What the...?

As the Vikings notched a second straight loss, at a critical time on offense the team once again took the ball out of Daunte Culpepper's hands and paid for it.

In every game, one can point to a handful of plays that determine the outcome. As the Vikings found themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard for the second straight time and the fifth time in the last seven games, one of those key plays made little to no sense.

In both instances, the Vikings' coaching staff apparently forgot that Daunte Culpepper has been challenging the all-time record for pass completion percentage in a season. And, in both instances, the Vikings got burned.

Last week vs. the Bears, the Vikings faced a critical fourth-and-5 in the fourth quarter. Instead of keeping the offense on the field and having Culpepper try to convert the first down, the Vikings pulled out a bizarre fake punt special in which safety Brian Russell took the snap. Unfamiliar with running an offensive play, Russell scrambled around looking more confused than anything else and, despite not yet being hit, dove for the first-down marker. He came up short and the Vikings lost.

Sunday, with the Vikings trailing by four points and needing a touchdown, the ball again was taken out of Culpepper's hands and given to wide receiver Randy Moss -- who threw an interception. The Vikings had a first down on the Seattle 20 and appeared ready to go in for the game-winning score against a Seahawks team that has made a bad legend of themselves by blowing leads in the fourth quarter. Instead, the turnover allowed the Seahawks to eat enough clock that the Vikings had notime outs and 40 seconds to win.

With the season on the line, the Vikings have opted to take the ball out of Culpepper's hands and put their fate in the hands of trick plays. Both times they've failed and the second-guessers will once again have a field day. The problem? The Vikings can't make a convincing argument to the contrary.

* Don't let those who contend that if Jermaine Wiggins had caught Culpepper's pass as time expired that the Vikings would have won. Had he caught it and been ruled a touchdown, it would have gone to the replay booth -- where Culpepper would have been called down when his knee touched the ground during an attempted sack.
* If anything on the last play, the Seahawks should have been called for too many men on the field. Thinking Culpepper had been sacked, about 20 players ran out on the field -- along with coach Mike Holmgren -- while the play was still live. 12 men on the field is one thing. 35 men on the field during live action should have resulted in a penalty.
* Nate Burleson suffered a broken nose Sunday, but returned to action and finished the game.
* Derek Ross, who was nearly cut after being burned often vs. the Bears, was the victim on the third-down pass of 37 yards to Darrell Jackson that allowed Seattle to work the clock and force the Vikings burn all of their timeouts. His job security was tenuous at best. Now he may want to keep some boxes by his locker.
* So much for limiting Randy Moss' playing time. Originally slated to run 40 or so plays, Moss was in on 59 plays -- all but one the Vikings ran.

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