MINNEAPOLIS (Aug. 26, 2005) -- Coach Mike Tice said earlier this week that he was "baffled" by the Minnesota Vikings' kicking situation because both Paul Edinger and Aaron Elling have been so good in the preseason.
Thanks to Edinger's strong performance against San Diego and an injury to Elling, a tough decision may have become much easier.
Edinger made four field goals, including a 50-yarder, in the Vikings' 19-16 exhibition victory over the Chargers.
"Our kicker kicked the ball extremely well," Tice said. "He had an excellent night."
But Tice was not prepared to declare a winner. When asked if Edinger had moved ahead of Elling, Tice would only say, "our kicker tonight kicked well."
Edinger, signed as a free agent after a disappointing season with Chicago, got his chance after Elling hurt his right hip during warmups.
"I got the opportunity to take every kick, and I'm happy with my performance," Edinger said.
The Chargers got a scare in the first quarter when first-round draft
"I got tripped up and got my knee driven straight into the ground," Merriman said. "I'm feeling pretty good now. They just didn't want to risk it. I actually asked to go out in the second half and play."
Daunte Culpepper continued his stellar preseason, going 12-for-14 for 197 yards, but failed to lead the Vikings to a touchdown in just over 1½ quarters.
Edinger provided most of the scoring. His 50-yarder in the second quarter easily sailed through the uprights, and he added field goals of 25, 30 and 20 yards.
|Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper had another solid exhibition game.|
"All (the field goals) felt good," Edinger said. "The short ones feel just as good as the long ones. The kickoffs are really what I was happy about."
Chargers rookie Darren Sproles negated two of those strong kickoffs with nifty returns. The speedy fourth-round pick zigzagged his way to a 32-yard return in the first quarter, then ripped off a 42-yarder in the second quarter after spinning out of a tackle to gain 10 more yards.
"I fully expect that we'll find a way to get him the ball, and not only in the kicking game," Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said.
Schottenheimer played his starters sparingly in the team's second game this week.
LaDainian Tomlinson did not play and neither did All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates, who sat out the first of a three-game suspension that includes the season-opener against Dallas for missing a team-imposed deadline to report to training camp on time.
"It was good to go down and get points on the first drive, and then most of us came out of the game after that," Brees said.
Brees' backup, Philip Rivers, was unimpressive, completing 4 of his 15 passes for 15 yards. Third-stringer Cleo Lemon was 14-of-19 for 136 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown to Carl Morris in the fourth period.
Tice got his first look at a revamped offensive line, and it showed mixed results.
Four-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk said
he will have surgery on his injured left hip, which likely will keep him
out for the season. That moved backup Cory Withrow
to starter at center, and Tice moved starting right guard Adam Goldberg to the primary backup at center and both guard spots, Chris Liwienski from right guard to left guard and inserted rookie
The new-look line yielded only one sack, but also opened up few holes in the running game for Mewelde Moore, who started in place of the injured Michael Bennett. Moore had six carries for 21 yards before leaving in the second quarter with a sprained ankle.
"I thought our offensive front played pretty well," Tice said. "They needed to get some work together."
Adimchinobe Echemandu scored the Vikings' only touchdown of the game, a 1-yard plunge at the end of the second quarter.
- The Vikings held a moment of silence for 49ers lineman Thomas Herrion, who died after the Niners game against Denver last week.
- CB Fred Smoot made his first start as a Viking after missing the first two games with a strained neck.
- Tice said he was concerned about Moore's injury because it is the same ankle he hurt last season.
- The Chargers had 13 penalties for 122 yards. "With all due credit to them, when you commit 13 fouls, you're going to come out on the short end of the stick in most cases," Schottenheimer said.