NFL EXHIBITION Vikings' reserves halt 49ers, 23-10
It was the third straight exhibition loss for San Francisco.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- With their starters playing into the second half, the Minnesota Vikings looked as if they would easily overmatch the depleted San Francisco 49ers.
But, it took the Vikings' reserves to seal the win and deal the 49ers their third straight exhibition loss.
Daunte Culpepper went 20-for-27 for 204 yards and a touchdown, and Minnesota overcame it struggles to finish off drives, beating the 49ers 23-10 in a preseason game Friday night.
The Vikings outgained San Francisco 326-61 in total yards in the first half and took a 16-0 lead into halftime before allowing the 49ers to slowly close the gap. Another problem was Minnesota's kicking game: Aaron Elling missed two field goals and an extra point.
Mike Tice's plan to play his starters through the first series of the third quarter failed to pay off in points and proved costly.
Running back Michael Bennett and left tackle Bryant McKinnie sprained their right knees on the first unit's only series of the third quarter. Both were hurt on a 10-yard rush that was called back because of a penalty and each walked off the field.
Vikings dominated early.
After rookie Mewelde Moore returned the opening kickoff 43 yards, Culpepper completed three passes totaling 46 yards to Nate Burleson. The final one, a 17-yarder that Burleson caught in the corner of the end zone, put the Vikings up 7-0 two minutes in. Burleson finished with five catches for 89 yards.
On their next possession, Culpepper again shredded San Francisco's secondary, throwing for 55 yards, including a 26-yard TD to Kelly Campbell -- Elling missed the extra point attempt.
Minnesota's 16-0 halftime lead could've been bigger, but Randy Moss killed one drive when he fumbled deep in San Francisco territory, an offensive holding penalty did in another, and Elling missed a 44-yard field goal attempt to close the half.
Elling, who added a 35-yard field goal in the second quarter, also missed from 32 yards in the third quarter, drawing boos from the crowd.
49ers offense struggles
The 49ers struggled on offense throughout.
Tim Rattay, projected to be this season's starter in place of the departed Jeff Garcia, saw his first preseason action after missing most of training camp with a sore forearm. Rattay was 7-for-10 for 51 yards, and went three-and-out on three of his four series.
The Niners managed just 9 yards total offense in the first quarter. Minnesota had 175.
But they finally broke through, thanks in part to an 18-yard punt by Minnesota's Darren Bennett in the third quarter. The punt took about a 14-yard bounce to put San Francisco on Minnesota's 46.
Jamal Robertson broke for a 40-yard gain up the right side. On the next play, Robertson drove up the middle and cut back to the left for a 6-yard score, and the Niners pulled to 16-7 with 10 minutes left in the quarter.
Early in the fourth, Cody Pickett's 10-yard TD pass to Aaron Walker was nullified by a holding penalty on Alonzo Cunningham. The score would've made it 16-13, but the Niners instead settled for a 43-yard field goal by rookie Kirk Yliniemi to make it 16-10 with 11:39 to play.
Minnesota sealed the win on Larry Ned's 24-yard TD run at the 3:38 mark. The Vikings finished with 220 total yards rushing; Michael Bennett led the way with 11 carries for 91 yards.