Vikings 19, Redskins 16

Tuesday, September 12th 2006, 6:14 am
By: News On 6

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) The Washington Redskins had a record crowd waving American flags in prime time, a Hall of Fame coach, a new offense that was supposed to rack up the points and the support of “Mission Impossible” man Tom Cruise in the owner's box.

The Minnesota Vikings had a first time coach, a new running back, a new kicker and an old quarterback.

Think this was an upset?

The Vikings subdued the Redskins' commemorations and celebrations with a 19-16 victory Monday night. Chester Taylor ran for 88 yards and scored a touchdown, Ryan Longwell kicked the game winning field goal to cap a drive engineered by Brad Johnson, and coach Brad Childress' got a game ball to mark a successful start to his transformation of the franchise.

“To win is big, but to not only win, but to win against a team that was in the playoffs last year, in their home environment, Monday night, all the things that go in their favor,” Darren Sharper said.

The Minnesota safety saved a touchdown by knocking the ball out of Santana Moss' hands in the end zone late in the first half.

“That just shows how battle-tested we are,” Sharper added. “That's what coach has expressed to us all camp, he wants a hardened unit.”

Childress might want his team hardened, but he was a bit of a softy after the game. The coach, who has vowed to change the culture of a Vikings team that was belittled following last year's infamous :Love Boat'' party, couldn't help but let his guard down when Johnson presented the game ball.

“I am tremendously humbled and was a little emotional after the game,” Childress said. “I'm just happy for those guys in the locker room. ... They faced a lot of adversity tonight.”

Two days before his 38th birthday, Johnson did what he's been doing throughout his NFL life: win, win and win some more. He has won an impressive 61% (66 of 109) of his starts with four teams in his 15 year career, including two years with the Redskins. He completed 16 of 30 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown Monday, bailing out his team repeatedly by going 10 for 15 on 3rd down.

“That's Brad,” center Matt Birk said. “He's just so smart, and he's obviously crafty to have played in the league this long.”

Before the game, the 90,608 fans; a record for the largest stadium in the NFL, created a sea of fluttering red, white and blue as they remembered the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Even Hollywood made an appearance: Actors Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were guests of owner Dan Snyder, who has recently entered into a partnership with Cruise's production company.

But nothing in the sideshow could help the Redskins. They did have a chance to send the game to overtime after Longwell's kick, but John Hall was wide left with a poorly hit 48 yard field goal attempt with 12 seconds remaining.

“This game is so tough and unpredictable,” Washington guard Randy Thomas said. “We had chances, but didn't take advantage of them.”

Taylor, the Vikings' free agent signing from Baltimore, upstaged Clinton Portis' surprise return for Washington. Portis, who spent the week downplaying his chances for the game because of a shoulder injury, entered the game late during the Redskins' first drive and finished with 39 yards on 10 carries and scored his team's only touchdown.

A game that had no turnovers was decided with a winning Vikings drive that began at Minnesota's 33 with 5:34 remaining. A 13 yard pass to Troy Williamson converted a key 3rd down, and 15 yards were added to the play when Redskins safety Sean Taylor grabbed Williamson's face mask.

From there, Taylor carried 5 straight times to the Washington 13, forcing the Redskins to use all their timeouts before the 31 yard winning kick from Longwell, a free agent signing from Green Bay.

The Vikings became the 10th road team to win in the NFL's opening weekend, and the Chargers were #11 with a win in Oakland later Monday night. It's the most road wins in Week 1 since 1983, when there were 12 victorious visitors.

The Redskins sputtered as they unveiled a new offense designed by assistant coach Al Saunders, whose arrival meant Gibbs wasn't calling plays for the first time in his head coaching career.

“There were some plays, yards and even some touchdowns that we left on the field,” said Mark Brunell, who was 17 for 28 for 163 yards. “How far off we are I'm not quite sure yet, but I do know that we're a throw away, a block away and a run away from really doing some good things tonight.”