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Vikings stun Saints on final play

©Associated Press
December 16, 2002

NEW ORLEANS -- Daunte Culpepper was joyous. Even when he made a mistake he made good.

Culpepper fumbled the snap on a 2-point conversion with 5 seconds left, picked up the ball and still managed to lunge into the end zone, lifting the Vikings to a 32-31 victory against the Saints on Sunday.

"The joy that came into my body, I can't put into words," Culpepper said after the Vikings snapped a 16-game losing streak on the road.

Minnesota, which had lost six of 10 when leading or tied in the fourth quarter, was trailing 31-24 with 5:21 left.

Culpepper drove the Vikings 73 yards, hitting a double-teamed Randy Moss for a 13-yard touchdown to pull the Vikings to 31-30. Instead of an extra point to force overtime, Culpepper's conversion gave Minnesota its first road win since Thanksgiving Day 2000, when it beat Dallas.

"He's 260 pounds and he leaned forward and got the two points," Saints defensive tackle Norman Hand said.

"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."

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."

New Orleans went up 31-24 with 5:21 left. A scrambling Aaron Brooks found Deuce McAllister, who dived into the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown. Brooks hit Joe Horn for the 2-point conversion.

New Orleans took a 20-17 lead when Brooks hit Jake Reed for a 35-yard touchdown with 53 seconds left in the half. But Culpepper and Moss weren't through, and the Vikings took back the lead 24-20 after a one-handed grab by Moss of a 33-yard pass with 12 seconds remaining in the half.

Culpepper was 26-of-36 for 312 yards and two touchdowns. He was the game's leading rusher with 73 yards and two touchdowns. Moss caught 11 passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns.

McAllister, playing with a sprained ankle, rushed for 69 yards on 18 carries. He had a 78-yard touchdown run nullified by a holding call.

New Orleans used some trickery on the opening kickoff, with Michael Lewis handing the ball to Fred McAfee, who took it to the Vikings 30. The drive stalled and Carney kicked a 40-yard field goal.

The Vikings came back with a reverse of their own, with Michael Bennett handing the ball to Moss, who gained 25 yards. Five plays later, Culpepper ran the final 4 yards to make it 7-3.

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