Minnesota did exactly what it needed to — limit Priest Holmes at home in the Metrodome … at least long enough to hinder the consistent threat of him being a second-half workhorse. In the process, the Vikings handily beat one the AFC's best teams and kept their quest for the NFC North division title on track with a 45-20 win.
While the Vikings (now 9-6) built a 24-0 first-half lead with the offense clicking all cylinders, the defense was just as impressive. It held the Chiefs offense to 99 yards in the first half — and kept Holmes at bay with five rushes for 16 yards.
Meanwhile Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss were stuffing the stats sheet into the second half, with Moss at one point in the third quarter having more yards total offense than the Chiefs.
Kansas City made it interesting midway through the second half, pulling as close as 31-20, but the Vikings quickly answered with two touchdowns within the span of one minute for a 45-20 win.
On defense, it was a complete team effort, with only a 16-minute stretch in the second half keeping it from being a dominating performance. And despite three touchdowns from Holmes, the Vikings limited him to 55 yards.
On offense, Culpepper, Moss and Onterrio Smith were the heroes. Culpepper finished the game 20-for-29 with 260 yards, three touchdowns and one interception on a tipped pass. Moss had seven catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns. And Smith carried 21 times for 146 yards and added 37 reception yards.
The offensive domination led to a blowup in the Kansas City locker room after the game, as they cleared out reporters after Ryan Sims and Eric Hicks got into it, making it clear the Vikings had frustrated them.
Minnesota started early and rarely let up.
The Vikings opened with an impressive drive, going 92 yards in eight plays, with all but one play going for 6 or more yards. Looking to start the game with reverses, that plan was delayed when an illegal block in the back on the opening return started Minnesota on the 8-yard line. After a 6-yard run by Michael Bennett, Kelly Campbell got the call on two straight reverses, the first that picked up a first down and the second that lost 8 yards. Facing second-and-18, Culpepper threw the screen for Randy Moss and he fought his way for 19 yards and a first down. Culpepper followed that with a pass to the middle of the field to Nate Burleson for another first down. After Bennett moved the sticks for the third time in the drive with an 11-yard run, Culpepper saw the blitz coming from cornerback Eric Warfield and froze safety Greg Wesley just long enough with a pump fake to Moss and threw it deep. The ball went just beyond the reach of Wesley for a 30-yard touchdown, Culpepper to Moss, on the opening drive. Four minutes and 23 seconds into their biggest game of the year, the Vikings had a 7-0 lead.
But this was a battle of offenses, and Kansas City responded with an extended drive. The Chiefs got one first down on an illegal contact penalty on Brian Williams, and, three plays later, needed all 3 yards Tony Gonzalez gave them for another first down. After a 10-yard Holmes run, quarterback Trent Green found Eddie Kennison beating Williams in coverage. But as Kennison sprinted inside the red zone, Williams caught up to him from behind and punched the ball out. Brian Russell jumped on the ball at the 3-yard line and the Vikings had dodged a major and early bullet.
The passing game continued to work for the Vikings on the second drive, with completions of 17 yards to D'Wayne Bates on third down and 18 yards to Moss on the next play. The Vikings would move it to the Chiefs 45-yard line but were forced to punt. But a 15-yard pickup by Gonzalez would be the only chain-mover for the Chiefs before they punted back to Minnesota at the beginning of the second quarter.
Culpepper went right back to work. He started with a 13-yard pass to Nate Burleson on first down, then ran for a first down one play later. A rollout screen to Williams gained 10 yards to the 21-yard line, and Culpepper finished the drive with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Moss for a 14-0 lead with 10:58 left in the half.
The defense continued to contain the NFL's No. 1 scoring offense, with Gonzalez again picking up the only first down on the Chiefs' next drive before they punted back to the Vikings.
With a raucous crowd behind them, the Vikings were looking to continue their momentum — and Culpepper and company didn't disappoint. The running game picked up the initial first down, with two rushes from Bennett and a scramble by Culpepper. Then Smith got the call on three of the next four plays. He started with a 7-yard run, followed by a sit-down pass in the middle of the field for 9 yards and a first down. After a first-down incompletion, Smith took a handoff off left tackle and found an opening down the left sideline for 47 yards to the 7-yard line. Culpepper rolled out for 3 yards on second down before scrambling to buy time on third down and finding Jim Kleinsasser in the back of the end zone for a 21-0 lead with 3:42 left in the half.
The defense continued its domination as well, shutting down the Chiefs in three downs and getting the ball back to the Minnesota offense with 2:53 remaining before halftime.
Smith started with rushes of 11 and 6 yards before taking a 2-yard pass to get to midfield just after the two-minute warning. Moe Williams picked up 18 yards with a ducking and darting run, but that would be the Vikings' final first down of the half, as an 8-yard sack limited them to getting into field goal position. Aaron Elling was true from 46 yards as time expired, giving the Vikings a 24-0 lead midway through the game.
The first half proved to be a complete Vikings domination. They limited the Chiefs to 23 yards rushing, 76 passing, 1-for-4 on third-down conversions and only five first downs. On offense, Culpepper had a 145.0 rating and led the Vikings to 330 yards of offense.
That offense continued its assault to open the third quarter, as they went 60 yards for another score, their fourth consecutive drive with a score (and three out of four with a touchdown). It started with a 9-yard pass to Kleinsasser, a 16-yard pass to Burleson and a 15-yard run by Smith to put the ball on the 20-yard line. A 19-yard deep slant to Moss put the ball on the 1-yard line, where Smith capped the drive with the touchdown dive for a 31-0 lead.
Kansas City finally answered the bell, but class was already out. Kennison converted third-and-11 into a first down with a 15-yard reception, and then the Chiefs stuck with their meal ticket, Holmes. He touched the ball eight of the next 10 plays, accounting for all but 4 of the 71 yards en route to a 2-yard touchdown with 5:16 to play in the third quarter.
It looked like momentum was swinging quickly in the Chiefs' favor when Burleson tipped Culpepper's second-down pass and Wesley came down with the interception. But on the sixth play of Kansas City's ensuing drive, Brian Russell intercepted Green in the end zone and returned it to midfield. The Vikings dodged another bullet, but they gave it right back to the Chiefs three plays later on a punt.
This time the Chiefs would follow with another TD drive. Holmes was the workhorse again, touching the ball five times on the seven-play drive and capping this one with a 4-yard TD run to make it 31-13 after the two-point pass attempt failed.
The offense didn't help the momentum swing either, going three-and-out, and when Kennison returned a punt 46 yards to the 9-yard line the game was on.
Kansas City wasn't going to stray away from what was working, as Holmes took two carries 8 yards and finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to make it 31-20 with 10:05 to play.
This time, the Minnesota offense answered. Smith became the Vikings' version of Holmes. He started the drive with a 31-yard kick return that had 15 added to it. Then he followed with all five touches on the drive — rushes of 6, 10 and 3 yards before a 15-yard reception and an 11-yard touchdown run behind a block from Moss. With seven minutes left, the Vikings sealed the win with a 38-20 lead.
That still wouldn't end the scoring. Forty-six seconds after an E.J. Henderson fumble recovery on the kickoff return, Smith tied a team record with his third rushing touchdown of the game, a 10-yarder, for a 45-20 lead with six minutes to play.
It ended the scoring, and after Russell's second interception of the game, it ended the game.
The Vikings continue to control their own playoff and division destiny despite making it harder than they had to. "If, if, if we take care of business (in Arizona next Sunday), we'll be division champs," head coach Mike Tice said.
But Tice knows that won't be easy, especially since the Vikings have struggled to win on the road lately. Walking out of the dome after the game, however, even the players were focusing on the next weekend, yelling "Arizona" on their way out to enjoy a win against what had been an impressive AFC playoff team.
Daunte, Defense Dominate KC, 45-20
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