Kelly Holcomb (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
The Vikings entered Arrowhead Stadium with a different starting quarterback, but that wasn’t enough to cure what’s hurting their struggling offense, one that didn’t score a point in the second half, allowing the Chiefs to come back from a 10-0 deficit to assume a 13-10 win.
Different quarterback. Still struggling.
The Vikings replaced the injured Tarvaris Jackson with the veteran Kelly Holcomb, but other than a 100-yard rushing day from rookie Adrian Peterson, the offense couldn’t consistently click in the passing game and the defense couldn’t save the day on this weekend.
Peterson rushed for 102 yards on 25 carries, but Minnesota couldn’t add to its 10-3 halftime lead, and Kansas City found just enough of a passing game to score 10 unanswered points in the second half as the previously winless Chiefs protected their home opener with a 13-10 win over the Vikings.
The interconference battle was an offensive struggle for much of the day, as the Vikings looked strong early in taking a 10-0 lead in the second quarter, but the Chiefs adjusted their offensive approach away from the failing ground game and found enough open spaces in the passing game to eke out the three-point win.
The Vikings held Larry Johnson to 42 yards on 24 carries, but a second-half awakening by receiver Dwayne Bowe and tight end Tony Gonzalez was the catalyst for Kansas City’s two second-half scoring drives. As for Vikings head coach Brad Childress’s offense, Holcomb looked uncertain at times, taking four sacks and completing 14 of 28 passes for 165 yards, with tight end Visanthe Shiancoe accounting for 51 yards and Peterson for 48 yards. That left Bobby Wade and Sidney Rice as the only receivers to catch passes, and they only mustered up a combined 56 yards receiving in a further testament to the Vikings’ sad state of affairs in the passing game.
The Vikings had the Chiefs pinned deep on their opening drive, stuffing them in three plays, and were able to take over on the 50-yard line. Displaying early poise in the pocket, Holcomb used the short passing game and a heavy dose of Peterson to engineer a six-play drive in which the rookie back accounted for 29 of the 50 yards on the team’s third offensive touchdown drive of the season. Peterson capped the drive with 16- and 11-yard runs and gave Minnesota a 7-0 lead only 4:58 into the game.
The two teams traded three-and-outs with booming punts before the Vikings took control of the ball at their own 29-yard line. Completions to Wade and Peterson picked up one first down, and Peterson added another one with a 10-yard run, but the drive was stopped after it got across midfield when Tamba Hali sacked Holcomb for a 9-yard loss.
Kluwe pinned the Chiefs deep, but they methodically drove from their own 8-yard line to midfield, as Johnson ran five times on the drive, but the defense stiffened before the Chiefs could get to midfield. Spencer Johnson ended the drive with a sack and a forced fumble that Chad Greenway recovered at the Kansas City 33-yard line.
With great field position, Holcomb started out his fourth drive of the day by hitting Visanthe Shiancoe for a 25-yard gain, but it stalled there when the officials ruled that a second-down pass from Mewelde Moore to Shiancoe in the end zone was incomplete. Ryan Longwell extended the lead to 10-0 with a 22-yard field goal with 9:18 left in the first half, and the Vikings were looking to take control of the game.
However, that momentum quickly shifted on Minnesota’s next drive when defensive end Jared Allen forced a fumble at the end of a Peterson first-down run and cornerback Patrick Surtain recovered. That one turnover would lead to the Chiefs’ only points of the first half, as the Vikings allowed one first down on a 14-yard pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez before Dave Rayner was called on for a 39-yard field goal with 3:32 remaining in the half.
Peterson continued to be the Vikings’ workhorse, and gave them a glimmer of hope to score again in the first half when he took a short checkdown pass and turned it into a 35-yard gain to the 33-yard line. However, the Vikings stalled on offense after that, wasting precious seconds and taking two consecutive sacks to end the first half with a 10-3 lead.
The Vikings opened the second half with a similar-looking drive, as Peterson converted two third downs with runs of 15 and 8 yards, and Moore got the Vikings on the doorstep of the red zone with an 11-yard run that had 5 more added to it with a defensive holding call. However, like the drive at the end of the first half, it backed up from there. An illegal shift was followed by a 5-yard loss for Peterson, a batted-down pass by Allen and a run for no gain by Moore. On the 34-yard line, Childress elected to punt, and the Chiefs were pinned at their own 8-yard line.
Kansas City’s offensive philosophy shifted in the third quarter, as it opened up its passing game. Rookie Dwayne Bowe converted a first down with a 17-yard reception, and Gonzalez was catching fire with a 15-yarder and 16-yarder to midfield. Then it was Samie Parker’s turn, and he converted third-and-15 when he slipped a Cedric Griffin tackle attempt for a 22-yard gain. Eventually, the Chiefs had to call on Rayner and his kick split the uprights from 49 yards out to make it 10-6.
With momentum clearly in Kansas City’s favor, the Vikings could muster only one first down with a 14-yard pass to Sidney Rice. Despite that, the Chiefs were once against starting a drive inside their own 20-yard line.
The field position didn’t seem to matter, however, has Huard continued to attack the defense through the air. He started with a 15-yard pass to Bowe on the final play of the third quarter and continued to march with connections of 4 and 15 yards to Gonzalez. Huard returned to Bowe for a 17-yard completion, but a 28-yard run by Johnson was brought back on a holding call. Instead of settling for a field goal with conservative play-calling, Huard found Bowe for 6 yards on third-and-2 and, one play later, he lofted a jump ball that Bowe hauled in over Griffin for a 16-yard touchdown and a 13-10 Chiefs lead with 9:23 to play.
With the pressure on at Arrowhead Stadium, the Vikings offense largely melted under the heat. Despite a 21-yard completion to Shiancoe, their first drive of the fourth quarter ended with a punt.
The defense continued to surrender yardage to Gonzalez in the passing game with back-to-back receptions of 7 and 25 yards before forcing a punt.
But even with decent field position at their own 37-yard line, the offense stumbled to a three-and-out when Childress elected to punt with 2:15 left on the game clock. The defense stopped Johnson for 6 yards on his next three rushes, and the Vikings offense would get one last drive that began with 1:39 to play.
Holcomb picked up one first down with underneath passes and a penalty on the Chiefs, and Wade picked up another first down with a 10-yard reception in the middle of the field, but the clock was draining quickly and 6-yard sack by Hali didn’t help the Vikings’ desperate cause. On third-and-16, Holcomb couldn’t connect with Moore, and on fourth-and-22 following a penalty, a short pass to Moore and a failed razzle-dazzle that was eventually covered by the Chiefs brought the Vikings’ stagnant second half to a close and gave the Chiefs a 13-10 win in their home opener at Arrowhead Stadium.
A change in quarterbacks for the Vikings brought fewer turnovers and a quicker start but eventually the same result for the explosively challenged Vikings, who dropped to 1-2 on the season and host the unbeaten Green Bay Packers next Sunday at the Metrodome.