Sunday's Pioneer Press Articles (Post Them Here)
[size=10pt]Vikings take to air in victory
Johnson, Jackson lead way[/size]
BY DON SEEHOLZER
PITTSBURGH â€” The Vikings are missing their No. 1 receiver, but their passing game is alive and well.
Well, that might be a bit premature, but quarterbacks Brad Johnson and Tarvaris Jackson showed Saturday night in Minnesota's 17-10 exhibition victory over Pittsburgh that the Vikings can move the ball through the air even without Koren Robinson, who has been excused from the team while awaiting developments in his DWI case and could be headed for a yearlong suspension.
In front of a packed house at soggy Heinz Field, Johnson was a model of efficiency, completing 9 of 11 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown, and Jackson put up identical numbers plus an additional 9 yards passing.
Starting wide receivers Troy Williamson and Travis Taylor caught just two passes apiece, the first touchdown was a bit of a fluke, and the Vikings' West Coast offense might not remind anyone of the Air Coryell Chargers.
Still, coach Brad Childress will take it.
"Nine of 11, I'm happy with the percentage," he said. "I don't think we threw for a lot of yards (173), but I think we were efficient."
The Vikings (1-1) started off better than they did in Monday night's exhibition opener against Oakland, when Williamson fumbled away the opening kickoff, but not by much.
Rookie Wendell Mathis held on to the ball for a 22-yard return, but the offense went three and out, as running back Chester Taylor was stuffed for a 1-yard loss on first down and fullback Tony Richardson lost 5 on a third-down middle screen.
The Steelers' offense, by contrast, came out smoking.
Pittsburgh operated out of a no-huddle attack and started with a 20-yard end-around by Nate Washington. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger whipped his team 55 yards in six plays, the last a 16-yard touchdown strike to Cedrick Wilson, who beat cornerback Fred Smoot on a slant.
Roethlisberger, who was questionable because of a sprained ligament in his right thumb, completed 3 of 4 passes for 30 yards on his only series of the night, but the Vikings came right back.
Helped by a drive-extending personal-foul penalty on Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, Johnson hit wide receiver Travis Taylor for 34 yards to the Pittsburgh 16-yard line and tight end Jermaine Wiggins for an improbable 12-yard touchdown after Steelers safety Troy Polamalu slipped while breaking on what looked like a sure interception.
That's the way things stayed until 2:04 into the second quarter, when Ryan Longwell kicked a 38-yard field goal to cap a 13-play, 40-yard drive and give the Vikings a 10-7 lead.
The Steelers threatened twice before halftime, but safety Darren Sharper picked off a poorly thrown Charlie Batch pass at the Vikings' 9 to end the first drive, returning 27 yards up the sideline.
Cornerback Ronyell Whitaker ended the second, sacking Batch on a blitz and forcing a fumble that defensive end Darrion Scott recovered at the Minnesota 20 with 24 seconds to play in the half.
Jackson had a quiet first half, completing 4 of 6 passes for 22 yards, but he heated up with the start of the second.
The rookie from Alabama State hit all five of his passes on an eight-play, 56-yard drive that ended with a 6-yard touchdown toss to rookie wide receiver Jason Carter, who was able to hit the pylon with the ball while flying out of bounds.
Up 17-7, the Vikings were in position to add to their lead 10 minutes into the third quarter when Carter caught a short Mike McMahon pass and broke loose for a 42-yard gain to the Pittsburgh 33.
Trying for wide receiver Billy McMullen, McMahon hit Steelers linebacker Rian Wallace between the numbers instead for an interception and 27-yard return that Pittsburgh turned into a 42-yard Josh Reed field goal that cut the lead to 17-10.
That was as close as it got, though, as the Vikings gave Childress his first win as an NFL head coach.
Exhibition season or not, that made this a special occasion.
"You know what, you don't get on a plane and fly all the way here to take a butt-whipping," Childress said. "It beats the alternative, I'll tell you that."
Next up for the Vikings are the Baltimore Ravens, who visit the Metrodome on Friday.
Don Seeholzer can be reached at [email protected]
[size=10pt]Jackson makes case for No. 2 spot
Rookie QB outperforms McMahon, draws praise from Childress[/size]
BY DON SEEHOLZER
PITTSBURGH â€” Tarvaris Jackson's elevation to the role of No. 2 quarterback was billed as a one-week thing.
After Saturday night, it might be a permanent position.
The Vikings' rookie sensation got off to a quiet start in his team's 17-10 exhibition victory over Pittsburgh, but the final numbers were impressive: 9-of-11 passing for 80 yards and a touchdown and a passer rating of 127.3.
Compare that to the final stat line for veteran Mike McMahon, who came on with 6:07 to play in the third period and went 1 for 7 for 42 yards, an interception and a passer rating of 12.5.
How bad was he?
McMahon, whose interception led to a Pittsburgh field goal, was replaced with 6:59 left by fourth quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan, who wasn't even supposed to play.
So, is Jackson officially pulling away from McMahon in the No. 2 quarterback race?
"I wouldn't say put some distance, but his play speaks for itself," coach Brad Childress said. "He's played very well the last couple of weeks."
As for McMahon, Childress said: "I don't think you necessarily take the numbers for what they were. However, you have to (protect) the football. You'd rather throw it up in the stands than throw it to them."
McMahon said he never got into a rhythm and credited Pittsburgh for doing a good job of mixing up its defenses with blitzing and zone.
Asked if he thinks he's falling behind Jackson, McMahon said: "When you have a performance like that, you know it's probably not going to help you out. Tarvaris definitely played very well tonight, I thought. You can't worry about where you stand. You've just got to go out the next time and do better."
That shouldn't be too hard for McMahon, who hasn't given himself a tough act to follow.
"I've got to probably relax a little bit more out there and trust the offense," he said. "It was just an off night, you know.
Under the radar: Jackson's big night overshadowed a fine performance by rookie wide receiver Jason Carter, who caught two passes for 48 yards and a touchdown and had a 14-yard punt return.
"The guy that continues to stand out is Jason Carter," Childress said. "Just in terms of his punt-return ability. He's had some return yards and made some plays in the passing game, as well."
One and done: Ben Roethlisberger didn't play much against the Vikings, but Pittsburgh's starting quarterback made the most of it.
Roethlisberger, who was questionable because of a sprained ligament in his right thumb, participated in just one series, completing 3 of 4 passes for 30 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown toss to wide receiver Cedrick Wilson that gave the Steelers an early 7-0 lead.
Veteran backup Charlie Batch took over on Pittsburgh's next offensive series.
Super Bowl most valuable player Hines Ward was held out for the Steelers because of a hamstring injury, with Nate Washington getting the start at flanker.
Purple pride: The Vikings' first road game of the exhibition season also marked the debut of their new road uniforms, featuring white tops and purple pants.
It was the first time the Vikings wore purple pants in a game since the 1964 season.
Weather or not: Because of weather conditions, the kickoff was pushed back 15 minutes to 8:15 EDT.
It rained heavily more than an hour before the game, when the field was covered, but cleared up by pregame warm-ups.
Temperature at kickoff was 76 degrees with 87 percent humidity.
Trade winds: The name of backup Vikings offensive tackle Mike Rosenthal has come up in Arizona, where Cardinals right tackle Anthony Clement is out for the season because of a torn right triceps tendon.
Rosenthal's agent, Joe Linta, said he had no knowledge of any trade talks but that the speculation makes sense.
"Minnesota has too many offensive linemen, and Arizona doesn't have enough," Linta said.
Also, former Vikings offensive line coach Steve Loney now holds the same position with the Cardinals.
Briefly: Vikings owners Zygi, Mark and Lenny Wilf were given a tour of Heinz Field before the game by Steelers ownership.
[size=10pt]THEY SAID IT[/size]
In a word, quarterbacks. As in the Vikings' first two.
In his first game without No. 1 receiver Koren Robinson, veteran starter Brad Johnson was quietly efficient, completing 9 of 11 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown.
Rookie Tarvaris Jackson, who replaced Johnson with 8:11 to play in the second quarter, was even better.
All he did was complete 9 of 11 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown and a final passer rating of 127.3 that was slightly better than Johnson's 123.9.
Safety Darren Sharper was up to his old ballhawking tricks in the second quarter, picking off a poorly thrown Charlie Batch pass at the Vikings' 9 and returning it 27 yards up the sideline.
Cornerback Ronyell Whitaker sacked Batch late in the first half, forcing a fumble that defensive end Darrion Scott recovered at the Minnesota 20.
Quarterback Mike McMahon, who is competing with Jackson for the No. 2 job, had another forgettable night, completing just 1 of 7 passes for 42 yards and an interception.
Wide receiver Troy Williamson committed a holding penalty well behind the play, bringing a pretty 17-yard run by Chester Taylor back 10 yards.
Chris Kluwe, the only punter on the Vikings' roster after the Thursday release of John Torp, had a 14-yard kick in the second quarter.
Vikings safety Willie Offord injured his right wrist on the opening kickoff and did not return. Offord said X-rays didn't reveal any fracture but that he would have some follow-up tests today.
Running back Mewelde Moore (knee), wide receiver Kevin Kasper (ankle), linebacker Marcus Lawrence (knee) and cornerback Charles Gordon (knee) did not dress.
THEY SAID IT
"His play speaks for itself."
Coach Brad Childress, on another impressive outing by Jackson.
Re: Sunday's Pioneer Press Articles (Post Them Here)
Good article until the "Who's not section." I think it's a bit overreactionary to say Williamson had a bad game because of one holding penalty. It was a mistake to hold it that situation, but it certainly was not behind the play.Williamson held because Taylor took eons, and three juke moves, to decide which way to go.
Saying Kluwe is not hot because of one punt??? Did he not see the other four punts, including a 57 yarder? If I had to pick one Viking to make the Pro Bowl right now it would be Kluwe.
Re: Sunday's Pioneer Press Articles (Post Them Here)
TJ's passer rating of 127, sweet. I'm sure we'll see plenty more of that in the future.