Team Ball Creates Fifth Win

Without an explosive offense sans Randy Moss for most of the game, the Vikings played mistake-free, efficient football on offense and an opportunistic game on defense with four turnovers. It added up to a 20-3 win over Tennessee Sunday.

Mewelde Moore and Daunte Culpepper continued their incredible hot streaks for the Vikings, and Sunday against Tennessee the Minnesota defense joined the party.

The Vikings started by knocking Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair from the game after the first play of the second quarter, then held the Titans offense to 243 net offensive yards, forced and recovered a fumble and intercepted three passes. Combined with Moore's 138 yards rushing on 20 carries and Culpepper's efficient 24-for-30 passing for 183 yards and one touchdown, it added up to a 20-3 win, moving the Vikings to 5-1 on the season. With the loss, Tennessee fell to 2-5.

The Vikings had only scored three points on their opening drive all season, and they didn't add to that total in this game. They went three-and-out, and Keith Bulluck put an exclamation point on the defensive stand with a third-down sack of Culpepper.

The Titans offense responded with their best drive of the first half — and, as it turned out, their only scoring drive of the game — but were assisted with great field position. Starting on the 50-yard line, running back Chris Brown did the damage, rushing for 31 yards, but the defense eventually forced Gary Anderson onto the field for a 40-yard field goal with 8:19 to play in the quarter.

The Vikings responded with a field goal drive of their own. Moore and Jermaine Wiggins were did most of the work. Moore got four carries, but two of them went for losses, and Wiggins caught three passes on the drive. But when Moore was thrown for a 3-yard loss on third-and-2, Morten Andersen delivered a 29-yard field goal to tie the game at 3-3.

The defense responded again, as Chris Hovan and Kevin Williams knocked quarterback Steve McNair out the game, re-aggravating his old sternum injury. That sent the Titans offense off the field after three plays, and set the Vikings up on their own 34-yard line.

Culpepper remained in a groove, hitting Marcus Robinson for 20 yards and Nate Burleson for 17 yards, and Moore took two carries for 26 yards as the Vikings quickly set themselves up at the 1-yard line. Moe Williams did the rest, scoring on his first attempt to give the Vikings a 10-3 lead with 11:34 left in the half.

Volek moved the Titans across midfield on the ensuing drive with consecutive passes of 14 and 16 yards to Derrick Mason, but the Vikings defense clamped down from there and forced a punt. On the Vikings' next drive, Culpepper's only two incompletions of the first half sent them to the sideline, but Antoine Winfield put the offense back in business with an interception and a return for 30 yards to midfield with 5:13 left in the half.

The offense took advantage, milking the clock just right and scoring a touchdown. The drive started in dink-and-dunk fashion to work the clock, picking up two first downs with seven plays, the last one going to Burleson for 14 yards on fourth-and-6. With momentum carrying the offense, Culpepper took only three plays from there to get the ball in the end zone. He started with an 11-yard pass to Kelly Campbell, followed with a 6-yard run from Williams, then a 2-yard slant pass for a touchdown to Marcus Robinson, making it 17-3 Minnesota heading into halftime.

After another well-managed first half from Culpepper, who went 17-for-19 for 135 yards and a touchdown, the defense continued its aggressive ways to start the third quarter. Volek opened the quarter by passing his way to the 5-yard line, thanks to lengthy completions of 16 yards to Mason, and 19 and 18 yards to Drew Bennett. But after getting to the 5-yard line, Raonall Smith stepped in front of a Volek pass for the interception.

The teams traded possessions, but Minnesota dug itself out of a hole from its own 8-yard line only one drive later. Once again, Moore was a big reason why. He started the drive with a 16-yard run and picked up another first down three plays later with a 33-yard run that he nearly broke all the way. He picked up the next first down with an 8-yard reception, but the Vikings would only get to the 11-yard line before calling on Andersen for another 29-yard field goal, making it 20-3 Vikings with 10:17 to play.

Despite the personnel to indicate a punt and lining up in the polecat formation to pick up a first down, Tennessee still couldn't get across midfield and eventually punted back to the Vikings with 8:24 to play.

Culpeppper and company needed to pick up a few first downs to preserve their 17-point lead. They wouldn't do that, but Kevin Williams sacked Volek on Tennessee's next play from scrimmage and Chris Hovan recovered.

Once again, the offense sputtered after Moore picked up an initial first down, but Tennessee was unable to extend its drives either, as cornerback Terrance Shaw competed the interception trifecta for the Vikings on a fourth-down pass late in the fourth quarter to seal the 20-3 win.

Even without an explosive offense, the Vikings were never in danger in this game. The offense didn't turn the ball over, and the defense clamped down and fed the field-position game with three interceptions and a fumble recovery. It was about as complete of a game as the team has played, and its 5-1 record has it in the driver's seat.

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