Grading The Game: Saints

The Vikings were good, but not great, in every area, meaning there remains room for decent improvement. Still, the grades reflect a solid all-around effort.

PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus — After turning over the ball 10 times in the first two games, quarterback Daunte Culpepper looked much more like the guy who was an MVP candidate in 2004. Culpepper, playing without top receiver Nate Burleson, was 21-of-29 for 300 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He completed passes to eight different receivers, connecting with Travis Taylor on two touchdowns and rookie Troy Williamson on a 53-yarder. The only downside is that Culpepper was sacked seven times.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B — Mewelde Moore registered the Vikings' first 100-yard rushing performance of the season, gaining 101 yards on 23 carries. Michael Bennett, who had been considered the top back entering the season, only got in for two fourth-quarter plays. Despite his rushing total, Moore still made his share of mistakes, according to coach Mike Tice. Moore was at his best early, gaining 55 yards on six carries in the opening quarter.

PASS DEFENSE: B-minus — With cornerbacks Fred Smoot and Antoine Winfield playing significantly more man coverage than they did in the first two weeks, the Saints top receivers, Joe Horn and Donte Stallworth, were held to a combined one catch. The Vikings shelved their nickel defense and went almost exclusively to the dime in passing situations. The team also got to Aaron Brooks three times, putting frequent pressure on the quarterback. Saints tight end Ernie Conwell did give the linebackers some trouble, catching three passes for 65 yards and one touchdown.

RUSH DEFENSE: B — Deuce McAllister gained only 63 yards on 14 carries, going against a Vikings line that did appear to get winded in the second half when the Saints went no-huddle. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams finished second on the Vikings with five tackles, one behind linebacker Dontarrious Thomas.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B — This unit set the tone for the day as Richard Owens forced Aaron Stecker to fumble the opening kickoff. Antoine Winfield recovered and the Vikings scored on their first play from scrimmage. Rookie punter Chris Kluwe had another solid performance, averaging 48.4 yards (42.6 net) on five punts. Kicker Paul Edinger made four of five field-goal attempts. Koren Robinson, getting his first try on kick returns, averaged 22.8 yards on four returns and his 46-yarder in the fourth quarter set up a field goal that gave the Vikings a 27-16 lead.

COACHING: B — It remains unclear exactly who was calling the plays for the Vikings, but at least it seemed to work. With offensive coordinator Steve Loney up in the coaches' box for the first time this season, he called plays down to coach Mike Tice. Tice then relayed them into the game. Another change had quarterbacks coach Rich Olson on the sideline instead of up in the box. Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, meanwhile, decided to get more aggressive, causing problems for Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks. Cottrell said he didn't necessarily blitz more, but brought pressure from different angles.

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