Notebook: Garrett Mills shines as Vikings roll over Rams
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
ST. LOUIS -- Garrett Mills has tantalized the Minnesota Vikings for years as a pass-catching tight end, hanging on the roster despite playing nine games over three seasons.
He gave coaches another reason to keep giving him chances on Saturday night.
Mills torched the St. Louis Rams' second-string defense, beating linebacker Chris Chamberlain for a 65-yard touchdown up the seam from Sage Rosenfels and racking up four catches for 106 yards in the first half of a 28-7 Vikings rout.
"It's just all about taking advantage of the opportunities," Mills said. "When the ball's in the air to you, it's our job to catch it."
The performance followed a quiet training camp for Mills, 26, who has battled the drops and remains buried fourth on the depth chart.
The touchdown -- like Marko Mitchell's later -- appeared to be the result of blown coverage as the Rams sent a series of heavy blitzes.
"There was nobody out there," Mills said. "Caught the ball and then they were chasing me."
Starting tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who is battling an unrevealed injury, didn't even make the trip to St. Louis with his teammates on Friday.
That pushed Jimmy Kleinsasser into the starting lineup and provided extra opportunities for Jeff Dugan, Mills and Mickey Shuler, who capped the scoring with a 2-yard touchdown on a fade from fellow rookie Joe Webb with 6 minutes, 49 seconds to go.
"Garrett's a pass-catching tight end and got great skill versus man-to-man or versus zone," Rosenfels said. "I just had to find him, and he did a great job getting open, as did a lot of guys."
Mills wasn't perfect. He had a false start early and a holding penalty on the first drive of the second half.
"I've battled injuries the first three years of my career," Mills said. "It's nice to feel healthy, but there's a lot of room to get better."
On a night the run game struggled badly, Toby Gerhart managed to turn in the most promising play of his young NFL career.
The rookie second-round pick took a zone-left run for 22 yards late in the first quarter -- finally showing the balance and ability to slip tackles that wasn't seen in training camp.
Neither back got much help from the first- or second-string lines, which combined for four of the Vikings' seven first-half penalties. Tossing out Gerhart's long run, he and Young combined for minus-5 yards on 13 carries.
"You've got to block them all the time," Childress said. "They were committing an awful lot of people to run, and when you commit like that, you're supposed to be on the edge."
Receiver Greg Lewis landed awkwardly on the Vikings' first offensive series and did not return. He later was spotted on the sideline with a bag of ice on his right knee.
However, Childress said the plan always was to pull Lewis after one series.
All signs pointed to middle linebacker E.J. Henderson playing in a game for the first time since last December -- until the game began.
Henderson stretched with teammates, emerged in full pads just before kickoff and served as one of four captains for the opening coin toss. But he was wearing a visor minutes later, when the first-team offense took the field with Jasper Brinkley in the middle.
There had been some question on Henderson, especially because of the artificial turf at the Edward Jones Dome. For a player coming off a significant leg injury, that risk apparently was too much.
Childress and Henderson indicated the plan is for Henderson to make his debut on a natural surface next week at San Francisco.
"He's been in the live, full-scrimmage stuff," Childress said. "We really want to see Jasper, and we saw Erin Henderson play inside at the mike. So, we kind want to give those guys some extended snaps and get (E.J. Henderson) playing more next week."
In addition to Shiancoe, six other players didn't make the trip: quarterback Brett Favre, receivers Percy Harvin (migraines) and Sidney Rice (hip), cornerback Cedric Griffin (knee reconstruction), linebacker J Leman (turf toe) and center John Sullivan (calf).
Jon Cooper started for Sullivan, Lewis for Harvin, Jimmy Kleinsasser for Shiancoe and Lito Sheppard for Asher Allen, who appeared atop the depth chart but has gotten fewer reps throughout camp. Rice and Griffin remain on the active/physically unable to perform list and thus are at the bottom of the depth chart.
• Childress said he had no update on Favre or Harvin. "I didn't have a vision before the game or at halftime, and I'm talking to you guys now," Childress said of Favre, who had his surgically repaired ankle examined on Thursday. So, there's nothing striking me. Nothing's changed."
• Scratched for the Rams were: K Josh Brown, WR Brandon Gibson, CB Justin King, CB Bradley Fletcher, G Jacob Bell, G John Greco, DE Eugene Sims, DE James Hall and DE C.J. Ah You. The Rams signed K Shaun Suisham to take Brown's place.
• As planned, Ryan Longwell handled all kicking duties in the first half but didn't get a field-goal attempt, nor did Rhys Lloyd. Both kickers hit a pair of extra-point tries and neither recorded a touchback.