The likely end of the Cris Carter home era in Minnesota went out without a win, without a 100-yard game for him and without a touchdown — for him or the offense. It was about as unceremonious as they come.
The only drama in the Vikings' 33-3 loss in their 2001 home finale against Jacksonville was trying to get Carter 100 yards. But, typical of the Vikings' season, a pass that would have gotten him a touchdown and 100 yards with 11 seconds remaining was intercepted in the end zone by Jaguars cornerback Marlon McCree.
And Carter didn't leave a lot of doubt about his intentions, thanking fans with a taped message on the Metrodome's Jumbotron: "I want to take a few minutes to tell all the fans in the state of Minnesota and the Twin Cities area thank you. Thank you for letting my dreams become a reality. I would also like to thank the coaching staff, especially Coach (Dennis) Green, and also the ownership, Red McCombs and his family, for everything that they have done for my family. It has been a great opportunity to play for the best fans in the NFL. Also, a special wish out to my No. 1 and No. 2 fans, Duron and Monterae (Carter's chidren). Thank you. Love you."
But bigger than the Carter sidebar was the fact that the Vikings could do very little on defense — where they gave up 100 yards to receiver Jimmy Smith and running back Stacey Mack — and offense — where third-string quarterback Spergon Wynn was called to duty after one series when Todd Bouman reinjured his thumb.
It all piled up on the Vikings. The defense gave up far too many big plays and the offense couldn't get anything going consistently.
Carter finished the game with eight catches for 88 yards, Wynn was 24-for-39 for 218 yards, and running back Michael Bennett was held to 17 yards on 11 carries.
Jacksonville took the opening kickoff and, while avoiding disaster on a fumbled ball that was ruled down but recovered by Eric Kelly, put points on the board. The Jaguars moved through Minnesota's defense with ease, both on the ground and through the air. The yardage came in big chunks, with Jimmy Smith picking up 18 yards on the second play of the game and running back Elvis Joseph getting 27 yards on the ground on the next play to bring the ball to the 29-yard line. From there, the defense held and forced Mike Hollis onto the field for a 39-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
Bouman's time under center didn't last long. On his second pass, he reinjured his thumb, stayed in for one more incompletion that sailed on him, and Wynn took over on the next series.
But Wynn wouldn't enter before the Jaguars had a 10-0 lead. Again, it looked too easy for the visitors. It started with a 15-yard pass to Smith, then Damon Gibson took a reverse for 18 yards. One play later, Mack brought the ball to the 3-yard line with a 20-yard run and capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown on the next play.
With Wynn in, the Vikings moved the ball across midfield with an 18-yard pass to Cris Carter on third-and-5 and dug out of another low-percentage situation. Facing third-and-15, Wynn hit Chamberlain with a 12-yard pass, and Dennis Green decided to go for the first down with the ball at the 43-yard line. His confidence was rewarded when Wynn hit Randy Moss with a 13-yard pass. The Vikings couldn't convert from there, however, as a holding penalty took them out of field goal position.
Big plays were once again the way Jacksonville moved the ball, starting their third consecutive scoring drive with a 17-yard pass to tight end Kyle Brady. Smith picked up another first down with a 34-yard reception, and three straight runs by Mack for a combined 12 yards continued to move the chains. But after getting to the 10-yard line, the Jaguars couldn't continue their push. Hollis gave them a 13-0 lead with a 23-yard field goal with 11:15 left in the second quarter.
It was more of the same on after the Vikings picked up one first down and punted. Joseph started the Jaguars' fourth consecutive scoring drive with a screen pass, and he picked up another first down with runs of 9 and 6 yards. Still, getting inside the red zone seemed to be the Vikings' best defense, and Hollis was called onto the field for a 21-yard field goal. When he converted, the Jaguars had a 16-0 lead with 4:54 left to play in the half.
The Vikings finally pick up points — albeit only three — on their final drive of the first half. Getting the ball with less than five minutes to play, Wynn and the offense moved methodically down the field and picked up a crucial first down on an unnecessary roughness penalty on the first set of downs. That brought the ball near midfield, and passes of 2 yards to Jim Kleinsasser, 6 to Chamberlain and 16 to Carter moved the ball to the 35-yard line. Fullback Harold Morrow picked up a first down with a 14-yard catch, and Chamberlain and Carter combined to pick up another first down with catches of 6 and 5 yards, respectively. And with time ticking down, Chamberlain got the 14-yard line with a 14-yard catch. Wynn spiked the ball and Gary Anderson came on for the 32-yard field goal with no time remaining in the half.
With the Vikings starting the second half in a 16-3 hole, the offense could only manage a couple first downs before punting the ball away. And with the Jaguars pinned at their own 15-yard line, the Vikings defense held Jacksonville without a first down — and without a score — for the first time in the game.
But after another Vikings punt, Jacksonville got back on their scoring streak. They did it more methodically this time, using 14 plays to drive 85 yards. The big plays came on a Joseph 15-yard run and passes to Smith of 15, 10 and 11 yards. Keenan McCardell capped the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Mark Brunell, giving the Jaguars a 23-3 lead with 40 seconds left in the third quarter.
It got worse in a hurry, as defensive tackle Gary Walker sacked Wynn, forced a fumble and recovered — all in one sweeping motion — on third down.
The Jaguars settled for another field goal after getting to the 3-yard line, but the damage to the Vikings' hopes was done already, with a 26-3 Jacksonville lead.
Jacksonville didn't let up after the Vikings could only pick up one first down on their next drive. Mack did most of the damage, going over 100 yards on Jacksonville's final aggressive, clock-burning drive. He carried eight times for 43 yards on the drive, capped by a 2-yard touchdown with 2:12 left in the game. It put Jacksonville up 33-3, the final, and left only the unsuccessful attempt by the Vikings to get Carter a successful send-off.
While he had two catches for 26 yards on the final drive, his probable final play in the Metrodome ended with an interception on a ball thrown his way — kind of like the Vikings' season has gone this year.
Vikes Lose ... Carter Leaves?
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