Turning point: Backups get winning points

The Vikings' first-team units played to a near stalemate against the Seahawks, but an opportunistic fourth quarter for the backups made the difference on the scoreboard.

In preseason games, many times the difference between winning and losing is how the players on the second and third lines of the depth chart perform after the starters have seen their nights end.

In the Vikings 24-13 win over Seattle Saturday night at Mall of America Field, the Vikings trailed 13-10 as the second- and third-team offenses and defenses took the field. But it was the performance of the Vikings backups that put up 14 points in the fourth quarter to turn the final score around.

Seattle had the ball in Vikings territory in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, but a sack by linebacker Kenny Onatolu on Seattle QB Charlie Whitehurst snuffed that drive and forced a punt – opening the door for No. 3 quarterback Sage Rosenfels to take center stage and provide an offensive spark.

Starting from his own 13-yard line with 11:57 to play, Rosenfels got the chains moving quickly, completing a 15-yard dart to Logan Payne for a first down. Two plays later, facing a third-and-2, he dropped off a pass to fullback Ryan D'Imperio that was wide open, gained 15 yards and got the Vikings into Seattle territory. After a pair of runs by Darius Reynaud got the Vikings into scoring position, they eschewed a potential game-tying field goal on fourth down and Rosenfels threw a jump ball into the end that Javon Walker ripped away from a defender for a 25-yard touchdown to give the Vikings a 17-13 lead with 7:09 to play.

"The guys executed very well and you can't say enough about what Javon did to make that catch," Rosenfels said. "When I threw it, I wasn't sure he would be able to get in position, but he made a heck of a play to come down with it in the end zone."

With the lead in hand, it was time for the defense to make a big play and third-string defensive back Marcus Sherels was the man on the spot. With Seattle near midfield on the ensuing drive, Sherels jumped a route intended for Deon Butler and intercepted Whitehurst, returning the pick 35 yards to the Seattle 20-yard line.

With rookie Joe Webb getting his opportunity, the Vikings turned to the ground game with Ian Johnson and Ryan D'Imperio until they faced a third-and-goal from the 7-yard line. With Seattle having burned its final timeout of the game, Webb threw a screen pass to D'Imperio that he caught at the 10-yard yard line and bulled his way into the end zone for another touchdown and a 24-13 lead.

For a game in which the starters effectively played to a draw and the second unit for Seattle gave the Seahawks a 13-10 lead, it was the guys who are fighting for roster spots that made the most of their opportunities, turning a three-point deficit with a little more than seven minutes to go into an 11-point lead with just under three minutes to go, taking control of the game and forcibly creating the turning point on the scoreboard.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.

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