The Vikings completed their 50th preseason in franchise history by bucking the Denver Broncos 31-24 at Mall of America Field on Thursday evening. The win moves Minnesota’s record in the 2010 exhibition season to 3-1 and gives the franchise its 39th .500 or better finish in the preseason.
Being that it was the 4th and final preseason game, the Vikings rested all but 2 of their presumed Week 1 starters and the Broncos trotted out their 1st-teamers for just a few series in the 1st half. But what the game lacked in the luster of starting lineups it more than made up for in excitement, as the 2 teams combined for 56 points, 682 net yards of offense, 40 first downs, 6 turnovers, 1 defensive TD and 1 goal line stand. Former Broncos and current Vikings WR Javon Walker also got in on the action with a 4th-quarter 63-yard TD reception from rookie QB Joe Webb.
Denver got out to a 7-0 lead when LenDale White bullied his way into the endzone for a 2-yard score midway through the 1st quarter. But the Vikings scored the next 17 points and took a 17-7 lead into the locker room at halftime. The Vikings 1st TD came on Denver QB Tim Tebow’s 1ts snap, when LB Erin Henderson scooped up a mishandled snap and sprinted 35 yards for the score.
Henderson was perhaps the star of the game and led the Vikings with 9 tackles. He also had 1.0 sack, 1 tackle for a loss and a pair of fumble recoveries. Fellow LB Jasper Brinkley was 2nd on the team with 7 tackles while both S Tyrell Johnson and CB Marcus Sherels also tallied sacks. Johnson also hauled in an INT off of Tebow on the possession following the mishandled snap.
In addition to Walker’s long score in the 4th quarter, the Vikings other offensive TDs were scored by RBs Ian Johnson and Albert Young. Young got his in the 2nd quarter following a fumble recovery by Henderson to give the Vikings their 17-7 halftime lead. The Broncos struck 1st in the 2nd half with a 39-yard TD toss from Tebow to WR Matthew Willis and then Johnson scored his TD in the 3rd quarter to extend the Vikings lead to 24-14.
The Vikings and Broncos exchanged TDs in the 4th quarter, with Denver QB Brady Quinn hitting WR Alric Arnett for a 14-yard score early in the period and then Webb answering on the next possession with his long toss to Walker, making the score 31-21 with 10 minutes remaining in the game. Denver added a late FG and then recovered a fumble, which allowed them to threaten tying the game in the final minute. But the Vikings defense held Denver out of the endzone to preserve a win in the team’s preseason finale.
Vikings QBs Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels were unremarkable, combining to go 3 of 12 for 12 yards. But Webb infused some excitement during the 2nd half, going 5 of 9 for 100 yards and 1 TD while also taking off on 4 rushes and gaining 48 yards, including an impressive 41-yard dash in his 1st series that eventually set up Johnson’s 4-yard TD score.
For the Broncos, Tebow and former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher WR Eric Decker stood out. Tebow finished the game going 12 of 16 for 167 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT and 1 lost fumble; Tebow also had 4 rushes for 21 yards. Decker was the game’s leading receiver with 10 receptions and 114 receiving yards, running around the Mall of America Field as he did during his college career.
With the exhibition season now behind both teams, the next step is to whittle rosters down to the 53-man limit from the current limit of 75. Expect the Vikings to announce their roster at some point on Saturday. Then the team will turn its undivided attention to the season opener, which will be played in New Orleans against the Saints on Thursday, September 9.
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The Vikings and Broncos will each play their 4th and final preseason game of 2010 tonight at Mall of America Field, with kickoff scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CT. The Vikings open the regular season next week at New Orleans and their starting lineups will look much different than the lineups for tonight’s game.
The Vikings 1st-team offense will rest tonight and the following players will take their place in the starting lineup: WR Taye Biddle, WR Greg Camarillo, LT Patrick Brown, LG Chris DeGeare, C Jon Cooper, RG Ryan Cook, RT Drew Radovich, TE Jeff Dugan, QB Tarvaris Jackson, FB Ryan D’Imperio and RB Albert Young.
Most of the Vikings starters on defense will rest as well. Jayme Mitchell and Brian Robison will start at DE, Fred Evans and Letroy Guion will each start at DT, Heath Farwell, Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson will start at LB, Asher Allen will start at CB for Antoine Winfield and Colt Anderson will start for Madieu Williams at S.
I’m guessing that Lito Sheppard and Tyrell Johnson will get the starts at CB and S, respectively.
CB Chris Cook and DT Jimmy Kennedy will not dress for the Vikings.
The starter changes for the Broncos are at LG, TE, NT and RCB, so it seems as if many of the Broncos starters will play tonight. That will provide the Vikings starters with a good challenge.
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Tonight’s preseason finale against the Denver Broncos represents a final audition for several players as they hope to make the Vikings 53-man roster. The Vikings began training camp back on July 30 with 80 players and tonight training camp officially comes to an end and the Vikings will trim the roster to 53 players by the end of the day Saturday.
For some, such as DE Jared Allen or RB Adrian Peterson, tonight’s action isn’t so dramatic. But for others, tonight could mean everything. Let’s take a look at a few position battles that are still up in the air…
Offensive Line: All 5 starters from last year will return in 2010, but beyond that the Vikings OL situation is uncertain. Rookie Chris DeGeare has performed well to this point and could be anywhere from the Week 1 starter at RG to the team’s #1 reserve. And what about Ryan Cook? He can play all 5 positions along the line but might have to hold off others, such as Patrick Brown and Drew Radovich, to make the team.
Wide Receiver: Last year’s breakout WR – Sidney Rice – is on the mend with a hip injury and won’t be active until midway through the season, so that opens up another spot on the roster. The Vikings brought in Greg Camarillo and Javon Walker last week to fortify depth, but there are others, such as Logan Payne and Greg Lewis, who are vying for playing time as well. All of these players have a chance tonight to step up and stand out.
Defensive Line: It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Vikings hold onto an extra defensive lineman or 2 given how well the unit has played in training camp and the preseason. Aside from the usual suspects, there have been a few standouts during training camp, including DT Letroy Guion and DE Jayme Mitchell. They’ll have a chance to solidify their positions tonight but others on the depth chart, such as DT Fred Evans and DE Everson Griffen, will try to use tonight as another stepping stone.
Linebacker: They might slide a bit under the radar, but the Vikings LB corps might be the deepest spot on the entire team. The team’s 3 starters are outstanding, and LB coach Fred Pagac has done a great job of shoring up depth behind those starters with players such as Jasper Brinkley, Heath Farwell and Erin Henderson. Given the importance of LBs to the special teams unit, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a couple more LBs (Kenny Onatolu, Nate Triplett) on the final 53-man roster.
Tags: Chris DeGeare, Erin Henderson, Greg Camarillo, Heath Farwell, Jasper Brinkley, Javon Walker, Jayme Mitchell, Letroy Guion, Ryan Cook
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