Pelissero: Rosenfels, Webb steal show in game that means next to nothing
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ST. LOUIS -- Not even the debut of their $50 million quarterback could pack St. Louis Rams fans into the Edward Jones Dome on Saturday night.
Maybe it was the Cardinals-Cubs tilt down the street at Busch Stadium. Or maybe it was the knowledge that the Minnesota Vikings' junior varsity was going to play the entire game on offense and all but six snaps on defense.
No. 1 draft pick Sam Bradford did draw a roar from the alleged crowd of 40,801 as he took the field for the first time with 12 minutes, 13 seconds left in the second quarter. But it was the Vikings' backup quarterbacks who stole this show -- albeit against an anemic defense and in an exhibition opener that featured cameos by the starters who played at all.
Sage Rosenfels exploited blown coverages again and again while shredding the Rams' reserves for 310 yards, three touchdowns and a 125.9 passer rating. And scuffling Joe Webb got in on the act, too, hitting fellow rookie Mickey Shuler for a late touchdown that put away an often-sloppy 28-7 triumph.
"It's kind of wild," Rosenfels said. "I haven't been out there in real, live action -- and a lot of guys did a lot of good things."
Rosenfels entered camp with virtually no chance of unseating Tarvaris Jackson as the top quarterback behind Brett Favre. While Saturday's performance probably won't change that, Rosenfels did take advantage of probably his best opportunity to showcase himself for a trade if and when Favre rejoins the team.
"It's live bullets out there, so you better take it seriously," Rosenfels said. "But yeah, I knew I was going to play a lot (Saturday) and so mentally, I was sort of going into the game thinking -- think like it's a football game."
There were long stretches that didn't look like that at all, as the Vikings played without their starting quarterback, halfback, tight end, center and top two receivers.
Jackson and the starting offense managed 12 yards and one first down on six plays. The Vikings defense got off the field in six plays, too, and everyone but safety Tyrell Johnson, cornerback Lito Sheppard and middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley was done for the day.
What followed was a night on which No. 4 tight end Garrett Mills looked like a world beater, reserve end Jayme Mitchell single-handedly squashed one drive and Rosenfels turned in a highly efficient effort with backup offensive linemen all around him seemingly gunning for the waiver wire.
Backup left tackle Chris Clark was the worst offender, racking up four penalties -- two for holding, two false starts -- and getting whipped for a drive-stopping sack by George Selvie.
The penalties -- officials walked off 10 for 75 yards against the Vikings -- contributed to some lively exchanges on the sideline between Rosenfels and Childress, who both downplayed their conversations after the game.
"You can't be responsible for all the penalties," Rosenfels said, "but you are responsible for, I guess, the demeanor of the team and the way goes get up to the ball and get the thing going. That's all we were talking about."
The Rams led only once, after Husain Abdullah's missed tackle allowed Danny Amendola to take a punt return 93 yards for a touchdown and at 1:29 of the first. Minutes later, Amendola bobbled a punt, Chris Cook knocked the ball from his hands and Kenny Onatolu recovered, setting up a 2-yard touchdown strike from Rosenfels to Logan Payne.
The Vikings extended their lead thanks to two long plays against blown coverages -- a 65-yard touchdown to Mills and a 71-yard touch-and-run score for Marko Mitchell -- and Webb led a 13-play, 63-yard touchdown drive to seal the decision in the fourth quarter.
"You can see his athleticism," Childress said of Webb. "He's got a good command of the football. He just needs to grow in our system."
Bradford finished 4-for-10 passing, took two sacks -- two of them by Jayme Mitchell, who got him on consecutive plays and batted down a pass in the same series -- and didn't come close to putting points on the board.
"Letroy has had a hell of a camp, and he continues to play at a high level inside," Childress said. "He's grown. Jayme could always bring it off the edge -- you just want to be able to consistently do that."
Now the Vikings return to their Eden Prairie headquarters, camp finished and the preseason set to roll on Aug. 22 in San Francisco.
Whether they'll put something on the field to excite observers -- or, more important, finally get some quality work with their real No. 1 offense -- remains to be seen.