Leadership manifests itself in different ways. Sunday in defeat, Daunte Culpepper showed he's taking on the role of a leader by hanging the 27-23 loss to the Bears on himself.
The ironic thing about the loss was, if Dennis Green had been coaching, it likely would have been laid on his doorstep. Facing a third-and-13 from his own 46 -- a play that statistics will tell you gets converted into a first down about 15 percent of the time -- Culpepper threw a pass into the middle of the chest of safety Mike Brown.
Some observers thought, seeing that the Bears had only one time out remaining and that punter Kyle Richardson's specialty is dumping punts in close to (but not in) the end zone, that the Vikes could have forced the Bears to either burn their final time out or let the clock run down to the two-minute warning. Either way, the Bears would likely have to travel 80 or 90 yards for a winning TD or 60 to 70 yards to attempt a game-tying field goal.
In the Green era, the loss would have been pinned on him. Sunday, the loss was pinned on Culpepper -- because he accepted the blame.
"I really feel I owe the team," Culpepper said. "They say one play doesn't decide a game. But I don't believe that."
If anything, Sunday was a testament to the Minnesota media not second-guessing Mike Tice in the same way that Green was villified in the past. Yes, the team lost a 10-point lead and missed out on a golden opportunity to put an early stamp on the 2002 season -- with home games coming vs. Buffalo and Carolina, the Vikings could easily have been 3-0 after three games. But, the loss was viewed in the sense of the team and not pointing fingers at the coach -- which was so commonplace as to be cliche in recent years.
This is one that got away, but, for now anyway, it seems as though we're accepting that the Vikings lost, crediting Culpepper for his courage and not pointing fingers at anyone in particular. If nothing else, that has to be seen as a positive.
* Red McCombs reiterated the team's line in the sand concerning the holdout of Bryant McKinnie, saying McKinnie agents Jim Steiner and Ben Dogra (who orchestrated a 51-day holdout for their premier client last year -- Cincinnati DE Justin Smith) are not going to win in their contract stalemate. For the first time, McCombs, who attended the game in Champaign, said the Vikings are willing to relinquish the draft rights to McKinnie if that is what is needed. While many have tended to agree with the Vikings' stance on not paying McKinnie a signing bonus comparable to that paid the picks before and after McKinnie, McCombs remains steadfast that the team has been hindered by McKinnie's agents. He added that the charges of collusion between the Vikings and Chiefs would seem to have been orchestrated by McKinnie's agents.
* VU has been hearing for a couple of weeks from those involved in the status of the Vikings that McCombs has been hesitant to give out a big one-year signing bonus because he is commited to selling the team. However, if the new buyer is looking to move the team to Los Angeles, reports coming out over the weekend suggest that the Indianapolis Colts have leaped into the front-runner position to move to L.A. The Colts' lease in the RCA Dome can expire after this season with no litigation.
* For those following the Randy Ratio, according to the team stat gurus, he was the target of 38 percent of passes -- adding more fuel to the fire that less than 40 percent translates into losses.
* Byron Chamberlain was one of many players to be sidelined in the stifling heat -- field temperatures hit as high as 118 degrees. But his sidelining was the result of a recurrent problem from last year -- his left knee locking up. An MRI should no ligament damage, but he will be reavaluated today. The same injury sidelined Chamberlain twice last season.
* Jim Kleinsasser earned several kudos from coaches following the game for his role in helping the Vikings rush for 138 yards against a rush defense ranked No. 2 in the NFL. More times than not, the Vikings ran outside to avoid mammoth DTs Keith Traylor and Ted Washington. The Vikings' rushing total was surpassed by only San Francisco in the entire 2001 season vs. the Bears.
* Greg Biekert stood out on defense for the Vikings. However, like several players for both teams, he had to leave the game in the fourth quarter because of cramping from the heat.
* In the first half of the game, the Vikings held Anthony Thomas to minus-2 yards rushing. In the second half, however, the Bears outgained the Vikings 250-96 yards.
* The temperatures played such a role in the game that Saturday night Tice had some players prone to cramping from dehydration take fluids intravenously.
* In a humorous moment in the fourth quarter that went largely missed by the television audience, Culpepper rolled out on a bootleg, ran out of bounds by the Bears bench and pretended to answer a sideline phone -- a moment that would have been much funnier had the Vikings won.
Culpepper Accepts Blame
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