By Will and By Muscle

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper was far from perfect Sunday, but his will, determination and muscle kept the Vikings offense rolling during tough times.

When the Vikings drafted 270-pound quarterback Daunte Culpepper, Dennis Green said Vikings fans were going to see something never seen before in the NFL. No quarterback this big had ever played in the league and Green said he would be a player that would create problems for defenses that they would not be able to handle. In a game the Vikings absolutely had to have, Culpepper made the key plays thanks to his size. Those plays were the turning point of the game.

After an interception on his first drive, Culpepper looked to be heading back to the sideline on the second drive of the game, but, as he was being grabbed by Warren Sapp, Culpepper kept his feet and completed an 8-yard third-down pass to Byron Chamberlain for a first down that would keep the drive alive and result in the Vikings' first touchdown.

With the Vikings still ahead 7-3 on their next drive, Culpepper looked destined to go down with a sack, as two linemen were draped on him. Instead of taking a 10-yard loss, he muscled a pass to fullback Jim Kleinsasser for a first down to get the Vikings in field goal range. Gary Anderson would convert the field goal and the Vikes would take a 10-6 lead.

Fast forward to the third quarter. With the Vikings' lead cut to 10-9, Culpepper had the Vikings at midfield. Dropping to pass, strong defensive tackle Warren Sapp hit his arm. Culpepper was unphased, reloaded his throwing gun and connected with Kleinsasser for a 12-yard gain and a first down, leaving Sapp with little to do but shake his head in disbelief. That drive would end up resulting in an Anderson field goal to give the Vikings a 13-9 lead.

Finally, as the clock ticked down, Culpepper was being asked to lead the team on a 96-yard season-salvaging drive. Facing a full blitz from safety John Lynch, Culpepper stood his ground and threaded a pass to Chamberlain in triple coverage, a play that covered 37 yards to the 3-yard line. After a false start penalty backed the Vikings up 5 yards, Culpepper called his own number — a quarterback draw — and scored the game-winning touchdown by diving head first into the end zone, absorbing a big collision to score and give the Vikings the win.

When the Vikings first put Culpepper on the field, the rest of the league took notice that he was a physical specimen capable of dominating games and taking the Vikings to the next level. Sunday, it was his huge effort in several drives — all of which led directly to all of the Vikings' 20 points — that put Minnesota over the top. Maybe another quarterback would have made one or two of those plays, but few would argue that anyone else would have made all of them. Culpepper did and created the turning point of the game. VU

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