It seems sadly ironic that the headline on the latest edition of Viking Update magazine has Daunte Culpepper pictured with the phrase "Culp-Ability" on the cover. Sunday, he was culpable for all five of his interceptions and didn't have the look of the Pro Bowl QB Vikings fans have grown accustomed to.
There are many times when a quarterback shouldn't be faulted for an interception. A mistimed route or tipped ball can often leave the quarterback looking bad when in fact the play wasn't his fault. In this week's installment of Upon Further Review, Daunte Culpepper
took the blame for all five of his interceptions and, after looking at the tape, he did so for good reason – it was his fault.
Late in the first half, Culpepper didn't have any interceptions and the Vikings were trailing 20-0. Two Michael Bennett
fumbles and a defense that allowed too many big plays had the Vikings in a deep hole. At that point, it was Culpepper's job to dig them out of it. Not only didn't he do it, he looked bad not doing it.
It was only after the game that it was discussed that Culpepper had a knee injury that prevented him from scrambling like he has been famous for over the years. If that was the case, it might be an excuse, but there were few excuses for the passes that made a big deficit into one of the worst blowouts in team history.
Here's a breakdown of what went so horribly wrong.
Pick No. 1 – With a little over two minutes to play in the half, Culpepper has the Vikings near midfield trailing 20-0. A touchdown could make the deficit manageable, considering that the Vikings would get the opening kickoff of the second half. He looks for Nate Burleson over the middle with the pocket holding up around him, but his pass sails high. Burleson makes an attempt to grab the overthrown pass and tips it straight up in the air. It comes down in the hands of CB Tory James and the Vikings' drive ends. To make matters worse, the Bengals score a TD with 12 seconds left to take a 27-0 lead to the locker room.
Pick No. 2 – On just the second play of the third quarter, Culpepper has just completed a 21-yard pass to Marcus Robinson to get the team into Bengals territory. He has Burleson lined up in single coverage with Deltha O'Neal, but instead of throwing the ball to the sideline, where it's likely only Burleson can make the catch, his pass comes down seven yards from the sideline. Burleson is forced into the role of d-back, trying to break up the pass. But, it is also underthrown and O'Neal has an easy interception to kill another Vikings drive.
Pick No. 3 – On the Vikings' second possession of the half, still trailing 27-0, Culpepper has dodged a bullet after losing a fumble that was negated by a Cincy penalty and has the Vikings into Bengals territory once again. Flushed from the pocket, Culpepper tries to throw a bomb to Troy Williamson on the run. His pass is underthrown and Williamson tries to adjust to the pass. O'Neal, who had the short coverage on the play, leaps and tips the pass over the head of Williamson and into the waiting arms of safety Kevin Kaeshiviharn – killing yet another drive.
Pick No. 4 – With 2:30 left in the third quarter, Culpepper has the Vikings out to their own 44. Frustrated and perhaps nervous of taking a shot to his knee, when he feels the heat on a screen pass – part of the intention of throwing an effective screen – Culpepper lobs a pass that goes five yards beyond where Mewelde Moore is standing (and not yet looking for a pass) and is caught easily by O'Neal. Once again, the only player who could have possibly caught the pass was a Bengal, and it leads to another turnover that the Bengals convert into a TD and 34-0 lead on the next play.
Pick No. 5 – In the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, the Vikings drive all the way to the Bengals 12-yard and face a third-and-9 play. Culpepper is again flushed from the pocket and running to the sidelines. Every instinct in a QB should be telling him to throw the ball away and either try again on fourth down or kick a field goal. Instead, as he is just a couple of steps from running out of bounds, Culpepper sidearms a pass in the general vicinity of Marcus Robinson, who has three defenders draped over and around him. As it comes down, Robinson is trying to come back to the ball, but it is thrown directly at O'Neal for his third pick of the half.
Any game in which a QB throws five interceptions can be viewed as a nightmare. But, when at least four if not all five are the direct result of poorly thrown passes, Upon Further Review tells us the Culpepper really had nobody else to blame but himself for his poor performance.