Moore Of The Same At Running Back

How many legitimate starters do the Vikings have at running back? With all of them healthy, they probably have at least three, but when the choice is Mewelde Moore or Michael Bennett, head coach Mike Tice knows which one he is choosing right now.

Mike Tice has a dilemma building that will require some serious thought in the coming weeks — how do you possibly bench Mewelde Moore or, at this point, even reduce his role?

Moore got his starting job after a calamitous series of events that included a preseason injury to Michael Bennett, a calf injury in Week 1 to Moe Williams and a four-game suspension for failing a drug test by Onterrio Smith.

When Moore was given the starting job — forced into it may be more appropriate — it was because of situations beyond his control. How has he responded? By rushing for 339 yards and adding 198 yards as a receiver in three games.

There's an axiom in the NFL that says a player doesn't lose his job due to injury, but the fact is, over the last two years, the Vikings are 11-1 in their first six games — all without Bennett. Their record with Bennett as the go-to back is sub-.500. As for Williams, he was never projected to be a featured back. As for Smith, Tice had him rated as a first-round prospect last year, but waited until the fourth round because of previous problems with marijuana that got him kicked off the Tennessee Volunteers football team.

All Moore has done is go above and beyond what anyone could have asked of him. He's made the job his and the question facing Tice is whether to go with the speed Bennett is supposed to provide or the success that Moore has brought to the job.

Tice pretty well answered that question today, saying Bennett will not automatically get his starting job back because the Vikings are in a rhythm with Moore.

"At this point right now, I don't have any inclination of starting (Bennett)," Tice said. "The reality is were 5-1, we've got good rhythm. Why mess with it?"

Bennett will still be active and will probably see some more playing time at running back, but that will be in spot duty. His biggest contribution in the near future could be returning kicks, according to Tice. For now, the starting job is Mewelde Moore's.

Fans can decide for themselves if that is the right choice, but the decision is Tice's.

* Randy Moss made a token appearance for two plays in Sunday's game and, in the press box, it was announced that he had re-aggravated his hamstring injury. Tice denied that implication, saying Moss came into the game hurt and was used as a decoy. He spent the second half in the trainer's room getting treatment. He is expected to play much more next Sunday vs. the Giants.
* While Daunte Culpepper's numbers were down this week, he still completed 24 of 30 passes, had a passer rating of 103.2 and managed the game extremely well — especially considering he was without his top wide receiver, his starting tight end (Jim Kleinsasser) and was using his fourth-string running back.
* When Williams scored on a 1-yard run, it was the first Vikings touchdown this season that didn't involve Culpepper. Of the 21 Vikes TDs this year, Culpepper has thrown 19 and run in another.
* The three points allowed by the Vikings were the least since Cincinnati scored just three Nov. 15, 1998 — when Randy Moss was still a rookie.
* While Moss is expected to see action next week, it isn't expected he will be 100 percent for at least a couple of weeks.
* Sunday was supposed to mark the return of Michael Bennett, but with Moore playing so well, he saw the field for just six plays – two of those lined up as a wide receiver.
* Culpepper set a team record with 19 touchdowns through the first six games of the season. That mark broke the Vikings team record of 18 set by Warren Moon in 1995 and is tied for second place in the all-time NFL record book. Dan Marino holds the mark with 21 set in 1986 — two years after he set the single-season record of 48 in 1984.
* How tough is Marino's record to break? By throwing one TD, Culpepper lost seven TDs. How, you might ask? Entering the game, he was on pace to throw 58 TDs. He's now on pace to throw 51.
* Matt Birk suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter and was replaced by recently signed Billy Conaty. Birk isn't expected to miss any time.
* The same isn't true for Titans QB Steve McNair. After being drilled on the first play of the second quarter, McNair left the game and didn't return. Following the game, McNair said he could be out a month or more with his sternum injury.
* The Vikings extended their NFL record of 34 straight games with 300 yards of offense or more, but finished with just 313 – and didn't hit the 300-yard mark until five minutes remained in the game.
* Quote of the Day: When asked a question he didn't care for about Culpepper's TD prowess, Mike Tice told the reporters after the game, "You guys can chart the Dan Marino contest. I'll talk to Daunte about which ‘R' do you want? Do you want the Record or the Ring?" He followed that by saying Culpepper wants a championship ring more than any individual record.

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