Toss from Moss turns up big for Vikings

Updated: October 19, 2003, 8:03 PM ET

MINNEAPOLIS -- Randy Moss has dazzled audiences with several jaw-dropping plays throughout his six-year career, but his lateral to Moe Williams at the end of the first half on Sunday will be hard to top.

"That's probably the best play I've ever seen Randy make," said center Matt Birk, "and I've seen him make a lot of good plays."

Daunte Culpepper was forced out of the pocket on the final play of the first half and barely got the pass off as Denver's Reggie Hayward leveled him. Moss caught it and was about to be tackled at the 15-yard line, but he alertly flipped the ball over his right shoulder to a streaking Williams to put Minnesota up 14-7 at halftime.

Moss said he works on pitching the ball back each week in practice to a running back or a receiver.

"I didn't really see Moe coming," Moss said. "I saw a jersey coming and it happened to be the color that I had on. I didn't really know who I was pitching it to. I just saw a Vikings jersey, and I just threw it behind my back."

On the sideline, meanwhile, coach Mike Tice was cringing as Moss made the pitch.

"Sandlot football is for the street," Tice said. "But sometimes you get away with a sandlot play, and that's what that was. It was great improvisation by two heads-up players. Great throw by the quarterback. He took a big hit on the play, but it was a lot of fun."

The crowd continued to cheer the play as it was replayed on the Metrodome videoboards.

"When it rains, it pours," Culpepper said.

The play gave the Vikings some momentum to start the second half. Onterrio Smith capped Minnesota's opening third-quarter drive with a 5-yard TD run. And Lance Johnstone ran back an interception off Steve Beuerlein on Denver's ensuing possession to put the Vikings up 28-7.

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^RUSSELL'S RECORD:@ Free safety Brian Russell tied Paul Krause's 1968 team record for interceptions in consecutive games with six.

Russell got his sixth INT, which leads the NFL this season, when he picked off Beuerlein in the first quarter to kill a Denver drive in Minnesota territory. On first down at the 33, Beuerlein tried to find Rod Smith, but Russell grabbed the ball at the 5.

"I'm doing my job back there," Russell said. "Really, the interceptions are a credit to the corners and the guys up front. They're putting on the pressure and covering so well that they're trying to force the balls in and it's my job to go get 'em."

With their three interceptions against the Broncos, the Vikings have already tied last season's total of 16.

"We're definitely looking to get a lot more," said strong safety Corey Chavous, who has five himself.

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^DAUNTE'S BACK:@ Culpepper returned to the starting lineup after missing the Vikings' previous two games with several small broken bones in his lower back.

He suffered the injury Sept. 21 at Detroit, and Gus Frerotte started in his place against San Francisco and at Atlanta. Last weekend's bye gave him some extra time to heal.

"I feel great," Culpepper said after the game. "On a scale of one to 10, I feel like I'm a dime."

Culpepper took a hard hit on the last play of the first half, but it didn't seem to bother him.

"I don't care as long as I can pop back up," Culpepper said. "I'm definitely going to pop up when something that beautiful happens."

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^HEALTHY KICKER WANTED: On their final drive, the Vikings had a chance to pad an eight-point lead with a field goal on fourth down, but kicker Aaron Elling would've been looking at about a 50-yard attempt.

Elling was bothered by back spasms all week, and the Vikings signed veteran Jose Cortez to handle kickoffs for the game. So Tice elected to go for the first down, and Culpepper's pass to Kelly Campbell fell incomplete.

"He didn't give me the look of, 'Give me this kick and I'm going to make it," Tice said of Elling.

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^EXTRA POINTS:@ The Vikings' inactive players were QB Shaun Hill, CB Rushen Jones, RB Doug Chapman, OT Lewis Kelly, WR D'Wayne Bates, DT Cedric Killings, DL Billy Lyon, DE Talance Sawyer. Bates is still bothered by a foot injury, Lyon by a lower leg injury.

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^OVERHEARD:@ Johnstone is well-acquainted with the Broncos. He spent five season with Oakland, Denver's archrival. "I still got a little bit of Raider blood in me, had a little hatred for Denver," he said.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index