Final

Cardinals 6

(0-1, 0-1 away)

Vikings 23

(1-0, 1-0 home)

8:00 PM ET, August 14, 2004

 

1 2 3 4 T
ARI 3 0 3 06
MIN 0 13 7 323

Fitzgerald sprains left ankle

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Dennis Green has a long way to go to turn around one of the NFL's worst teams. And that's after he gets his players healthy.

Green's return to Minnesota -- and to coaching -- was marred by penalties and a flat offense, and the Vikings beat the Cardinals 23-6 in an exhibition game Saturday night.

To make matters worse, another one of his receivers was injured. Star rookie Larry Fitzgerald, the No. 3 pick in this year's draft, sprained his left ankle in the first half. It appeared to be a mild injury, but Fitzgerald was walking with a protective boot in the locker room. Neither he nor Green had much of a prognosis.

X-rays were negative.

"I think I'll be all right," he said. "I've never been injured before."

Green already is without his other top receivers, Anquan Boldin and Bryant Johnson. So it'll be hard enough for him to get the offense in sync, let alone turn the Cardinals into a contender.

"I just think we are not there yet with the firepower we need to make this offense go," Green said.

Green coached his first NFL game since the Vikings, the team he led for 10 seasons, fired him in 2001. After spending the last two years as a television analyst, Green was handed the task of turning around one of the league's worst teams.

He has a lot of work ahead of him.

The Cardinals were flagged nine times for 72 yards. Starting quarterback Josh McCown went 4-for-6 for 29 yards in limited action. Green also limited running back Emmitt Smith, who sustained a mild injury.

Fabian Davis led Arizona's receivers with 32 yards on one catch, and rookie Larry Croom had 37 yards on eight rushes. Arizona's points came on two field goals by Neil Rackers.

"Our defense was very average and the offense was not very good at all," Green said.

Minnesota had seven sacks, but the Vikings' offense wasn't that impressive, managing only a couple of decent drives.

Minnesota's league-best offense in 2003 got off slowly before Daunte Culpepper hit Randy Moss for a 48-yard score to start the second quarter. Culpepper (8-for-10 for 120 yards, a touchdown and one interception) started the drive with a 16-yard completion to Nate Burleson and followed with a 15-yarder to tight end Jermaine Wiggins, acquired in the offseason to bolster Minnesota's passing game.

Moss easily burned Duane Starks and eluded Quentin Harris to put the Vikings up 7-3. Culpepper promptly went to the sideline and was done for the night.

Rookie running back Mewelde Moore scored on a 39-yard run in the third period to give the Vikings a 20-6 lead. Aaron Elling, a second-year placekicker who's struggled recently in training camp, hit two of three field goals, missing from 51 yards.

Rookie Dan Orner hit a 46-yarder in the fourth quarter.

"We showed our explosiveness on offense," Vikings coach Mike Tice said. "It took a while to get going. We missed some things by inches."

Minnesota had 103 yards rushing. Moore led the team with 52 yards on the ground.

"We have a lot to work on, but that's the great thing about this time of the year," said center Cory Withrow, who started in place of injured Matt Birk.

Arizona kept Minnesota from scoring on its first possession when Culpepper threw deep for Moss in triple coverage. With the ball sailing toward the end zone, Starks tipped it from Moss and Harris came down with it.

It was a rare Arizona highlight.

"I've been concerned that the offense hasn't caught up with the defense," Green said.

Green wasn't the only one making a homecoming. Fitzgerald, the No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft, worked for the Vikings as a ball boy and starred in high school in the suburb of Richfield.

Smith, 35, is being counted on as Arizona's featured running back after Marcel Shipp broke his left leg during an intrasquad scrimmage. Smith, the NFL's career rushing leader, ran for 22 yards on four carries and had one catch for 10 yards.

Shaun King went 8-for-15 for 64 yards and rookie John Navarre was 6-for-7 for 76 yards for Arizona.

Game notes


Vikings LB Mike Nattiel (shoulder) and CB Brian Williams (knee) were both injured. Tice said they'll be re-evaluated Sunday, but said he expects both to miss at least a week. ... Also injured for Arizona were FB James Hodgins (shoulder), and DEs Fred Wakefield (concussion) and Kenny King (wrist).

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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