Randall Cunningham was back, with spunk and savvy and a glimpse of his old skills.
Out of football for a year, Cunningham made a successful return Saturday by completing 10 of 14 passes for 102 yards to lead the Minnesota Vikings to a 28-26 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the annual Hall of Fame exhibition game.
Even though starter Brad Johnson was 6 for 8 for 82 yards and a touchdown in a sharp first-quarter appearance, there was already talk of controversy.
“I’m not looking over my shoulder,” said Johnson, who used to backup Warren Moon. “It’s the media looking over my shoulder. That’s a big difference.”
Cunningham seemed satisfied with his role.
“If it’s being a backup, fine,” said Cunningham, who temporarily retired last summer after 11 years in Philadelphia. “Then I’ll be the best backup in the league.”
The game wasn’t sealed until Moe Williams caught a 65-yard touchdown pass from third-stringer Jay Walker in the fourth quarter. After the drive started at the 2, Williams caught a short pass over the middle and scampered free after a thunderous block by Yo Murphy to give the Vikings a 28-19 lead.
The play came after former Barcelona Dragons quarterback Jon Kitna led the Seahawks back from an 18-point deficit to pull within 21-19.
Former Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta, battling Kitna for Seattle’s third-string job, threw an 8-yard TD pass to Tyree Davis with 40 seconds to play. The extra point again made it a two-point margin, but the Vikings recovered Seattle’s on-side kick and ran out the clock.
“It’s going to take some time with all of the new people - and two of them aren’t even out there yet,” Seahawks coach Dennis Erickson said, referring to unsigned draft picks and holdouts Shawn Springs and Walter Jones. “We’ve only practiced 10 days, so we’ve got a lot of time.”
The game was played a couple of hours after the NFL’s winningest coach, Don Shula, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame across the street. Shula was joined by Mike Haynes, Mike Webster and Wellington Mara as this year’s inductees.
Though tentative on a couple of runs, Cunningham showed some of his old flare - shooting his fingers toward the sky after the first touchdown pass of his comeback and slapping his hands in disgust when he missed a receiver. He was 8 for 9 for 90 yards and a TD pass in the second quarter to lead the Vikings to a 14-3 halftime advantage.
“In the past, if we lost a game I was hard on myself,” Cunningham said. “I would say, ‘I should have won that game.’ I was feeling more for myself. But now I know that these guys, if I don’t play well, they can still pull a game out.”
Moon, the former Vikings quarterback who signed with Seattle to back up John Friesz, played only the second quarter and was 3 for 7 for 25 yards. He left at halftime because he heard his 16-year-old son was hospitalized following a car accident.
Torretta was 10 for 16 for 102 yards and a touchdown, all in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings started the third quarter with a defensive touchdown. Ben Hanks slammed Kitna, jarring the ball loose. James Manley, a 6-foot-2, 316-pound tackle, scooped it up and rumbled 27 yards into the end zone to make it 21-3.
Kitna was 13 for 13 for 94 yards in the third quarter. He set up Steve Broussard’s 1-yard TD run that cut it to 21-12, then hit Davis for an 11-yard TD pass. The extra point got Seattle to 21-19.
Davis had six receptions for 70 yards and two touchdowns.
Minnesota’s Robert Tate showed why he led the NCAA in kick returns in 1995. The rookie out of Cincinnati returned five kickoffs for 169 yards, including a 53-yarder on the opening kick.
Among other notables, Minnesota For Seattle, Friesz had his first pass intercepted and was 3 for 6 for 29 yards.
Packers 20, Dolphins 0
Green Bay lost halfback Edgar Bennett for the season with a torn Achilles tendon in its win over visiting Miami.
Bennett was injured on an 18-yard run on the Packers’ second possession. His loss leaves Dorsey Levens as Green Bay’s primary rusher.
The game was the first played on the new hybrid surface called SportGrass, a concoction of sand, plastic matting and grass that drains better than the old grass-and-sand surface but which might not be as soft.
Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre, who signed a contract extension on Friday reportedly worth up to $48 million over seven years, completed 4 of 6 passes for 76 yards in limited duty. Miami QB Dan Marino went 3 of 4 for 26 yards.
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