QB Sage Rosenfels (Scott Boehm/Getty)
Sage Rosenfels didn’t have his top two speed threats, but that didn’t matter as he led the Vikings to an impressive preseason start. Meanwhile, the first-team defense was equally impressive in what amounted to only one series of work against Peyton Manning. The result was a 13-3 Vikings win.
No Percy, no problem.
Starting quarterback Sage Rosenfels’ debut with the Vikings was an impressive one in a 13-3 Vikings win over the Indianapolis Colts. Without first-round receiver Percy Harvin, who was held out with a shoulder injury suffered in Wednesday’s final training camp practice, and mostly without Bernard Berrian, who left the field on a cart, Rosenfels was steady and efficient.
Rosenfels led the Vikings to a 10-0 lead with a touchdown and field goal drive in his two series. He was 10 of 13 for 91 yards and established a quick and strong rapport with TE Visanthe Shiancoe, who had four catches for 55 yards. By the time the first quarter was finished, the Vikings had a 147-0 advantage in yards, thanks to Rosenfels, a strong running game and a defense that sacked Peyton Manning on three of Colts’ first five snaps.
Adrian Peterson played only one series and ran the ball four times for 20 yards, and Chester Taylor continued the strong rushing attack with four carries for 31 yards.
Tarvaris Jackson, working with the second-team offense, was part of one field goal drive in the second quarter and worked through the third quarter, but he couldn’t produce the efficiency that Rosenfels mustered. Jackson finished completing 7 of 15 passes for 39 yards.
Rosenfels looked solid and comfortable on the opening drive as the offense converted two first downs and used a lot of play-action passes. He opened with a 15-yard completion to Visanthe Shiancoe for the initial first down, but they would need a strong 5-yard run by Peterson on fourth-and-1 to keep the chains moving. A Rosenfels scramble on third-and-7 came up 2 yards short, but this time the play-action drew the defense in and Rosenfels hit Shiancoe in stride for a 17-yard completion. After a 13-yard run up the middle by Peterson, Taylor capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
As good as the offense looked, the defense was even better on its first drive. It gave up one first down, but managed three sacks in the first five snaps for the Colts, forcing a punt.
A booming 63-yard punt and a defensive holding call during the return backed Rosenfels up to the 8-yard line for his second drive, but he quickly drove the Vikings out from the shadow of their own end zone. Taylor started it with a 15-yard run and picked up another first down with a 4-yard run. The drive continued when Rosenfels drew a second-down encroachment with a hard count. He got Jaymar Johnson involved with a 6-yard reception on third down and then hit Shiancoe for another 16-yard completion in the middle of the field. A false start didn’t allow a 13-yard screen pass to Taylor to be enough for another first down, but Ryan Longwell completed the second drive with a 35-yard field goal for a 10-0 Vikings lead eight seconds into the second quarter.
Minnesota’s second-team defense picked up where the first team left off, forcing the Colts’ second-team offense off the field without a first down before the game moved into typical preseason football mode. Jackson couldn’t pick up a first down – or a completion – on his first drive, and the defense started to get sloppy with its discipline.
Indianapolis rookie running back Donald Brown found running lanes for 11 and 6 yards before exploiting openings and missed tackles for a 39-yard run that put Indianapolis in field goal position. Shane Andrus was good from 42 yards out, and the Colts closed their deficit to 10-3.
Jackson’s second drive looked better, but that was mainly due to the solid running of Albert Young, who picked up 7 yards with quick feet on a run and then displayed good patience on a 9-yard screen pass. Young continued to be the bellcow with four more runs that combined to gain 26 yards before Jackson scrambled for a first down. The Vikings wouldn’t get much closer, bringing on Longwell for a 36-yard field goal and a 13-3 lead that held up through halftime.
For as much interest as the first half held, the third quarter was definitively preseason football. The first four drives between the two teams resulted in no first downs and four punts. When the Vikings finally did get a scoring opportunity, kicker Taylor Mehlhaff hit a 46-yard field goal but had it negated by an illegal formation on the offensive line. When Mehlhaff got another chance from 51 yards out, the second attempt was wide right.
With the third teams entering the game in the fourth quarter, John David Booty looked decent and got help from Ian Johnson. The undrafted rookie running back carried five times on his first extended drive, gaining 33 yards, but two false starts by Ryan Cook at right tackle were too much to overcome.
The Vikings had one more extended drive following a Derrick Roberson interception. Booty converted third-and-3 with a 4-yard pass to WR Bobby Williams, and RB Kahlil Bell put them in scoring position with a 7-yard run to the 25-yard line. Despite more production from rookies Antone Smith and Johnson with the running game, the Vikings elected to let the clock run out and settle for a 13-3 win.
Overall, it was an efficient win, with the first half providing the only scoring. Rosefels was sharp in his time, although it came against a second-team defensive secondary. Jackson looked shaky, although that came playing behind a second-team offensive line. And the defense was its typically solid self with an improved special-teams effort.
The first preseason game is in the books, and the first-team units looked first rate.