The fourth pre-season game of the year was pretty much what you'd expect. . .a fairly entertaining football game played largely by people that we'll be seeing on practice squads and UFL rosters from coast to coast in a couple of weeks. In the end, it was a special teams blunder that cost the Beloved Purple a chance to go 4-0 in the pre-season in a 35-31 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys struck first, as Jon Kitna led his new team on a 12-play, 71-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Ogletree to give Dallas a quick 7-0 lead. After a three-and-out for the Vikings, Kitna proceeded to fumble a center/quarterback exchange, and Letroy Guion jumped on the loose ball at the Dallas 36. Two plays later, Tarvaris Jackson took a snap, rolled to his right, and lofted one downfield for a 36-yard touchdown pass to. . .Jeff Dugan?
Well, it is the pre-season, after all.
That tied things up at 7-7, and the teams exchanged punts. Dallas drove down the field again, and reached the Minnesota 34-yard line.
On a 1st and 20 play for the Cowboys, Brian Robison came steaming around the edge and knocked the ball away from an unsuspecting Kitna. The ball bounced off of a Dallas offensive lineman, and into the arms of Letroy Guion. In his march downfield, Guion had a moment of thinking that he was Adrian Peterson or Chester Taylor, and fumbled the ball without being touched as he tried to swtich hands. (Dude. . .you're a defensive lineman. Let's be serious here.) Fortunately, Kenny Onatolu was trailing the play and jumped on the fumble, and the Vikings set up shop at the 25-yard line. Six plays later. . .all runs. . .Ian Johnson blasted into the end zone to give the Vikings a 14-7 lead.
After the Cowboys went three plays without getting a first down, Mat McBriar punted a line drive to Darius Reynaud. Reynaud broke a tackle, made a couple of nice moves, and before you knew it he was standing in the end zone celebrating an 82-yard punt return and the Vikings were up 21-7, a score they took into the locker room. The Vikings really dominated the first half of football, and looked to be rolling along.
And then the second half started.
On the Vikings' first offensive play of the second half, Rosenfels threw a 25-yard touchdown strike to Patrick Watkins. This is unfortunate, because if you look at Minnesota's roster, you won't see a Patrick Watkins on it. There is, however, a Patrick Watkins on the Cowboys roster. So, you can probably figure out why the Cowboys narrowed the gap from 21-7 to 21-14 at that point. So, on the next offensive series, Rosenfels was replaced by John David Booty. After getting a first down on three straight running plays, Booty decided that he didn't want to feel left out, so he hit Dallas linebacker Steve Octaiven in the chest with a pass. Octavien returned the ball 44 yards for a touchdown, and after being the dominant team in the first half of football, the Vikings found themselves tied with the Cowboys at 21.
Rosenfels came back in, and I'm not sure if Mrs. Gonzo had a rerun of the Benny Hill Show on BBC America in another room, but I'm pretty sure I heard "Yakkety Sax" coming from somewhere.
After a fumble by Cowboys' running back Julius Crosslin, the Rosenfels-led Vikings engineered a six-play, 30-yard drive that culminated in Ian Johnson's second 1-yard touchdown run of the night to take a 28-21 lead, and added a 41-yard Ryan Longwell field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 31-21. That would end the Vikings' scoring for the evening.
Not wanting to just roll over, the Cowboys and quarterback Rudy Carpenter. . .a rookie out of Arizona State that I was fairly impressed with this evening. . .marched 77 yards in 14 plays, ending with a 4-yard TD pass to tight end Scott Chandler to cut Minnesota's lead to 31-28. After the Vikings moved the ball to the Dallas 35-yard line, Chris Kluwe came in to punt.
Kluwe's kick went over the head of Cowboys' return man Willie Reid, and took a Cowboys' bounce. . .right into the hands of Dallas receiver Jesse Holley. As the Vikings inexplicably decided not to down the ball as soon as it started travelling the wrong direction, Holley was able to take the ball on the bounce, slip a tackle, and race 82 yards for the deciding score.
And there you have it. . .the fourth pre-season game of the year, and just eight days separating us from real football. Cutdown day is tomorrow, and the other half of my roster preview is forthcoming, so stay tuned for that. Enjoy the rest of your night, folks!