Grading The Game: Chargers

The Vikings pulled down one B from Sunday's upset loss in San Diego, but the rest of the grades were less complimentary, with three failures. That's what happens when a 6-2 team gets beat by a 1-7 team.

PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Daunte Culpepper passed for a career-high 370 yards, four touchdowns and a 118.6 passer rating. But he also threw an interception in the end zone with 2:32 left in the game and the Vikings trailing by two touchdowns at the San Diego 7. Vikings receiver Randy Moss caught 11 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown, but the Vikings didn't try to get the ball to him deep downfield. His longest catch was 23 yards. Running back Moe Williams also caught a career-high 11 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns. He had several first-down catches. He also scored on a 31-yard reception after making two Chargers miss and carrying a third into the end zone.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Running back Michael Bennett lost a fumble inside the Chargers' 5-yard line on the first drive of the third quarter. The Vikings trailed 28-14 at the time. The team ran for 110 yards on 23 carries (4.8), but it didn't establish a rhythm because Chargers quarterback Doug Flutie and running back LaDainian Tomlinson made it a shootout early. Culpepper showed his best scrambling ability since fracturing bones in his lower back in Week 2. He ran for 42 yards on six carries (7.0). Moe Williams' 45 yards on 12 carries (3.8) led the team.

PASS DEFENSE: F -- The Flutie Magic was out in full force as the Vikings seemed a step behind the Chargers' offensive game plan the entire game. Flutie completed 21 of 29 passes for 248 yards, two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 121.0. Flutie used great touch and a moving pocket to distribute the ball to running backs, tight ends and receivers. He had 16 passes that went for first downs or touchdowns. The Vikings didn't intercept a pass for the first time this season. Flutie was sacked twice, but lost only 1 yard. There was no pressure because Flutie's decision-making was quicker than the Vikings' game plan or reaction time.

RUSH DEFENSE: F -- For the second consecutive week, a Vikings' opponent was averaging more than 10 yards per rush at halftime. The Chargers had 121 yards on just 12 carries (10.1), including a 73-yard touchdown by Tomlinson. The Chargers attacked the Vikings' weak perimeter defense with sweeps and misdirection. Receiver Tim Dwight ran 18 yards around left end on a reverse on the second play of the game. Tomlinson's 73-yard touchdown came on a sweep left. The Vikings are going nowhere until they strengthen their perimeter run defense. They have given up 472 yards on 60 carries (7.9) in their past two games.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus -- The Vikings are making steady progress on special teams. Rookie Keenan Howry returned the team's first kickoff 42 yards to the Chargers' 45. Unfortunately for the Vikings, a holding penalty on Bryant McKinnie negated a 25-yard pass on the first play and the Vikings had to punt. It was by far the team's best return of the season. Onterrio Smith averaged 23.3 yards on three kickoff returns.

COACHING: F -- The Chargers were 1-7 and had scored 17 points in its previous two games. They hadn't scored as many as 42 points in a game in 10 years. But they decisively out-coached and outplayed the Vikings in a 42-28 rout. The Chargers scored touchdowns on all four first-half possessions, and didn't punt until midway through the third quarter. They scored six touchdowns, four of them rushing. They converted 67 percent of their third downs (6 of 9) after converting 45 percent or less in their previous eight games. The Vikings know they're perimeter defense is vulnerable. The Giants and Packers beat them by runs and quick throws outside. The Chargers were able to do the same. The Vikings also look tired, which could stem from the hard training camp and practices they endured earlier in the season.



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