PASSING OFFENSE: A — Quarterback Daunte Culpepper has had better games statistically, but this was his best game of the season, if not his career. With plenty of time to step up into the pocket and throw, Culpepper connected on touchdown passes of 47 and 45 yards to Randy Moss and 43 yards to Kelly Campbell. Culpepper said at least two of the plays were audibles. The pass protection in general and offensive line in particular was superb. After giving up eight sacks at St. Louis the week before, Culpepper stayed upright and untouched for most of the game. He officially was sacked twice. One was for a 2-yard loss. The other came when he was forced out of bounds for no gain while trying to make something out of a broken running play.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A — The Vikings' passing game was explosive because the running game was dominant. The Vikings ran for 193 yards on 43 carries (4.5), controlled the ball for 38 minutes, 51 seconds and had only two third-down situations longer than eight yards. Running back Michael Bennett had his first 100-yard game of the season (103) on a season-high 25 carries. Rookie Onterrio Smith had 40 yards on just four carries after stepping in late in the game because of injuries to Bennett (ankle) and Moe Williams (knee). "Our goal was to run the ball today," coach Mike Tice said. "We had no other goal. Run the ball, be physical up front. The rest of the stuff was gravy."
PASS DEFENSE: B — Cornerback Ken Irvin's second-quarter interception typified the Vikings' aggressive play. He jumped a 5-yard slant to Koren Robinson, intercepting the ball and regaining the Vikings' momentum following an Aaron Elling kickoff that went out of bounds. The Rams trailed 10-0 at the time, but were in Vikings territory. Rookie linebacker Mike Nattiel capped the scoring with an 80-yard interception return for a touchdown, the Vikings' fourth TD off an interception this season. Cornerback Brian Williams set a team record for cornerbacks with his third sack of the season. He also had a team-high six tackles. The Vikings don't get an A here because they gave up too many long gains on underneath crossing routes. There were too many times when a linebacker had to cover Bobby Engram, who had four catches for 93 yards (23.3) with a long of 29.
RUN DEFENSE: A — The Vikings gave up a season-low 56 yards rushing. Seattle running back Shaun Alexander was held to 56 yards on 14 carries. Last season, he ran for 139 yards and tied an NFL record with five first-half touchdowns in a 48-23 Seahawks victory in Seattle. Changes along the defensive line helped the Vikings. Right end Kenny Mixon was moved to left end, where he's more comfortable. Left end Kevin Williams switched to nose tackle, where he replaced Fred Robbins. Chuck Wiley got his first start with the Vikings at right end. The rotation and the nature of the game allowed for rush end Lance Johnstone to see his most extensive action in more than a month. Linebacker Nick Rogers started at strong-side linebacker in place of Henri Crockett. Rogers had a forced fumble on Seattle's first possession. Wiley recovered.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D — P Eddie Johnson bobbled another perfect snap. He even dropped this one, but alertly ran up the middle for 15 yards and a first down. He was afraid to punt it because he had one blocked after bobbling a snap against St. Louis the previous week. When Johnson did handle the snap, he averaged only 36.8 yards, although he did have three downed inside the 20. K Aaron Elling missed a 40-yard field goal attempt wide right, and also hooked a kickoff out of bounds, giving Seattle the ball at its 40. Seattle's only scoring drive was 39 yards because the kick coverage unit gave up a 56-yard return to open the second half.
COACHING: A — Mike Tice began working his players' mind and body last Monday. He called out his players publicly for the first time, telling them it was time to do their "J-O-B." He wrote that on the board in the meeting room. He made personnel changes, benching nose tackle Fred Robbins and linebacker Henri Crockett and shuffling the defensive line. Tice became so emotional during a speech to the team on Wednesday that he kicked a chair into a wall. Then, for the first time in five weeks, players wore pads in practice on Wednesday. Their workout went 35 minutes longer than scheduled, and the contact reminded players of training camp. Tice also threatened to immediately yank players who committed "dumb" penalties. He followed through by pulling TEs Hunter Goodwin and Sean Berton and G Chris Liwienski because of false starts. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan took advantage of a Seattle secondary that couldn't cover Moss and Campbell. Defensive coordinator George O'Leary gets some credit for the best defensive effort against a quality opponent this season.
Grading The Game: Seattle
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