SEATTLE (AP) — Donovan McNabb only needed one good drive to see progress from his first preseason start with Minnesota.
There was no progress for Tarvaris Jackson. Only more questions about Seattle’s remodeled offense.
Reserve cornerback Marcus Sherels returned Jackson’s deflected pass 64 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, and Ryan Longwell added two field goals to help the Vikings beat the Seahawks 20-7 on Saturday night.
Tristan Davis provided the capper with a 35-yard touchdown run with 2:09 left for the Vikings’ first offensive touchdown of the preseason.
“For me being in a new offense and being around new guys, that was kind of something I tried to go into each practice getting comfortable with one another, those guys getting comfortable with me and out here in game situations, and put points on the board,” McNabb said.
McNabb led a 13-play drive that started at the 1 and ended in the first of Longwell’s two field goals. Rookie QB Christian Ponder played nearly two full quarters, first stepping in against most of Seattle’s starting defense and leading the Vikings to points.
And the Minnesota defense made things miserable for Jackson during his half under center for the Seahawks.
“We seemed to be composed and really seemed to have a handle on what we wanted to accomplish,” Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said. “We went into this game and we wanted to be able to establish an identity upfront with our offensive line, along with our defensive line and I really thought we got into a rhythm with our first unit and that was encouraging to see.”
McNabb looked sharp once he got some extended time on the field. He got all of three plays for the first 16 minutes, getting sacked by Raheem Brock on his second snap and connecting with Adrian Peterson on a short completion.
McNabb finally saw the field again starting at the 1 early in the second quarter. McNabb hit his next three passes, including throws of 17 yards to rookie tight end Kyle Rudolph and a 23-yard swing pass to Jim Kleinsasser. Later in the drive, McNabb’s 21-yard pass to new wide receiver Michael Jenkins got the Vikings inside the 25. Eventually, the Vikings had to settle for the first of Longwell’s two field goals.
McNabb finished 6 of 8 for 81 yards and the one sack. He missed on his final pass when Rudolph was matched up in single coverage against undrafted rookie safety Jeron Johnson and McNabb led Rudolph too far on the throw, missing a potential touchdown.
“That was big for us obviously with tough field position and to be able to sustain a drive and get down in our red area and have an opportunity to score,” McNabb said. “But again we have to capitalize on that.”
Ponder entered midway through the second quarter and got tested against the bulk of Seattle’s starting defense. Ponder went just 1 of 4 on his initial drive, but was helped by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to Seattle’s Aaron Curry, who ripped off Ryan Cook’s helmet and flung it toward the Vikings’ sideline. Longwell eventually connected on a 36-yard field goal and a 13-0 Vikings lead at halftime.
After spending five seasons in Minnesota — the last two as a reserve to Brett Favre — Jackson signed a two-year deal to become the starter in Seattle in part because of his familiarity with new Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Jackson was then able to help lure Sidney Rice from Minnesota to the West Coast.
But the former Vikings weren’t able to show off much against their former club. Jackson finished 11 of 21 for 75 yards and an interception, getting harassed throughout the first half by an offensive line that failed to provide adequate protection. Rice caught just two passes for 11 yards. And Seattle’s first-team offense managed only 139 total yards despite running 39 plays in the first half.
“Yeah we had some miscues out there but that’s what the preseason is for. Trying to get it better soon as possible,” Jackson said. “You’re not trying to wait until the last minute to try and get it right but the whole offense’s got some work to do and that’s what we’re going to go back to practice and try to get better.”
Jackson was running for safety for most of the first half after Seattle’s remodeled and young offensive line struggled. It was ominous from the start as Jackson was forced to avoid Jared Allen coming unblocked on Seattle’s first offensive series.
And when Seattle did threaten to score early in the second quarter, that same offensive line couldn’t create any holes. The Seahawks had first and goal at the 2 and Justin Forsett was stopped four times — three times from the 1 — against the Vikings reserve defensive line.
“The first-team we didn’t put any points on the board last week as well as this week. We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Jackson said.
While Jackson struggled, Charlie Whitehurst entered in the third quarter and was impressive for the second straight week. Whitehurst was nearly perfect, hitting his first seven passes and 10 of 11, the final one a 3-yard TD toss to Anthony McCoy on the first play of the fourth quarter. There were chants of “Charlie! Charlie!” coming from the Seahawks fans, but Seattle coach Pete Carroll has made it quite clear that Jackson will be the starter in Week 1 at San Francisco.
Whitehurst was 14 of 19 for 97 yards.
Asked if he’d at all consider reopening the quarterback competition Carroll said, “I’m not in that mindset at all.”
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