PASSING OFFENSE: B — The gaudy numbers weren't there the way they were the previous two weeks. QB Daunte Culpepper threw for only 183 yards and one touchdown. But he completed 24 of 30 passes with no interceptions and a passer rating of 103.2, a team-record fourth consecutive game with a rating of 100 or better. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said it was the best game Culpepper has "managed" in his career. He's right. With Randy Moss limited to two token plays and no catches because of a strained right hamstring, Culpepper had to play a different game. A more patient game. He dinked and dunked the Vikings down the field. His longest completion was 20 yards. He converted only 2 of 11 third-down opportunities. But Culpepper made plays. On third-and-16 from the Titans 43, he was being spun down by a safety but had the good sense to switch the ball to his left hand and flip the ball to Jermaine Wiggins for a 10-yard gain. Culpepper then converted on fourth-and-6 with a 14-yard pass to Nate Burleson, and the Vikings went on to score a touchdown and take a 17-3 lead into halftime.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A — Rookie RB Mewelde Moore had his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game and set a team record for most net yards from scrimmage in three consecutive games. His total of 610 broke Chuck Foreman's mark of 573 set in 1976. Moore averaged 6.9 yards on Sunday, carrying the ball 20 times for 138 yards. He also caught five passes for 30 yards. Moe Williams scored on a 1-yard run, the first rushing touchdown by a Vikings running back this season. Michael Bennett returned from two right knee injuries after being out since the third preseason game. He carried once for no yards and was on the field for only a few snaps. Head coach Mike Tice wanted to get Bennett 5-7 carries but changed his mind because he didn't want to mess with Moore's rhythm. It's nice that Bennett is back. But the bottom line is the Vikings don't need him unless Moore gets hurt.
PASS DEFENSE: B — The Vikings entered the game with only one interception, but they came up with three against Titans backup QB Billy Volek. Starting QB Steve McNair (bruised sternum) was knocked from the game on the first play of the second quarter when DT Kevin Williams hit him in the chest as DT Chris Hovan was hitting McNair from behind. CB Antoine Winfield's second interception in two games led to a 50-yard touchdown drive for the Vikings. LB Raonall Smith, who is making everybody forget about the injured Chris Claiborne, had his first career interception in the end zone on second-and-goal at the 5 early in the third quarter. CB Terrence Shaw also had his first pick as a Viking. The pass rush was as good as it has been all season. Hovan actually made plays and was upbeat after the game. Hovan recovered a fumble after Williams sacked Volek and stripped him of the ball.
RUSH DEFENSE: B — The Titans ran the ball only 14 times. Chris Brown was held to 55 yards (3.9), and no other Titan carried the ball. The Vikings gave up a 15-yard run on a gaping hole, but other than that they shut down the run. That was a big part of being able to get after Volek and get some interceptions.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus — Darren Bennett, who didn't punt the previous week, punted five times and averaged 40.6 yards with a long of 61. Morten Andersen connected on a pair of 29-yard field goal attempts. The return games remained below average. Mewelde Moore had one kickoff return for 19 yards, and Kelly Campbell had one for 18 yards. Nate Burleson had one punt return for 2 yards. The coverage units were much better. The Titans averaged 21.8 yards on five kickoff returns and just 4 yards on three punt returns. One of the fast improving areas on special teams is K Aaron Elling's kickoffs. They were consistently high and to the 5-yard line.
COACHING: A — It isn't easy playing the first game in seven seasons without Randy Moss, who has a strained right hamstring. Yes, Moss kept alive his streak of starting every game. But he played only two snaps and didn't have a pass thrown his way. Coach Mike Tice wrestled with the Moss decision into the wee hours Sunday morning. He made the right decision by not pushing Moss into any heavy lifting. Offensively, coordinator Scott Linehan showed he can craft a patient game plan that doesn't have to win with the 60-yard pass every week. A sound running game and a controlled passing attack worked on Sunday. Defensively, coordinator Ted Cottrell had his best game in his six games with the Vikings. The coverage was tighter and the five- and six-man pass rushes were well-timed. The Vikings hadn't held an opponent to as few as three points since beating Cincinnati 24-3 in November 1998.
Grading The Game: Titans
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