Raiders step up offense while defense falters

Culpepper had four completions of 25 yards or more, a welcome sight for receivers who have been growing frustrated over running short, safe pass routes. "It's not like we can't throw the ball deep; it's just not what we call," wide receiver Jerry Porter said. "When they call the plays to get us up the field, we execute 'em. We just do what we're told to do."

Raiders Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: B - Daunte Culpepper completed 23 of 39 passes for 344 yards, the Raiders' highest-yardage figure of the season. He had four passes dropped, including his lone interception, which bounced off the hands of Justin Fargas and directly to Chad Greenway. Jerry Porter had five receptions for 88 yards, while Ronald Curry had four receptions for 120. Protection was an issue, as Culpepper was sacked four times and took a safety when called for grounding in the end zone. Curry made a spectacular leaping catch of a 49-yard pass from Daunte Culpepper that helped set up the Raiders' only touchdown. He went up and got the ball, essentially stealing it from between Darren Sharper and Antoine Winfield.

"I think the catch against Sharper was harder because people were around me," Curry said. "In Denver, I made a play on the ball and it basically stuck to my hand. I think this took more. I had to find the ball, I had to jump. Sharper played the interception; he thought he had it. Then he kind of got lazy and I took it out of his hands."

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- The Vikings came in with a reputation as being stout run defenders, particularly at home, and didn't disappoint. Fargas averaged 2.7 yards per carry (22 carries, 60 yards), running hard but without much success. The Raiders didn't give Dominic Rhodes a chance to be a change of pace (two carries, one yard). Oakland remained stubborn to try and slow the Minnesota pass rush, but Pat Williams and Mike Williams essentially controlled the center of the Raiders line and took away the run.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- Wide receiver Sidney Rice, off a double reverse, threw a 79-yard pass to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe on the first play from scrimmage and the Raiders were victimized all day. The only bright spot was Nnamdi Asomugha's end-zone interception of Tarvaris Jackson, and Asomugha then made a mistake by trying to bring the ball out of the end zone, pinning the Raiders at the 3. Jackson worked over the Raiders with safe, high-percentage throws, completing 17 of 22 passes for 171 yards to open receivers.

RUSH DEEFENSE: F -- The Vikings hammered the Raiders for 228 yards even without Adrian Peterson. Chester Taylor, who may be the NFL's best backup, became the sixth running back to break 100 yards on Oakland this season with 164 yards on 22 carries and three touchdowns. The Raiders were dominated at the point of attack, and linebackers Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard couldn't get off blocks. Safeties Stuart Schweigert, Hiram Eugene and Michael Huff were conspicuous by their absence making tackles in the secondary.

"Too many penalties, defenders blowing assignments and a losing culture that stands in the way of change," said Warren Sapp. "Until we fix that and get out of our own damn way, we'll never win. It's the same (expletive) every week. There's nothing else to be said. We're an undisciplined unit, from top to bottom."

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Sebastian Janikowski is on a hot streak. He converted all five field-goal attempts ranging from 30 to 52 yards, but didn't kick off as well and had one bounce out of bounds at the 1, giving Minnesota the ball at the 40. Without special-teams standout Isaiah Ekejiuba (out with an ankle injury), the Raiders' coverage teams couldn't duplicate their magic from the previous week against Chicago's Devin Hester. Janikowski couldn't manage a touchback and the Vikings opened on average at the 30. Shane Lechler put two balls inside the 20 and had a 69-yarder trickle into the end zone when Eugene couldn't stop it at the 1. Nothing notable, as usual, with Oakland's return game.

COACHING: D -- The Raiders seemed to be caught flat-footed by Minnesota early and in some ways defensively never recovered after the Vikings converted on the big gadget play to open the game. Schweigert admitted afterward gadget plays were not the focus, as the Raiders expected pure smash-mouth. The Raiders had a more aggressive passing approach as Lane Kiffin realized running on the Vikings would be tough. Whatever it is a coach can do to cause his team to raise its level a play after taking the lead, Kiffin doesn't know what it is. The Raiders fought back to take a 13-12 lead, and, as usual, immediately gave the lead back. The Vikings took four plays to go 64 yards and score.

Vikings Report Card:

PASSING OFFENSE: C-plus -- Tarvaris Jackson completed 17 of 22 passes for 171 yards with an interception and no touchdowns in his return as the Vikings quarterback. But Jackson certainly was not his team's passing star. That designation went to rookie wide receiver Sidney Rice, who had two completions for 94 yards and helped the Vikings finish with 265 yards through the air. On the first play from scrimmage, Rice hit tight end Visanthe Shiancoe on a 79-yard pass on a reverse that saw Chester Taylor take a handoff on what appeared to be an end around. Rice threw the pass from his own 10-yard line and hit Shiancoe, who had gotten behind the Raiders safeties and took the ball to the Raiders 5-yard line. That set up a Taylor touchdown run. Rice later connected with Troy Williamson on a 15-yard pass to set up another touchdown run by Taylor. Shiancoe, signed as a free agent from the New York Giants in the offseason, had only two receptions but they went for 94 yards, a season high for a Vikings pass catcher.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus -- No Adrian Peterson? No problem. Chester Taylor, demoted behind the rookie sensation in Week 8, carried 22 times for a season-high 164 yards with a career-high three touchdowns. It was Taylor's first 100-yard effort of the season. Much of the credit has to go to an offensive line that has helped Peterson have single-game efforts of 224 yards (against Chicago) and 296 yards (an NFL record, against San Diego) this season. The Vikings have very good running backs but the line also has done an excellent job of opening holes for Taylor and Peterson. Taylor's total Sunday was only five yards off the career high he set in a victory at Seattle in October 2006.

PASS DEFENSE: C-minus -- The Vikings gave up more than 300 yards through the air for the sixth time this season, despite playing against a passing offense that was ranked 30th in the NFL entering the game. Minnesota considers an explosive pass play to be one that goes for 16 yards or more and against Oakland, they gave up seven such plays on Daunte Culpepper's 23 completions. Culpepper finished with 344 yards passing. Minnesota entered the game with the NFL's worst-ranked pass defense and this showing certainly isn't going to help them climb out of the basement. It also doesn't help matters that veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield continues to be hampered by a hamstring injury. Winfield did not play the second half against the Raiders after aggravating the injury. He had missed the previous two games before that. Without Winfield, the Vikings are left with second-year player Cedric Griffin and rookie Marcus McCauley as the corners. Griffin has been struggling of late and teams are going at him more and more.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Members of the Vikings defense were livid when they gave up 119 yards rushing to Ryan Grant in an embarrassing 34-0 loss to Green Bay on Nov. 11. That marked the first time an individual had gone for more than 100 yards this season against the Vikings and only the second time a team had done it. Pro Bowl nose tackle Pat Williams swore that it would not happen again. He was right for one game at least. The Raiders entered with the NFL's fifth-ranked rushing offense but gained only 61 yards on 27 carries for an average of 2.3 yards. Justin Fargas had 22 of those attempts and gained only 60 yards. Williams finished with a team-high nine tackles as the Vikings got back to playing disciplined in their gaps.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Ryan Longwell made both of his field-goal attempts and this facet of the game was solid but not spectacular. Receiver Troy Williamson returned three kicks for 65 yards but cornerback Charles Gordon also got a chance and took his return 27 yards. Williamson clearly does not have much feel for kick returns and the Vikings likely should look elsewhere. Rookie receiver Aundrae Allison has been impressive (32.6-yard average) when given a chance. Longwell was a bit erratic on his kickoffs, putting the ball on the goal line twice but also leaving kicks at the Raiders' 9- and 10-yard lines. Punter Chris Kluwe averaged 36 yards gross and 33.5 net on four punts.

COACHING: B -- You have to give credit to coach Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell for having Rice throw a deep pass to Shiancoe on the first play from scrimmage. The coaches had decided they were going to go with that play during the week and they should be commended for sticking to their guns and getting the team off to a fast start. The Vikings are an interesting team because they certainly could have folded on Childress after the Green Bay loss. While Oakland is not a good team, the Vikings rebounded and appeared to be far more interested in the game than they had been the previous week. The key now is to maintain that intensity.


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