Game 5: Highlights, Lowlights And Notes

The Vikings experienced offensive success and even some defensive success Sunday night in New Orleans. Get some amazing numbers and find out who performed well, who struggled and who got hurt in the team's 38-31 win.

EXPLOSION DEFINED?
What is an "explosive" offense? Since the Vikings offense is often referred to as explosive, here is all it did against New Orleans.

In the first half alone, the Vikings had 10 plays of 15 yards or more. Here they are:

* Randy Moss had catches of 46 yards and 43 yards.

* Nate Burleson had two receptions of 36 yards.

* Mewelde Moore had a 20-yard run, a 19-yard run and a 20-yard reception.

* Jermaine Wiggins had a 17-yard reception.

* Kelly Campbell had a 23-yard reception.

* Marcus Robinson had a 16-yard touchdown grab.

That was just in the first half. Really, it was a combination of Moore's explosiveness keeping New Orleans somewhat honest on defense and Daunte Culpepper's incredible proficiency with Scott Linehan's offense.

In the second half, the offense only got more efficient, as Culpepper went from two first-half interceptions to zero in the second half.

Seven Vikings receivers got involved in the game, and six of them had 20 yards or more. In fact, Moe Williams was the only receiver to register a catch without one going for at least 20 yards, and the receivers registered an average of 16.3 yards per catch throughout the game.

Culpepper set an NFL record with three games this season with five touchdown passes.

MOSS EARLY, NO MOSS LATER
The Vikings didn't take long to try to find Randy Moss. Backed up to the 12-yard line on their game-opening drive, Culpepper looked long for Moss and found him for 46 yards to quickly move the Vikings out of a hole.

After a Culpepper interception ended the first drive, Moss capped the Vikings' third drive with a 43-yard touchdown. With 4:47 left in the first half, however, Moss pulled a hamstring that caused him to head to the locker room early before halftime. He tried to return in the first half but came out of the locker room after halftime wearing street clothes, ending the game with two catches for 89 yards and a touchdown.

MORE OF MOORE
Mewelde Moore looked sharp running the ball early again, but he may have been the culprit in missing a blocking assignment on the game's fourth play of the game, a sack of Culpepper by Darren Howard.

If that was Moore's fault, he made up for his blocking mistakes with his incredible ability to step his away through traffic and find the creases throughout the remainder of the game. He proved he is more than just a fourth-string running back, and he wasn't used as much as he could have been in the first half. But he still ended up with 106 yards rushing on 15 carries, 78 yards receiving on seven catches and 51 yards on three kickoff returns.

That's versatility, and this guy's a rookie?

EXPLOSIVE DEFENSE
With the offense rolling up yardage and touchdowns, the defense continued to give away yards. But it wasn't as bad as it may have seemed. By the time the Saints were done playing catch-up all evening long, Aaron Brooks had thrown for "only" 249 yards and New Orleans had "only" 385 yards of total offense.

In comparison, Culpepper ended with 425 yards passing, and the Vikings offense finished with 605 total yards.

The Saints' effort may have seemed like more because they kept scoring, but the Vikings defense was also put in bad field position twice, once because of an interception and once because of a fumble recovery returned to the 14-yard line.

The one saving grace may have been the Vikings' increased focus on bringing pressure. That helped force a fumble by Aaron Brook and resulted in sacks for Kenechi Udeze, Keith Newman and Lance Johnstone.

PICKING A GOOD TIME
The Vikings defense had been giving up yardage and first downs on the Saints' second drive. New Orleans started at its own 23-yard line and worked its way all the way to the Minnesota 8-yard line. The Vikings had been called for illegal contact and defensive holding in three plays. So, with the Saints sitting with second-and-goal at the 8-yard line, Antoine Winfield jumped a route by Ernie Conwell and stepped in front of Brooks' pass for an interception that he returned 56 yards to the 39-yard line. It was Winfield's first interception as a Viking and the team's first pick of the season.

Three plays later, Culpepper hit Randy Moss for a 43-yard touchdown (following a sack). Instead of the game being tied 7-7, the Vikings led 14-0 and quieted the raucous Superdome crowd.

WILLIAMS RETURNS
Running back Moe Williams returned to action for the Vikings after effectively missing three games. He was inserted into the game on the first drive after Darren Howard came through for a sack. On the second drive he registered his first statistic, fulfilling his role flawlessly as a third-down back. On the Vikings' second drive, and their second time in the red zone, Culpepper was facing third-and-9 at the 15-yard line. He scrambled to buy time and flipped a pass to Williams, who shimmied to the 2-yard line. One play later, the Vikings had a touchdown.

Williams finished with a flurry, carrying six times for 66 yards, including a 49-yard run on the team's final drive to seal the win.

WIGGINS' BIG RETURN
Tight end Wiggins returned from a broken hand in scoring fashion. After missing the last two games, Wiggins recorded five catches for 56 yards and two touchdowns.

CLAIBORNE RETURNS ... FOR A TIME
As expected, Chris Claiborne returned to action, but it wasn't for long. After making two tackles, Claiborne aggravated his calf injury and was replaced by Raonall Smith. Claiborne hasn't been the playmaker he was early last year when healthy.

DORSEY'S SECOND SPIN
Rookie Nat Dorsey was making his second start at right tackle. Last week, Dorsey struggled against a 3-4 defensive front and on the road in a noisy venue. He had three false starts and a holding penalty that was declined.

He got to follow that performance by lining up across from the Saints' Charles Grant, who entered the weekend as the NFL's sack leader with seven. Grant did come away with one sack, but Dorsey looked much more poised in another noisy stadium away from home. He was flagged for one false start.

GOLDBERG GETS THE CALL
Among the Vikings' inactive players was Adam Haayer, an indication that Adam Goldberg has moved ahead of Haayer as the team's utility offensive lineman. Goldberg played on special teams.

INACTIVE DUTY
The Vikings' inactive players Sunday night were Shaun Hill (emergency QB), WR Ryan Hoag, RB Michael Bennett, LB E.J. Henderson, C Cory Withrow, Haayer, DT Spencer Johnson and DE Darrion Scott.

LONESOME KICKER
The only active player for the Vikings Sunday night who didn't get in the game? That would be punter Darren Bennett. The only time the Vikings didn't score was when Culpepper threw two interceptions, when Matt Birk had a bad snap that was recovered by the Saints, when Moore ran out the first-half clock and when Culpepper took a knee to end the game. All six of the team's other drives ended with points.

BEEFY BERGER
Ever since Mitch Berger left the Vikings for a bigger payday with the St. Louis Rams, the Vikings have struggled to carry only two kicking specialists. In fact, much of the time they have been forced to carry a kickoff specialist because they have been unable to find a consistent, strong-legged kicker who can confidently handle field goals and kick off the ball into the end zone.

So how did Berger, now with the Saints, do against the Vikings? His first punt went 51 yards, followed by a 45-yard punt to the 6-yard line and a third one in the first half that went 43 yards. He ended the game averaging 45.8 yards.



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