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Culpepper-Moss connect for two TDs

12/22/2003

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Vikings gave a big boost to
their postseason hopes and their confidence, playing the part of a
desperate team perfectly on Saturday.

Onterrio Smith ran for 146 yards and three touchdowns, and Randy
Moss caught two of Daunte Culpepper's three scoring passes in a
45-20 victory over the frustrated Kansas City Chiefs -- whose
chances for home-field advantage through the AFC playoffs were
dealt a blow.

"It was huge for our psyche, huge for our season," said
Culpepper, who completed 20 of 29 passes for 260 yards and one
interception.

Minnesota, which opened the season with six straight wins and is
now 9-6, moved a half-game ahead of Green Bay in the NFC North
race.

"If we want to keep playing into January, we needed to come out
with a win," said Vikings free safety Brian Russell, who
intercepted Trent Green twice.

Moss, playing with his puffed-out Afro protruding from his
helmet, had seven catches for 111 yards after letting Chicago
rookie Charles Tillman rip the ball away from him in the end zone
last week on the deciding play of the Bears' 13-10 victory.

"I knew he was going to play well as soon as I saw the
hairdo," said Minnesota coach Mike Tice, who pumped his fist at
the crowd several times throughout the game. "It didn't matter who
covered him today. Nobody was going to cover him."

Priest Holmes, held to 55 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving,
scored three times for Kansas City and matched Emmitt Smith's 1995
NFL record with 25 rushing touchdowns in a season.

The Chiefs (12-3), who have wrapped up the AFC West and their
first playoff berth since 1997, can still clinch a first-round bye
if Indianapolis loses to Denver on Sunday. But Kansas City's goal
of getting the top seed and securing the home-field advantage in
the playoffs, took a big hit.

New England (12-2) played at the New York Jets later Saturday.

"We know we have one game to go, and we know what's at stake,"
Holmes said. "As a team, we'll do all we can to pull it
together."

The Chiefs' emotions boiled over after the game, when players
were heard shouting at each other in the shower area. Team
officials quickly ordered a crowd of reporters out of the room.

"There were guys in there having a disagreement, and I don't
know what it was over," Green said. "Everybody's frustrated. We
anticipated coming up here and playing better."

Minnesota held the NFL's top-scoring offense in check for most
of the game, limiting tight end Tony Gonzalez to 65 yards and no
touchdowns, and holding Dante Hall to a long return of 21 yards.

Green was 18-for-38 for 224 yards for Kansas City, which failed
to score in the first half for the first time this season and
trailed 31-0 midway through the third quarter.

"Maybe I was naive, but I thought we could come up here and
play them toe-to-toe," Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said.
"Obviously, we could not. They were by far the superior team
today."

A win at Arizona next week gives Minnesota the division title,
regardless of what Green Bay does.

But the Vikings can also clinch this weekend if the Packers lose
to Oakland on Monday night and two of the following three scenarios
occur on Sunday: Detroit beats Carolina, Washington beats Chicago
and Pittsburgh beats San Diego.

The Chicago loss dropped the Vikings into a tie with the Packers
(8-6). That forced the Chiefs to play another team with everything
to lose. Two weeks ago, Denver kept its wild-card chances alive
with a 45-27 victory over Kansas City.

"At some point," Green said, "it looks like we're going to
have to go on the road and win a playoff game."

The Vikings needed only eight plays to drive 92 yards on the
NFL's 28th-ranked defense -- one that has allowed an average of
nearly 30 points over the last six games. Moss' 16th touchdown
reception of the season, a 30-yarder, gave Minnesota a 7-0 lead.

Then a costly fumble call kept Kansas City from gaining any
momentum. Green completed a 32-yard pass to Eddie Kennison, who had
the ball punched out along the sideline by Brian Williams. Brian
Russell, who had both interceptions, recovered at the Vikings' 3.

A challenge by Vermeil that Kennison stepped out of bounds
before the fumble was overturned, but replays showed Vermeil
challenged the wrong thing. Referee Ron Blum admitted a mistake
after the game, since Williams came from out of bounds and
illegally touched the ball.

Game notes
Hall, who hasn't returned a kick for a score since Oct. 5,
left in the third quarter with leg cramps. "I was cramping
everywhere," he said. ... Smith became the first Vikings rookie to
rush for 100 yards in consecutive games.<