Notebook: Marcus Sherels atones for turnover, scores Vikings' first TD
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SEATTLE -- Marcus Sherels made the kind of miscue in the first quarter of Saturday's preseason game that could stick in people's heads on cutdown day.
Then, the Minnesota Vikings' young cornerback made the kind of play that could make him difficult to let go.
Sherels' 64-yard interception return provided the Vikings' first touchdown of the preseason, just moments after his fumble on a punt return gave the Seattle Seahawks possession in good field position.
"I felt like I let my team down," Sherels said. "Everyone was just saying, 'Just forget about it and play the next play.' I felt I had to make a play. Got a lucky bounce and happened to score."
Officials originally ruled Sherels was down by contact on the punt return, but replays clearly showed linebacker Matt McCoy raked out the ball first. Aaron Curry recovered at the Vikings' 46-yard line and would have scored had officials not blown the play dead.
"We talk all the time about protecting the ball, and we don't want to turn the ball over," coach Leslie Frazier said. "So, now, is it a detriment to the point where it affects whether you make this squad or not? You've got to put it in context. It's not to that point."
Four plays later, Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson's pass went through Golden Tate's hands on a crossing route and into the hands of Sherels, who raced to the sideline for the Vikings' first score on the way to a 20-7 victory.
"I think me and E.J. (Henderson) funneled (Tate) in," Sherels said. "The ball popped up, and I was there. Got lucky."
Sherels was playing the slot as the third cornerback in the nickel defense along with Chris Cook and rookie Brandon Burton after starters Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin left the game. Asher Allen was inactive because of a toe injury, so Sherels entered the game sixth on the depth chart at cornerback.
A Rochester, Minn., native and former Gopher who joined the team as a rookie free agent last spring, Sherels also made one of the week's best plays in practice, jumping a comeback route against veteran receiver Michael Jenkins for an interception against Donovan McNabb in a 2-minute drill.
"It's really tough," Sherels said of rebounding from the mistake. "You feel like you let everyone down. You've just got to come back, forget about it, play the next play."
It wasn't exactly a productive reunion for Jackson and receiver Sidney Rice.
Jackson finished 11-of-21 passing for 75 yards and completed only two passes to Rice, both on underneath routes during a 2-minute drill late in the first half.
"We've still got a lot of stuff to work on," Rice said. "We hurt ourselves a lot with penalties. We kept moving forward, then taking a couple steps back."
Both players were making their first appearances at CenturyLink Field since leaving the Vikings for Seattle last month.
"Yeah, it was cool," Jackson said of facing his former team, "but it was more about us just trying to get better as an offense. First team, we didn't put any points on the board, as well as last week, so we've got a lot of work to do now."
Jackson only threw in Rice's direction twice earlier in the game -- both on go routes against Cook, who was in good position on the first play and got help from rookie safety Mistral Raymond on the other.
Chants of "Charlie!" were audible when Jackson's backup, Charlie Whitehurst, led a 16-play, 89-yard touchdown drive -- capped by a 3-yard touchdown pass to Aaron McCoy on the first play of the fourth quarter.
"We had some shots there, but I've got to make better throws sometimes," Jackson said. "Just as a whole offense, we've got to get better."
The Vikings' second-string defense picked up right where the first string left off.
Several starters left the game after the opening series, and most of the others were gone by the fourth, when an unnecessary foul by rookie linebacker Ross Homan helped the Seahawks' No. 1 offense launch its best drive.
Jackson scrambled for 8 on third-and-7. Michael Robison spun out of a pile to gain 8 on fourth-and-1. Jackson hit Mike Williams on third-and-5 for a 17-yard gain upheld after a challenge even though Williams appeared to be juggling the ball as he rolled out of bounds.
That gave the Seahawks first-and-goal from the Vikings' 2, but the defense stood tall, stopping Justin Forsett short of the goal line on four consecutive plays.
"It just lets you know that our guys don't feel as if they have to be second to anyone," Frazier said. "They're fighting to make this team, and we really have a mantra that we're going to defend a blade of grass, if that's what it takes for us to win. Those guys went out there and stood up in a big situation and really gave us some momentum in that ballgame."
Seattle ran 39 plays in the first half but totaled only 139 yards (3.6 average), eight first downs and no points. The Vikings repeatedly hit Jackson, too, with Brian Robison delivering the biggest blow on third-and-14 to halt the Seahawks' second drive.
In the fourth quarter, Whitehurst wobbled off the field after taking a big blow to the chest from Vikings linebacker Larry Dean. He returned on the next series.
Emmanuel Arceneaux finally had a chance to make a play in the fourth quarter. It ended up a mess.
Joe Webb had the third-string offense on the move in the fourth quarter when he hit Arceneaux, the former Canadian Football League standout, on a crossing route for a 23-yard gain in the shadow of the goal line. But Seattle safety Josh Pinkard approached from behind and jabbed out the ball at the 2, knocking it through the end zone for a touchback.
Receivers coach George Stewart had an extended talk on the sideline with Arceneaux, whose only other preseason catch went for 3 yards in last week's loss at Tennessee.
Instead, it was Scott Kooistra, who took the lion's share of first-team reps in practice during the week after playing tackle in the opener at Tennessee.
"We just wanted to be able to take a look at him," Frazier said. "We felt like we had taken a real good look at Cook and of course DeGeare, and as we talked about it more later on Thursday, just made a decision, 'Let's give Scott a chance and just see how he'll perform.' Looking forward to watching the tape and see how he did."
Cook worked at right guard with the second team alongside DeGeare, who played right tackle. Cook stayed in the game with the third unit, too.
Asked if DeGeare's move is permanent, Frazier said, "No, no. That's something we took a look at this week and just trying to find guys who can give us some position flexibility, and he may be one of those guys. He could easily be taking reps this week at guard."
Linebacker Mark Washington spent a minute or so on the ground following the second half's opening kickoff.
"We'll find out more, but it's something with his shoulder," Frazier said.
Burton and Homan were shaken up on tackles in the first half.
"Brandon's fine," Frazier said. "Ross, I've got to learn more about his injury."
The Vikings scratched 10 players before the game: receiver Percy Harvin (ribs), linebacker Kenny Onatolu (foot), linebacker Heath Farwell (hamstring), tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring), guard Anthony Herrera (knee/triceps), receiver Greg Camarillo (groin), Asher Allen, defensive back Simeon Castille (hamstring), fullback Matt Asiata (hip flexor) and end D'Aundre Reed (calf).
• Griffin played the opening series -- five snaps -- in his first game action since suffering his second major knee injury in nine months on Oct. 11. Jackson threw at him on the first play and the pass for Tate up the seam was incomplete. "A lot of it had to do with how he felt," Frazier said. "We talked with him throughout the week, we were monitoring his progress throughout the week, and once we finished practice on Thursday and he felt comfortable, we wanted to give him a chance to get his feet wet, and we'll give him a little bit more in this next ballgame as well."