It started with boos for Randy Moss. It ended with cheers for nearly every offensive player and Moss becoming the first player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards receiving in his first four seasons in the league after a 158-yard performance.
The offense came together for a 42-24 win with their first game of more than 40 points this season. The Vikings move to 5-7 on the season and the Titans fall to 6-6.
After a tumultuous week of injuries, second-guessing and divisive quotes, nearly everyone on offense exploded. Running back Michael Bennett had his first 100-yard game rushing, Todd Bouman, making his first start at quarterback in place of an injured Daunte Culpepper, threw four touchdown passes and Moss caught seven passes for 158 yards and a touchdown.
It all began after the Vikings fell behind 10-0, but touchdown passes to Byron Chamberlain, Jake Reed and Doug Chapman, and a touchdown run by Michael Bennett turned the deficit into a 28-10 lead from the middle of the second quarter to the middle of the third quarter.
Bouman finished the game completing 21 of 30 passes for 348 yards, four touchdowns and one late-game interception. Bennett finished with 16 carries for 113 yards.
The Titans took the opening kick and drove 74 yards for an impressive opening statement and a quick lead. Eddie George looked to get back to his form of recent years gone by. He carried five times on the first drive for 31 yards, well above his average of 2.6 per carry entering the game. It was George's last run of 13 yards that gave Tennessee a 7-0 lead after an 11-play drive that left the defense on the field for the first 8:06 of the game.
When the offense faltered behind Bouman in three plays, the defense was quickly back on the field. George wasn't nearly as effective this time around, losing a net of 5 yards on two rushes, but Steve McNair eluded the pass rush often and made a key third-down pass under heavy pressure for 36 yards to Drew Bennett. The wide receiver picked up another third-down reception to get the ball to the 23-yard line, but the Titans had to settle for a 37-yard field goal and a 10-0 lead with 1:01 left in the first quarter despite McNair ending the quarter completing all nine passes for 106 yards. Tennessee also had a time-of-possession advantage of 12:46 to 2:14.
Bouman opened the Vikings' next drive with efficiency, picking up a first down with a 12-yard pass-and-catch to Moss on third down, then picking up another on a 17-yard pass to Cris Carter that picked up another 4 yards on a lateral to Moss. From there, however, the drive fell apart. Michael Bennett was stuffed for no gain, Moss was called (and booed for about the fourth time) for a false start, then Bouman threw an incomplete pass before scrambling for 8 yards to the 30-yard line on third down. But the Vikings were taken out of field goal position when Matt Birk was flagged for a personal foul after the play, and Mitch Berger's punt pinned the Titans on their own 9-yard line.
The defense held, and Bouman and company took over on their own 46-yard line with the best field position of the day. They took advantage with a six-play drive for a touchdown. After starting with an incompletion, Bouman found Moss for an 11-yard pass, then Bennett broke free on a 16-yard run. Next Bouman found Jake Reed at the 10-yard line for 17 yards and Bennett set up the touchdown with a 4-yard run. On second down from the 6, Bouman hit Byron Chamberlain in stride at the end line for the touchdown at 7:40 of the second quarter.
Despite allowing George to get free on a 23-yard run on the Titans' next possession, Minnesota's defense kept Tennessee out of scoring position by stuffing George twice for 1 yard and Lance Johnstone's 8-yard sack of McNair on third down to bring on the Titans punting team.
A poor punt gave the Vikings the ball on their own 25-yard line. They weren't deterred by having to go 75 yards in the final 4:09 of the half. It started with a 9-yard pass to Chris Walsh, and Bennett moved the chains with a 2-yard run. As the two-minute warning approached, the Vikings were facing third-and-8 from their own 38-yard line. Moss converted the first down with a tough over-the-shoulder sideline catch with the safety bearing down on him. The catch went for 20 yards and put the ball on the Titans 42-yard line. On second down, Bouman scrambled for 16 yards, and, after an 8-yard pass to Chamberlain, Bouman found Reed coming open in the end zone. The quarterback threw for the back of the end zone, but cornerback Michael Booker got his hand on the pass. Reed stuck with the ball and hauled it in after the deflection for a 20-yard touchdown and a 14-10 Vikings lead with 40 seconds left in the half.
The second half started as well as the first ended for the Vikings. Nate Jacquet set up the Vikings on the 43-yard line with a 43-yard return on the opening kickoff. The rest seemed to come easy to Bouman, who finished the first half with a QB rating of 126.1. Bennett and Chamberlain picked up a first down with a 3-yard run and 7-yard pass, respectively. Moss got the ball to the 31-yard line with a great adjustment on a 16-yard pass, and Bennett did the rest on the next play. The Titans bit on Bouman's drop and when he gave the ball to Bennett on a draw all Bennett needed was one move through the line and his sprinter's speed to win the footrace to the left pylon for a 31-yard touchdown. That gave the Vikings a 21-10 lead just 2:24 into the second half.
It would quickly expand.
Tennessee picked up one first down, but on the next play George was stripped of the ball by linebacker Lemanski Hall, who also recovered to set up another quick score for the Vikings.
On the first play from scrimmage, Bouman scrambled through a blitz and found Doug Chapman wide open in the middle of the field about 10 yards deep. When Chapman turned around, he had clear running 38 yards for the touchdown. That quickly, the Vikings had a 28-10 lead and played the Titans even the rest of the way.
After a pair of punts, the Titans put together a scoring drive. With passes of 14 yards to Derrick Mason, 21 to Kevin Dyson, McNair found Dyson five plays later in the end zone for a 15-yard score at 14:07 of the fourth quarter. The drive took only 3:50 and brought the Titans within two scores at 28-17.
Until Minnesota answered on the next drive. It started with short passes and runs to pick up one first down. Carter picked up another one with a 15-yard reception. Bennett and Chapman converted another first down before Carter made the big play of the drive. Cutting across the middle of the field, Carter caught the ball in stride, and before he was going to be hit lateraled 10 yards to Chamberlain, who picked up another 18 yards. On the next play, from the 10-yard line, Bennett beat the pursuit to the left pylon and expanded the lead to 35-17 with 7:53 left to play.
A Patrick Chukwurah forced fumble and Talance Sawyer recovery gave the Vikings the ball back at the Titans 25-yard line. But on third down, Bouman forced a pass into coverage in the end zone and cornerback Andre Dyson came away with the interception.
Tennessee put together a final scoring drive, but it had to cover 80 yards and took 3:22 off the clock, which was too much time considering the situation. The Titans got the score on a 9-yard pass to tight end Frank Wycheck, but it came with 2:57 left in the game and left the Vikings with 35-24 lead.
It took only two plays to answer and slam the door, as Moss broke off a screen pass for a 73-yard touchdown after solid blocking by Chris Walsh and Carter at the line of scrimmage. It gave the Vikings their 42-24 win and gave them a chance to move one game closer to .500 next week in Detroit.
Who starts at quarterback in that game is another question.
Bouman, Bennett, Offense Explode
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