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Vikings Defense Rattles McNair, Ravens

August 26, 2006

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Fred Smoot’s reaction was much faster than Steve McNair’s release.

Smoot highlighted a big night by Minnesota’s defense with a 69-yard interception return for a touchdown as the Vikings blanked Baltimore’s first team offense and beat the Ravens 30-7 on Friday.

McNair, Baltimore’s new quarterback, gave another efficient performance (13-for-17 for 80 yards) but showed his age a bit in the pocket.

He took two sacks, by Pat Williams and Kenechi Udeze.

And a slow throwing motion on his second-quarter throw toward the sideline to Mark Clayton made it possible for Smoot to jump the out route and sprint untouched for six points. Smoot cocked his right arm, with ball in hand against his helmet, struck a Heisman pose with his left arm for the final 20 yards and finally bowled the ball through the end zone in an elaborate exhibition-game celebration.

The Vikings certainly had reason to praise their defense. Both teams’ first units played until halftime, and the Ravens gained only 86 yards while falling behind 10-0. Mike Anderson and Musa Smith managed 7 yards rushing apiece with Jamal Lewis resting a strained hip flexor muscle. Perennial Pro Bowl tackle Jonathan Ogden returned to action after missing most of training camp following his father’s death.

``It wasn’t about them. It was more about us,″ McNair said. ``I think we made too many mental mistakes for the third game.″

Minnesota’s Chester Taylor couldn’t find running room for the third time this preseason, carrying 10 times for 27 yards against his old team. He’s averaging 2.8 yards per rush.

Brad Johnson went 9-for-15 for 95 yards, with three completions for 43 yards to Troy Williamson, but Baltimore’s defense was stingy as usual and yielded only a 45-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell _ who made three of his four three-point kicks.

Jason Carter, also a punt returner who is fighting for one of the last receiver spots on the roster, was the only offensive star for the Vikings. He caught two passes for 107 yards, including a 77-yard score from rookie Tarvaris Jackson in the fourth quarter to make it 20-7.

Wendell Mathis rushed 10 times for 41 yards, taking advantage of some extra snaps in a thin Minnesota backfield. Ciatrick Fason hurt his left shoulder in the first quarter and didn’t return, and Mewelde Moore missed his second straight game because of a knee injury.

McNair has completed 31 of his 40 preseason passes, and this was his first interception. Acquired in a trade with Tennessee this summer, the oft-injured, three-time Pro Bowl pick is trying to give the Ravens the stability they’ve lacked at quarterback for years.

Kyle Boller, who he replaced, went 9-for-15 for 105 yards with second-stringers. He guided an eight-play, 77-yard drive in the third quarter _ topping it off with a 1-yard scamper for a touchdown by sneaking the ball with his left hand just inside the pylon.

Third quarterback Brian St. Pierre struggled, throwing an interception to Willie Offord and fumbling on a hit by Ray Edwards. The ball was scooped up by Khreem Smith and returned 29 yards for a touchdown with 1:30 remaining.

Smoot hurt his left shoulder trying to make a tackle in the second quarter and didn’t return.

This was Baltimore coach Brian Billick’s first game back in Minnesota since leaving after the 1998 season. He was the Vikings’ offensive coordinator from 1993 until then.

This wasn’t what he was looking for from the Ravens.

``We were not playing with a lot of passion or physicality,″ Billick said. ``We’ll have a lot we can coach from with the way we played.″

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