PASSING OFFENSE: D — Yes, Daunte Culpepper reached a career high in passing yards (396) for a second consecutive week. But he threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles, one at the Raiders' 1-yard line after being sacked on a blitz up the middle. The first interception came on the second play of the game and was returned 64 yards for a touchdown by cornerback Phillip Buchanon. The pick was inexcusable. The Raiders took away Culpepper's first option and his hot read. He turned to tight end Jim Kleinsasser and said he was trying to lead him on a 5-yard dump-off pass. But the pass was so poorly thrown, Buchanon was able to leave receiver D'Wayne Bates, make the interception and run untouched to the end zone. The Raiders had lost five straight and the Vikings had just returned the opening kickoff 46 yards into Raiders territory. But the interception pumped life into the stadium and set the tone for the entire game.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C — What rushing offense? Culpepper's 42 yards on seven scrambles led the Vikings. Moe Williams, by far the team's steadiest player this season, had 39 yards on 10 carries. Michael Bennett had only five carries for 13 yards (2.6) in his third game back from a fractured foot. The Vikings want to work Bennett into the offense more, but it's been hard because they've trailed and lost every game since he returned.
PASS DEFENSE: D — Oakland's game plan was designed to throw the ball as few times as possible. It worked. Former third-string quarterback Rick Mirer, forced into action after season-ending injuries to Rich Gannon and Marques Tuiasosopo, completed 9 of 13 passes for 195 yards, and had a quarterback rating of 111.9. The Vikings couldn't stop the run well enough to put pressure on Mirer. Mirer was 4 of 4 at halftime, and didn't throw an incompletion until 1:07 was left in the third quarter. After the Vikings closed to within 21-18 in the fourth quarter, Mirer led the Raiders downfield with passes of 18 and 31 yards to Jerry Porter.
RUSH DEFENSE: D — The Raiders kept it simple, running the ball mostly between the tackles for 191 yards and three touchdowns on 43 carries (4.4). The Vikings did a better job stopping the run than they did the previous two weeks against San Diego and Green Bay. But the Raiders definitely outmuscled the Vikings and got the key yards when they needed them. Oakland led 14-3 when it received the second-half kickoff. The Raiders put together a seven-play, 74-yard touchdown drive. Six were runs up the middle. The other play was a 44-yard run off tackle by fullback Zack Crockett.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C — Onterrio Smith had another good outing returning kickoffs, but kicker Aaron Elling missed field goals of 39 and 44 yards. Smith opened the game with a 46-yard return to the Oakland 44. Unfortunately for the Vikings, Buchanon returned a Culpepper interception for a touchdown two plays later. Smith averaged 31 yards on four returns. Linebacker E.J. Henderson had a crushing tackle on kickoff coverage, while cornerback Rushen Jones made three tackles on special teams.
COACHING: D — For the second consecutive week, the Vikings lost to a team that was last in the AFC West and tied for the worst record in the NFL. The losing streak has reached four games and making the playoffs, which once was considered a lock, isn't so certain. After the loss to San Diego last week, Mike Tice said until the defense improves, "nothing else matters." The defense improved slightly, but the No. 1-ranked offense fell apart with six turnovers. Tice insists the players and coaches built up too much respect for each other during a rugged training camp to start pointing fingers. But it's hard to imagine the team withstanding many more losses in a row before it crumbles.
Grading The Game: Raiders
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