After taking a 10-9 lead with less than two minutes remaining in the game, the Vikings watched as the Chargers methodically moved their way into field goal position. As time expired, backup kicker Nick Novak nailed his second field goal of the night – fourth on the game for the Chargers – to seal the low-scoring victory.
What really killed the Vikings, however, were the four turnovers that they committed throughout the game. Starting quarterback Christian Ponder threw an unnecessary interception to Chargers’ cornerback De’Andre Presley. The Vikings also fumbled three times, with running backs Matt Asiata, Derrick Coleman and Lex Hilliard all giving away one each.
To top it all off, the Vikings suffered four injuries in the secondary throughout the contest. Cornerback Marcus Sherels and safety Andrew Sendejo both sprained their ankles. Rookie cornerback Josh Robinson suffered a concussion, which appears to be mild. Safety and special teamer Eric Frampton injured his groin. Starting strong safety Mistral Raymond was also struggling to bend his lower back during pregame warm ups and sat out. Considered their weakest positional group heading into the 2012 offseason, the secondary isn’t getting any better with so many injuries piling up.
Despite all of the setbacks, it was promising to see the Vikings keep up with the Chargers in their third preseason game. They limited the San Diego offense to only 202 offensive yards while picking up 290 of their own. They racked up six sacks and forced the Chargers into kicking three of their four field goals from 45 yards or longer.
There were several Vikings players who stood out on Friday night. Asiata bounced back from his fumble to pick up 48 rushing yards on nine carries and scored Minnesota’s only touchdown on a one-yard pass from Sage Rosenfels. Starting wide receiver Percy Harvin hauled in a 40-yard bomb from Ponder for the biggest gain of the night for the Vikings. Defensive end Jared Allen and middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley both notched two sacks on the game. Rookie wide receiver Jarius Wright showed a spark in the punt return game, taking one back 24 yards near the end of the first half.
Oh, and punter Chris Kluwe showed up with a coffin corner kick in the second quarter, but that’s to be expected.
The Vikings held their own against one of the AFC’s top teams in their regular season dress rehearsal. It was a field goal fest, but it’s promising to see that they didn’t get creamed like so many expected.