1:30 PM ET, December 21, 2002
Moss threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to give Minnesota the lead early in the fourth quarter, and Gary Anderson's 53-yard kick with 17 seconds left gave the Vikings a 20-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Saturday.Anderson's previous long this season was 44 yards, and his last make of 50 yards or more was a 53-yarder on Dec. 20, 1998 against Jacksonville.Even though Anderson hadn't tried a field goal as long as 53 yards since that game against the Jaguars, the NFL's all-time leading scorer was confident."You've got to bring your driver out,'' Anderson said with a laugh. "It's not a 5-iron shot.''The defeat prevented the Dolphins (9-6) from clinching a playoff spot. They lead New England by a half-game in the AFC East and can win the division by beating the Patriots in Foxboro, Mass., next week. A loss could leave them out of the playoffs."Life is simple for the next seven days,'' said defensive end Jason Taylor, who had 1½ of his league-leading 18½ sacks. "Win, or we're home for New Year's.''Moss, named to his fourth Pro Bowl this year after being left off last season, had seven receptions for 110 yards. He has 100 catches this season, 18 more than the career high he set last year.The Vikings (5-10) continued taking risks, six days after Daunte Culpepper ran for a 2-point conversion with 10 seconds left in a 32-31 victory at New Orleans. A kick would've sent the game to overtime.Culpepper kept the pivotal drive going Sunday by running 3 yards on fourth-and-2 at the Miami 45. Minnesota coach Mike Tice sent the punt team out, but he called timeout and changed his mind as Vikings fans urged them to go for it."I heard them,'' Tice said. "What the heck. They deserve some fun. They've been through a long season.''The Vikings reached the 35, and Anderson made the line-drive kick. It curled right, grazed the right upright and sneaked over the crossbar."Everyone said he didn't have the leg,'' center Matt Birk said. "But he showed he had it, boy.''Three plays after he caught a 60-yard pass from Daunte Culpepper, Moss took the handoff, juked safety Shawn Wooden and threw the TD pass to D'Wayne Bates, giving the Vikings a 17-14 lead with 11:53 remaining.Bates was covered, so Moss intentionally threw the ball behind him."Big-time players make big plays,'' Tice said.Culpepper was 20-for-29 for 244 yards and two interceptions.Jay Fiedler was 15-for-21 for 177 yards passing and two touchdowns for the Dolphins, who were outgained 368 yards to 239.Cris Carter's return to the Metrodome was a dud until he caught a wide-open 15-yard pass -- his only reception of the game -- on third-and-6 midway through the fourth quarter.Fiedler's pass on third-and-7 glanced off Carter's hands at the goal line, and the Dolphins had to settle for Olindo Mare's 25-yard field goal that tied it at 17 with 6:09 left.Carter retired last year after 12 seasons with Minnesota, and he joined Miami in November. As the Dolphins' third-down receiver, he was only on the field for a handful of plays.Four first-half trips by Minnesota to Miami's 30-yard line or further yielded only three points, because of three turnovers. But the Vikings ate up half the third quarter with a 78-yard drive that Moe Williams capped with a 3-yard touchdown run to give them a 10-7 lead.Fiedler hit tight end Jed Weaver for a 3-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-10 Miami.Culpepper's turnovers have crippled the Vikings' offense many times this year, but he's been far better over the last month, and he even earned the NFC's offensive player of the week award after his game against the Saints.For most of the first half, though, Culpepper reverted to earlier form against the NFL's second-ranked defense and its five Pro Bowlers. He threw two interceptions and fumbled three times, losing the second one at the Dolphins 30 midway through the second quarter.Miami touched the ball first on Culpepper's two other fumbles, but the Vikings recovered those."Guys were straining their guts to get it done,'' Wannstedt said, "and we just didn't come up with the football.''
Michael Bennett ran for 54 yards during Saturday's victory.
Miami's Ricky Williams had 43 of his 67 yards in the first quarter, ending a streak of five straight 100-yard games. ... Moss also threw a TD pass against the New York Giants on Dec. 26, 1999. ... Chris Chambers caught a 59-yard touchdown pass from Fiedler in the first quarter. ... Carter and Moss hugged on the field before the game.
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