from two yards out, a decision that likely would have been different in the regular season. Camarillo, acquired on Wednesday, was the star of the drive. Six plays into the series, he hung onto a bullet across the middle for a 22-yard gain. Seven plays later, facing third down again, Camarillo came up with a 12-yard reception to put the Vikings on the 6-yard line. They fed the ball to Peterson four straight times, but he could only get to the 2-yard line, turning the ball over on downs to Seattle.
The defense continued to do its job – limiting the Seahawks to 11 offensive plays on their first three drives – but it would be the Vikings that would give Seattle its first points.
Peterson started Minnesota's third drive with a 35-yard screen pass, but three plays later Bernard Berrian couldn't hang onto a slant from Favre and safety Earl Thomas grabbed the deflection and returned it 86 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Seattle lead with 2:15 gone in the second quarter.
The Vikings answered quickly. Darius Reynaud set them up at Seattle's 23-yard line with a 73-yard kickoff return. One play later, Peterson picked his way through traffic for a 24-yard touchdown run with 11:45 left in the second quarter.
The teams continued to trade punches. Seattle got into scoring position with a 42-yard pass to Deion Branch, but the Vikings defense stiffened from three, forcing Olindo Mare on the field for a 38-yard field goal and a 10-7 Seahawks lead.
Minnesota answered with a field goal drive of its own, highlighted by a 20-yard reception by Greg Lewis and 15-yarders by Naufahu Tahi and Visanthe Shiancoe. But eventually they had to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell for a 10-10 tie that held up until the half.
Favre opened the second half with another interception. This time there was no deflection. Instead, he threw up a prayer to Camarillo down the left sideline, a pass in which he said he misjudged Camarillo's speed that turned into an easy interception for Marcus Trufant.
The Seahawks took advantage of the turnover with a couple of big plays. Mike Williams started their drive with a 42-yard reception over the middle, and Ray Edwards gave them 15 more yards when he went helmet to helmet on Matt Hasselbeck. That was enough to put the Seahawks in scoring position and Mare capped it with a 34-yard field goal, making it 13-10, a score that held up into the fourth quarter.
Favre was kept in for one more series, a three-and-out affair, and the game was turned over to the second- and third-team offense and defense.
Tarvaris Jackson got his opportunity with two short drives, but Sage Rosenfels ended up giving the Vikings the lead on his first drive. He started by hitting Logan Payne on the first play for 15 yards, and got 15 more three plays later on a pass to Ryan D'Imperio. Rosenfels continued moving downfield and, on fourth-and-4 at the 25-yard line, lofted a pass to the end zone. Javon Walker made a great adjustment and caught the ball in between two defenders for the touchdown and a 17-13 Vikings lead with 7:09 left to play.
For all the early struggles to score points, they started piling on in the fourth quarter. Marcus Sherels set up the offense with a 35-yard interception return to the Seattle 20-yard line, and Joe Webb took over there. Six straight running plays made it third-and-goal from the 7-yard line, where Webb connected with Ryan D'Imperio for one final score and a 24-13 lead that lasted until the gun.
Normally, the first-team offense and defense don't play in the fourth preseason game, but head coach Brad Childress said he would review the game film before making that determination. You can hardly blame him for needing to look at the film to dissect an erratic win.
Vikings win, offense uneven
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