The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

August 18, 2013

Vikings, Ponder struggle on offense again

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — With no Adrian Peterson to worry about, Jerry Hughes and the Buffalo Bills' defense thoroughly stymied Christian Ponder and the Minnesota Vikings in 20-16 preseason victory Friday night.

Hughes had two sacks and forced a fumble, and backup linebacker Jamie Blatnick recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. Hughes was starting in place of defensive end Mario Williams, who was held out after complaining of soreness following practice Wednesday.

Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel then took over in the second half to seal the win in continuing to inch his way toward securing the starting job after veteran Kevin Kolb struggled in the first half. Greeted by cheers as he took the field, Manuel hit all six attempts, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to Brad Smith, to cap a 14-play, 80-yard second-half opening drive.

The first-round draft pick out of Florida State was 10 of 12 for 92 yards in three series.

The Bills improved to 2-0 in the preseason under new coach Doug Marrone, following a 44-20 win at Indianapolis on Sunday. They've combined to score 62 points in two games, which is five more than they managed in four preseason games last year under Chan Gailey.

The Vikings (0-2) again sputtered on offense without their top threat, Peterson, who continues to be rested through the preseason.

Starter Christian Ponder went 5 of 12 for 53 yards passing through five series. Backup Matt Cassel wasn't much better in a first half in which the Vikings combined for 74 yards of offense and four first downs.

Cassel finished 4 of 8 for 29 yards passing over four series spanning halftime.

The Vikings made the score respectable with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter behind third-string quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Running back Joe Banyard scored on a 1-yard plunge, and Bethel-Thompson hit Rodney Smith with a 35-yard touchdown pass with 4:36 left.

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