Discussing the Vikings' problems, former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann thinks one area the Vikings fell short was finding a capable replacement for receiver Cris Carter.
"You can't ignore the Cris Carter factor, and I don't mean from a leadership standpoint," Theismann said. "He's a great third-down entity for a football team. The way you keep drives going and keep your defense fresh is being able to convert on third downs.
"I just think somebody should have said, ‘Cris was an important part of what we did, and we need to find a guy who can sort of fill that role.' This team has leadership. (Matt) Birk is a leader, (David) Dixon is leader, (Chris) Hovan is a leader. But what you are missing is the conversion element.
"It's a tough situation to fill. (Signing Derrick) Alexander was replacing an orange with an apple. The closest they have is Chris Walsh. Chris is like Ricky Proehl. Those guys don't get the full credit they deserve."
Theismann, meanwhile, is not among those who believe the Vikings would be better off without receiver Randy Moss.
"You can't move Randy," Theismann said. "I think Randy is a special talent and will be a great success as a Minnesota Viking. He wears his emotions on his sleeve and speaks his mind too much.
"But between Randy and (49ers receivers) Terrell Owens, they give you reason to pick up the paper on Monday morning. Unfortunately, both have been in the newspapers for more than just athletic ability. But I have always thought the world of Randy Moss, and I think he has to continue to grow and learn and understand his role on this football team. I think he will, I really do.
"I think he will learn. It isn't that he is not trying. Randy had a couple of instances that are potholes in life, minor things. … What he needs to do is figure out how to deal with life."
Pro Bowl back?
Michael Bennett enters today's game at New Orleans as the second-leading rusher in the NFC with 1,114 yards on 203 carries and four touchdowns. He also had 29 catches for 244 yards and one score.
While those numbers could earn Bennett a trip to the Pro Bowl, the second-year player isn't too concerned.
"If I make it, I make it. If I don't, I don't," he said. "It's not really something I'm thinking about too much. If I made it, it would be great. But then that would mean I would have to go get all my linemen a Rolex watch."
The Pro Bowl teams will be announced Thursday on ESPN.
Best pass protector
Coach Mike Tice calls rookie left tackle Bryant McKinnie his team's "best pass protector, without a doubt." But McKinnie, who ended a 98-day holdout on Nov. 1, is far from the complete player Tice sees him becoming.
"He has a ways to go in the run game to learn about leverage and finishing," Tice said. "We're doing a lot of things with him now in the two-point stance because he's missed so much fundamental work and technique work, but without a doubt he's our best pass protector. That's a tribute to him, being here, what, five weeks?"
Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre issued an apology for making an obscene gesture directed at Vikings defensive tackle Chris Hovan after the nationally televised game from Lambeau Field.
"I don't know what type of guy he is. He may be a great guy. I used to hate playing against Hardy Nickerson, and he's one of the greatest guys you'll ever meet," Favre told reporters. "I hope there's no hard feelings. I have a lot of respect for the guy.
"I don't even remember doing that. If I did … it may have been two kids out there acting like kids. But if I did that, I apologize to people who saw that. But like I said after the game, I mean it's a tough game and tempers flare and emotions fly, and sometimes things happen and when you look back, you go, ‘Aw, what a dumb you-know-what.'"
The difficult portion of the New Orleans Saints schedule appears to be over. In December, the Saints played at Baltimore last Sunday, host the Vikings today, are at Cincinnati on Dec. 22 and at Carolina on Dec. 29. The Saints' final four opponents entered last week with a combined record of 14-34 (.292).
Fleur de what?
Time for trivia: One of the most unique emblems in professional sports belongs to the New Orleans Saints, who play host to the Vikings at the Superdome on Sunday. The "Fleur de Lis" is a symbol from the Court of Louis XIV. It is a French word that stands for "flower of the lilly." The Fleur de Lis is a symbol of New Orleans, which was adopted during the French occupation of Louisiana, from 1682-1762.
Bennett, on the virus that has struck players on the Vikings offensive line this month: "Well, it's caught on to a lot of guys that are over 290 pounds. It hasn't really caught on to the lighter guys yet, so hopefully our immune system is working a little harder than theirs."
Sunday Morning Massacre
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