Culpepper threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score to rally the Vikings past the Detroit Lions 31-24 Sunday.
"I can't tell you exactly how good this feels after losing four I felt we should have won," Culpepper said.
|Daunte Culpepper leaps over defenders to complete a 7-yard touchdown run.(AP)|
The victory snapped an eight-game losing streak for the Vikings (1-4). The skid began last season when the Lions, then 0-12, beat Minnesota at the Metrodome.
"We knew good things were eventually going to happen and today we made plays down the stretch and good things happened for our ballclub," Byron Chamberlain said.
After trailing for three quarters, Minnesota tied it on Culpepper's 45-yard screen pass to Michael Bennett, who eluded several defensive backs for the score with 5:25 left.
The Lions (1-4) started at their 19 on the next possession, and Chris Hovan batted a third-down pass by Joey Harrington.
The Lions had a final chance when Harrington drove them from their 31 to the Minnesota 8. The rookie kept the drive going with a 23-yard pass to Az-Zahir Hakim on third down.
But on second-and-goal, Corey Chavous picked off Harrington's pass to the corner to preserve the victory, the first in Mike Tice's NFL coaching career.
"This is a big win because we came from behind and scored a bunch of points in the fourth, and held them when we had to and made a big defensive play at the end," Tice said.
The Lions haven't won consecutive games since November 2000.
"The second half, we came out flat," Todd Lyght said. "We didn't do anything well defensively."
Earlier, the Vikings were the ones who weren't doing anything right. The offense was flagged five times for false starts -- two apiece on Lewis Kelly and Chamberlain. Culpepper's lone interception was returned for a touchdown by Chris Claiborne.
"We were just one play from winning the game," Claiborne said. "I don't think we finished well today and that came back to hurt us."
The loss spoiled an otherwise solid afternoon for Harrington, who finished 25-for-41 with 309 yards and two touchdowns. The Vikings pressured him and forced him out of the pocket several times, but the rookie kept his cool.
On the Lions' first offensive play, Harrington found Mikhael Ricks for a 31-yard gain up the middle. Two plays later, Ricks ran uncovered across the right side and caught a 41-yard touchdown pass.
Just 1:11 later, Culpepper's second-down pass slipped through Derrick Alexander's hands and into the grasp of Claiborne, who returned the interception 20 yards for another score.
"We had to keep everybody together," Culpepper said. "We knew we'd have an opportunity to make big plays."
That's when Minnesota started rolling. On its fourth possession, Culpepper found Jim Kleinsasser from 2 yards to pull Minnesota to 14-10.
On third-and-goal from the 2, Kleinsasser, playing in his first came since breaking a bone in his leg, fought off a defender at the goal line and caught Culpepper's high, arcing pass for the score.
Harrington went 5-for-5 for 89 yards on Detroit's next drive, which was capped by a leaping 20-yard catch by Hakim over two defenders. The score was set up after Harrington, despite getting drilled in the pocket, found Cory Schlesinger for a 24-yard gain to the Vikings 20.
Culpepper finished a seven-play, 59-yard drive with a 7-yard TD run to cut Detroit's lead to 21-17 in the third quarter. On first-and-goal, Culpepper dropped back and then ran untouched up the middle.
The Lions made it 24-17 on Jason Hanson's 49-yard field goal. Harrington hit Larry Foster for a 17-yard pass on fourth-and-1 to keep the drive going.
- Vikings kick returner Nick Davis, who had been limited in practice with a concussion, finished with 110 yards.
- Claiborne recorded his first NFL touchdown.
- Kleinsasser notched his first TD receiving.
- Hanson has 245 career field goals, the most in Lions history, passing Eddie Murray.
- Ricks left the game with a groin injury.
- Bennett's 138 combined yards were a career high.
The Associated Press News Service
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