Vikings' Rice lives up to last name
MINNEAPOLIS -- Sidney Rice has always shared a last name and a position with one of the best to ever play the game.
Now he shares a record with Jerry Rice, too.
Sidney Rice had six receptions for 141 yards and tied a playoff record with three touchdown catches to help the Minnesota Vikings to a 34-3 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC divisional playoffs Sunday.
He had scoring catches of 47, 16 and 45 yards from Brett Favre to help the Vikings (12-4) earn their first trip to the NFC title game since 2001.
It was the 15th time in NFL history that a player has hauled in three touchdown receptions in a game. Jerry still has the edge on Sidney, though. He did it three times in his brilliant career.
"It feels good," Sidney Rice said of the record. "But at the same time, I'm just happy for this team. We came out and fought hard, all three phases. It was a great team victory for us."
The monster performance was the culmination of a banner third season for the former second-round pick out of South Carolina. After a quiet first two years, Rice emerged as one of the rising young stars in the league. He led the Vikings with 83 catches for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns to earn his first trip to the Pro Bowl.
Of course, a certain 40-year-old quarterback has had something to do with that.
Rice worked harder in the offseason than he ever had before, participating in a demanding program with Cardinals All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald, former Vikings great Cris Carter and several of the other top receivers in the league. Then Favre arrived in August, and the two quickly became a playmaking tandem.
"With the addition of No. 4, it's been huge for me," Rice said, referring to Favre. "It's been great for me, and I'm thankful for that."
As good as Favre has been for Rice, the reverse also applies. In Rice, Favre has a 6-foot-4 leaper who towers over most defensive backs and makes even some of the toughest catches look routine.
And now that he has learned the art of body positioning and getting off of press coverage, Rice has solidified himself as a true No. 1 receiver.
"I've said that from Day 1, Sidney is that type of player," Favre said. "I hate to compare him or put him in categories, because I think he is in a category by himself."
He did a little bit of everything Sunday.
Rice set the tone early when he got behind Dallas safety Gerald Sensabaugh on a go route and reeled in a perfect throw from Favre for a 47-yard score to put the Vikings on top in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, with the Cowboys still very much alive, Rice went over the middle for a 16-yarder that put the Vikings in control at 14-3.
Then he delivered the knockout blow midway through the fourth quarter, winning a physical give-and-take with cornerback Mike Jenkins down the sideline and hauling in the 45-yarder that had Favre pumping his fists and Vikings fans booking their tickets for New Orleans.
"There are faster guys. There are taller guys. There are quicker guys," Favre said. "But the thing about Sidney ... is he wants to be good. It matters to him."
Now, thanks in large part to Rice, the Vikings are one step away from their first Super Bowl appearance since 1977.
"I feel like it's been a real good season for me so far," Rice said. "And I definitely feel like we won't be finishing anytime soon."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
2009 NFL PLAYOFFS: ROAD TO MIAMI