A first-year starter and a first-time backup rescued the mistake-prone Minnesota Vikings last night.
Jeff George outplayed starting quarterback Randall Cunningham again before injuring his left knee, and second-year cornerback Ramos McDonald returned a fumble 59 yards for a touchdown as the Vikings edged the Philadelphia Eagles, 17-13.
The Vikings narrowly avoided their third straight embarrassment at the Metrodome, following last year's loss to Atlanta in the NFC title game and a sluggish loss to the New York Giants two weeks ago.
For the third straight preseason game, Minnesota fumbled four times. It had five sacks and even place kicker Gary Anderson was off, missing short from 44 and 47 yards on the night he received an award for his perfect 1998 season.
"If we don't get things going, it's going to be a struggle," frustrated wide receiver Randy Moss said. "The expectations are so high, we have to have the attitude that we are ready to play. There was a lot of lackadaisical atmosphere out there."
In his first game against his original team, Cunningham was sacked four times and had three fumbles and no touchdowns, then watched George complete 9 of 13 for 152 yards.
George, who delivered a nine-yard strike to Carlester Crumpler for a 17-3 third-quarter lead, left with 11 minutes remaining after twisting his left knee, the same one he sprained three weeks ago, in a pileup. "I'm okay," said George, a 10-year starter in the NFL who signed a $400,000 contract to revive his career in Minnesota. "I'm not the scrambler, I couldn't get out of there fast enough. But I iced it down and walked around. I won't even miss practice tomorrow."
In three preseason games, George is 24 for 29 for 348 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
JAGUARS 31, CHIEFS 6: Tailback Fred Taylor ran for touchdowns of 16 and 86 yards to lift host Jacksonville.
The revamped Jaguars (2-1) had a solid defensive game as well, playing 3 1/2 quarters of shutout ball before giving up a late touchdown.
The Chiefs (1-2) played their first-unit offense into the third quarter, but neither Kimble Anders nor Bam Morris, the two backs competing for the starting job, had much luck in new coach Gunther Cunningham's offense.
"Jacksonville threw every blitz they had at us," Cunningham said. "You can't prepare a team for that type of blitzing with just two days of practice. They hadn't blitzed that much in the first two games. I guess they took it out on us."