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Denver at Minnesota

Vikings show unbeaten mark isn't a fluke, top Broncos

SportsLine.com wire reports

MINNEAPOLIS -- After opening the season with five victories against weak opponents, the Minnesota Vikings looked at Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos as a credibility test.

Well, they sure passed.

Daunte Culpepper threw for 277 yards in his return at quarterback, the defense knocked Steve Beuerlein out of the game, and the Vikings beat Denver 28-20 Sunday.

"We have to be better before we can beat some of these teams we're playing in the coming weeks," coach Mike Tice said. "But that feels pretty good."

Randy Moss had 10 receptions for 151 yards, and his lateral to Moe Williams on the final play of the first half led to a 59-yard score for the Vikings (6-0).

Minnesota's first five opponents came against teams with a combined record of 8-20 entering Sunday.

The Broncos, whose only other defeat came by a point against unbeaten Kansas City, provided the Vikings' toughest challenge to date.

Denver (5-2) nearly rallied behind third-string quarterback Danny Kanell, who went 12-for-18 for 104 yards and a touchdown in place of the injured Beuerlein.

"Danny did a good job. If he did a great job, we would've won," wide receiver Rod Smith said.

Clinton Portis ran 25 times for 117 yards and a touchdown in addition to three catches for 43 yards for the Broncos, who trailed 28-7 midway through the third quarter.

Beuerlein, playing in place of injured starter Jake Plummer, completed nine of 19 passes for 119 yards and three interceptions before leaving in the third quarter with a dislocated finger on his throwing hand. He was sacked five times.

"It felt like they blitzed us about every other snap," Smith said.

That's what Vikings defensive coordinator George O'Leary wanted. His aggressive approach has helped a unit that ranked 26th in the league last season and 27th the year before.

"Anytime you win against a good team like Denver and you know what you have to work on leaving the building, you're in good shape," O'Leary said.

Onterrio Smith ran for a score, and Lance Johnstone returned an interception for a touchdown for Minnesota, which leads the league with 16 interceptions. Brian Russell has an NFL-high six.

"They're a team that's been able to take the ball away all year," said Denver coach Mike Shanahan.

Jason Elam's second 46-yard field goal cut the lead to 28-13 early in the fourth quarter. Kanell threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Mike Anderson to make it 28-20 with 6:45 left after an interference call on Denard Walker in the end zone gave the Broncos first-and-goal.

Minnesota kicker Aaron Elling has been bothered by back spasms, and the Vikings went for it on fourth-and-3 at the Denver 32. Kelly Campbell was open down the sideline but dropped the would-be TD pass, and the Vikings turned the ball over with 3:24 remaining.

The Broncos had first-and-10 at the Vikings 30, but the drive stalled there. Johnstone, who also was credited with 1½ sacks, broke up Kanell's fourth-down pass at the line of scrimmage.

"Danny came out and brought us back," said Shanahan, now down to one healthy quarterback. "He's going to have to lead the team."

Culpepper, who broke several bones in his back on a hit in the second quarter against Detroit on Sept. 21, looked as spry as usual -- though he was off target on a handful of long throws.

He finished 19-for-26 with two touchdowns, one to Campbell in the first quarter.

"I feel great," Culpepper said. "On a scale of one to 10, I feel like I'm a dime."

Portis ran in from 4 yards out at the two-minute warning to tie the game at 7, but Moss' amazing play swung the momentum back to Minnesota.

The Vikings drove to Denver's 45, then were pushed back by two sacks. Culpepper rolled out as the clock expired and flung a pass in the air to Moss, who caught the ball near the 20 and was about to be tackled at the 15.

He tossed the ball blindly over his back, and Williams caught it and streaked in for the touchdown to make it 14-7. The play was reviewed and upheld as a backward lateral.

"It's one of the crazy plays that happens once a year," Broncos defensive end Bertrand Berry said, "and it happened to us."


  • Shanahan said the Broncos will have to sign a free-agent quarterback this week.
  • Culpepper has thrown seven touchdown passes without an interception this season.
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2003, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved
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Randy Moss (top) and Moe Williams celebrate their Hail Mary, hook-and-ladder TD to end the half.
Randy Moss (top) and Moe Williams celebrate their Hail Mary, hook-and-ladder TD to end the half. (AP)


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Scoring Summary
TDKelly Campbell, 47 Yd pass from Daunte Culpepper (Aaron Elling kick is good), 6:10. Drive: 7 plays, 77 yards in 3:33.
TDClinton Portis, 4 Yd run (Jason Elam kick is good), 1:51. Drive: 9 plays, 83 yards in 5:16.
TDMoe Williams, 59 Yd pass play from Daunte Culpepper (Aaron Elling kick is good), 0:00. Drive: 6 plays, 81 yards in 1:51.
TDOnterrio Smith, 5 Yd run (Aaron Elling kick is good), 9:24. Drive: 10 plays, 71 yards in 5:36.
TDLance Johnstone, 33 Yd interception return (Aaron Elling kick is good), 7:57.
FGJason Elam 46 Yd, 5:20. Drive: 8 plays, 48 yards in 2:37.
FGJason Elam 46 Yd, 14:17. Drive: 10 plays, 35 yards in 4:14.
TDMike Anderson, 1 Yd pass from Danny Kanell (Jason Elam kick is good), 6:45. Drive: 12 plays, 61 yards in 4:38.
S. Beuerlein9/1911903
D. Kanell12/1810410
C. Portis25117124
M. Anderson113013
C. Cole1808
S. Sharpe779020
A. Lelie343025
C. Portis343029
R. Droughns328011
R. Smith324011
A. Madise1505
M. Anderson1111
D. Culpepper19/2627720
M. Williams144209
O. Smith529111
D. Culpepper2102
C. Stackhouse1000
R. Moss10151044
M. Williams450123
K. Campbell147147
C. Stackhouse316010
J. Kleinsasser113013
Complete Player Stats