PASSING OFFENSE: C — Daunte Culpepper threw an interception that was returned 16 yards to the Vikings' 20-yard line in the second quarter. Jacksonville was held to a field goal on the ensuing drive. Culpepper lost a fumble on a sack midway through the fourth quarter with the Vikings clinging to a 20-16 lead. The Jaguars drove to the Vikings 19, but Byron Leftwich's fumble was returned 77 yards for a the game-clinching touchdown. In other words, the defense bailed Culpepper out twice, big-time. Culpepper did throw a perfect 2-yard touchdown pass between two defenders to the back of the end zone to Randy Moss, who was back after missing the last three games and all but 11 snaps of the last five games because of a strained right hamstring. Moss played 54 of the Vikings' 61 offensive snaps but ran at less than full speed on most plays. He caught four passes for 40 yards, but the best news is he came out of the game without further injuring himself and will be closer to 100 percent Sunday against the Bears.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C — The Vikings committed to one running back, giving Onterrio Smith 20 of the 21 carries by running backs. He pounded out an average 72 yards (3.6) but was a driving force in a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to open the second half. He had seven carries for 32 yards (4.7) on the drive. That's impressive considering the Vikings played the entire second half with backups at center, right guard and right tackle. C Cory Withrow and RT Adam Goldberg started the game in place of Matt Birk (hernia) and Nat Dorsey (shoulder), respectively, while Adam Haayer took over at right guard after Dave Dixon sprained his left knee in the first half. Not only didn't Michael Bennett not start, the former Pro Bowler played only two snaps and touched the ball only once for a 5-yard reception.
PASS DEFENSE: B — Jaguars QB Byron Leftwich hurt the Vikings on some third-down plays but was average overall with 19 completions in 35 attempts for 235 yards and one touchdown. Jacksonville didn't score a touchdown in four trips to the red zone. The Jaguars also scored just 16 points despite seven trips inside the Vikings' 30. DE Kenechi Udeze and DT Kevin Williams combined on the play of the game. With 2:18 left and the Jaguars looking at third-and-6 from the Vikings 19, Udeze came loose on the blind side and slapped the ball out of Leftwich's hand. Williams scooped up the fumble, got a great block from CB Antoine Winfield and took off for a 77-yard game-clinching touchdown.
RUSH DEFENSE: D — The Vikings continue to be the worst team in the league against the run. Fred Taylor became the fifth back in the last five weeks to rush for more than 100 yards against the Vikings. He had 147 on 22 carries (6.7), including a 31-yarder. The Vikings went into the game giving up an NFL-worst 4.9 yards per carry. The Jaguars averaged 5.7 on 27 carries. If the Vikings don't clear this up, they're going nowhere in the playoffs, assuming this deficiency doesn't keep them from making the playoffs altogether.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B — Except for K Jose Cortez's kickoff out of bounds, the normally embarrassing special teams were downright respectable. P Darren Bennett finally turned the ball over on a towering 58-yarder and averaged 49 yards on two punts. Cortez redeemed himself with his first touchback of the season. Nate Burleson continues to be a surprisingly good punt returner, averaging 16 yards on two returns, but needs to be careful because he's starting to field punts closer and closer to his own end zone. And the best news of the week was holding the Jaguars to a 17.3-yard average on three kickoff returns. Last week, the Vikings gave up a game-opening 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to Detroit's Eddie Drummond.
COACHING: B — The Vikings won a home game they were supposed to win. But it did come against a sturdy AFC team that desperately needed a victory to keep pace in the tougher conference. The Vikings generated 330 yards and 20 points with a makeshift offensive line and Randy Moss still at less than 100 percent. The defense was terrible against the run but came up with a game-clinching fourth-quarter play for the second consecutive week. The special teams finally got their act together, at least for one week. Now comes a more difficult challenge: a road trip to Chicago, which handed the Vikings a key loss at Soldier Field during last year's 3-7 collapse at the end of the season.
Grading The Game: Jaguars
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