Williamson Stumbles and Bumbles, Then Makes Play That Matters Most for Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings, after cutting would-be No. 1 receiver Koren Robinson in training camp, need second-year speedster Troy Williamson to be a major factor in their passing game this season. He had only 24 catches last season as a rookie after being taken with the seventh overall selection in the draft, and there have been times when he has looked headed toward being the latest notable bust among the wide receivers chosen in the first round league-wide.

Williamson had an uneven performance Monday night at FedEx Field in the Vikings' season opener. But he made a big play to set up a go-ahead field goal with a minute left and the Vikings held on to beat the Washington Redskins, 19-16.

"I was really happy for Troy," Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson said. "He made a huge third-down play for us."

The play came with just less than three minutes remaining, with the Vikings facing a third-and-nine predicament from their 48-yard line. Williamson caught a pass from Johnson around the first-down marker and made cornerback Carlos Rogers miss a tackle, then drew a 15-yard facemask penalty on safety Sean Taylor. That gave the Vikings a first down at the Redskins 24, leading to kicker Ryan Longwell's 31-yard field goal. When Redskins kicker John Hall yanked a 48-yard field goal try wide left with 12 seconds to play, the Vikings had escaped with an uplifting triumph in Brad Childress's NFL head-coaching debut.

"It's a very long year," Childress said. "One game does not a season make. There are certainly things to work on, but I was happy with the way our guys stuck with it."

Childress released Robinson after the wide receiver was arrested during training camp and charged with drunk driving and felony fleeing from police. That left the Vikings with Travis Taylor, a former first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens, and Williamson as their talented but far-from-proven duo of starting receivers. The Vikings signed veteran Todd Pinkston after he was released by the Philadelphia Eagles, but then abruptly cut him.

Williamson's inconsistency can be maddening, as it was Monday night. He set up a touchdown on the Vikings' opening drive with a 46-yard catch. But he dropped a potential touchdown reception on a perfectly thrown deep pass by Johnson, and he had another first-half drop. Johnson didn't lose faith in him, though, and Williamson made the play that mattered to cap a four-catch, 77-yard performance.

"Troy's got a lot of tools," Childress said. "He made strides in training camp. The biggest thing for him is consistency."

By Mark Maske |  September 12, 2006; 10:11 AM ET  | Category:  Vikings
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