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Moss has three touchdown receptions

9/29/2003

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Vikings kept their starting
quarterback a secret until just before Sunday's kickoff.

Then Gus Frerrote, at least for this game, proved to be a
capable backup for Daunte Culpepper.

Question on the 49ers: With such a banged up O-line and team, can the offense be improved?
This team can improve. It'll be difficult without a strong offensive line and injuries up and down the roster. Luckily for the 49ers, none of these injuries seems to be of the season-ending variety, so the injured players will return. On the offensive line, these guys need time to gel together. If they get the chance, then they'll be a better football team.

Question on the Vikings: Given their early performances, is this the league's most-balanced offense?
Yes. The running attack is averaging over 4 yards per carry and the passing game is lethal. This team has amazing talent. They have a large and good offensive line and are giving their quarterback -- whoever it may be -- time to throw the ball. That's a combination that could lead this team far into the playoffs.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Frerotte filled in for an injured Culpepper and threw for 267
yards and four touchdowns, three to Randy Moss, as the Vikings
stayed unbeaten in four games with a 35-7 rout of the struggling
San Francisco 49ers.

"Gus Frerotte came in and did exactly what we brought him in to
do," said Minnesota coach Mike Tice, whose confidence in the
10-year veteran made it easier to rest Culpepper with three broken
bones in his lower back.

Moss had eight receptions for 172 yards for the Vikings, who
scored on four of their five first-half possessions, intercepted
Jeff Garcia three times and held Terrell Owens to five catches for
55 yards.

"Nobody played very well," said 49ers coach Dennis Erickson,
whose team has now lost three staright after an opening-day win.
"You can go from me on down to everyone else on that sideline."

Culpepper was injured last week against Detroit, and Frerotte
relieved him in a successful second half. He picked up where he
left off, guiding the Vikings to a 28-0 halftime lead in a
near-flawless performance.

"Whenever I'm in there, I'm going to be calm. Period. I think
the guys feed off that," said Frerotte, who went 16-for-21 without
an interception against a speedy San Francisco defense that entered
the game second in the NFL in yards allowed with a league-high 13
sacks.

Deadpanned center Matt Birk: "What was his quarterback rating?
600?" (Actually, it was a franchise-best 157.2, just short of
perfect.)

"Honestly, it's not a surprise to anyone in here," Birk said.
"He's a cool customer."

The Vikings drove 72 yards on the opening drive, and Moss ended
it by jumping over Ahmed Plummer to pull in a 15-yard TD pass from
Frerotte, who signed with Minnesota in March.

Garcia was picked off by Corey Chavous, who ran the ball back to
the San Francisco 38. The Vikings kept it on the ground the whole
time, finishing with a 5-yard burst up the middle by Onterrio
Smith.

Frerotte added touchdown passes of 35 and 22 yards to Moss and
Nate Burleson before the half was over. He accentuated his
record-setting afternoon with a perfectly-thrown 59-yard TD pass to
Moss -- who had another score nullified earlier for pass
interference.

"I've played with some good receivers, but he's just a one of a
kind," Frerotte said.

Garcia was awful: 11-for-23 for 108 yards, throwing several
balls over and behind his intended receivers without much time to
throw.

"My overall play needs to improve," Garcia said, "whether
that's accuracy, whether that's making better decisions, whether
that's getting us in better position to make positive plays."

Owens, who criticized the play-calling and pass protection in a
post-game rant last week, stormed off the field after Kevan Barlow
was stuffed for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-1 at the Minnesota 31
late in the third.

Owens flung his helmet on the sideline and continued to scream.
He was still frustrated afterward in the locker room -- lamenting
the Vikings' ability to involve their star receiver, Moss, while
his team continued to struggle getting him the ball.

"Why wouldn't I want the ball?" Owens said. "Is that being
selfish?"

The 49ers managed only four field goals in a 13-12 home loss to
Cleveland last week, and their red-zone struggles were magnified on
the opening drive of the second half.

After San Francisco marched 70 yards to the 4, Barlow ran for 2
yards on first-and-goal. Then Garcia threw three straight
incompletions -- passes intended for Owens, Tai Streets and Jed
Weaver that were broken up by Vikings defenders -- and turned the
ball over on downs.

"We're frustrated," Owens said. "We want to win."

Game notes
Tim Rattay played the fourth quarter, throwing a 37-yard
touchdown pass to Streets to keep San Francisco from its first
shutout since 1977. Garcia has a strained groin, but Erickson said
the decision to pull him was based on the score. ... Chavous and
Brian Russell each got their fourth interception of the year --
career highs for both. ... Rookies Smith and Burleson scored their
first career touchdowns. ... Warren Moon held Minnesota's previous
single-game mark for quarterback rating, posting a 152.9 against
New Orleans on Nov. 19, 1995. ... Barlow, who had 72 yards on 11
carries, left in the fourth quarter with a strained neck.