Vikings 32, Saints 31
Daunte Culpepper was joyous: Even when he made a mistake he made good.
Culpepper fumbled the snap on a two-point conversion with five seconds left, picked up the ball and still managed to lunge into the end zone, lifting the Minnesota Vikings to a 32-31 victory over the New Orleans Saints today.
"The joy that came into my body, I can't put into words," Culpepper said after the Vikings (4-10) snapped a 16-game losing streak on the road as he ran for two touchdowns and threw for two.
The Saints (9-5) could have clinched a playoff spot with a victory, but fell two games behind Tampa Bay in the NFC South.
"It's going to leave a bad taste in our mouths," Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks said.
Minnesota, which had lost six of 10 when leading or tied in the fourth quarter, was trailing 31-24 with 5 minutes 21 seconds left.
"I thought the play and determination of our quarterback kept us in the game," Minnesota Coach Mike Tice said.
Culpepper drove the Vikings 73 yards before hitting a double-teamed Randy Moss for a 13-yard touchdown to pull the Vikings to 31-30. Minnesota eschewed an extra point kick to force overtime, and Culpepper's conversion gave Minnesota its first road win since Thanksgiving day 2000, when it beat Dallas.
"That wasn't a monkey on our backs," Minnesota defensive end Lance Johnstone said. "That was a gorilla. Every game has been close and to be able to finish the game on the road was big."
In the middle of the winning drive Tice told the coaches to have the two-point play ready. "It was not a question we would go for it," he said.
Culpepper completed 26 of 36 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns. Culpepper was also the game's leading rusher with 73 yards and two touchdowns. Moss caught 11 passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
"Moss is the money man," Culpepper said. "In the clutch you've got to go to him."
Deuce McAllister, playing with a sprained ankle, rushed for 69 yards on 18 carries for the Saints. He had a 78-yard touchdown run nullified by a holding call.
"We needed to put another touchdown on the board," McAllister said. "We should have in the first half."
The inability to stop Minnesota in the closing seconds was especially troubling, Saints Coach Jim Haslett said.
"Those two plays were probably the most disappointing of the game," Haslett said. "We had Moss doubled, we had a guy inside-outside and still got beat."