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Carter patiently leads Vikes

The veteran receiver shows he is a go-to guy even if he doesn't have the flash of Moss.

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 7, 2001


MINNEAPOLIS -- If Randy Moss is the Super Freak, who is veteran Cris Carter, Superman? Sometimes it seems that way.

It is not enough that in his 14th season, Carter has the will to play at the highest level and the talent to keep his starting position.

No. All Carter does game after game is slowly, steadily and relentlessly impose his will on defensive players and their migraine-suffering coordinators.

After all these years, Carter's precise routes are nightmares for safeties. His remarkable hands force defensive backs into convulsions and his uncanny ability not to be upstaged by the explosive Moss makes coordinators crazy.

On a balmy Saturday afternoon in the Twin Cities, the Vikings double threat was at it again and Carter proved he's just as dynamic as his more popular counterpart.

Carter showed the Saints why earlier this season he reached a milestone, snaring his 1,000 reception, making one huge catch after another.

"We came ready to play," Carter said, opting to deflect attention to the entire team effort. "They gave us a lot of double coverage downfield and that is tough to throw into. So, we used a lot of checkdowns and we made good decisions with the football."

While the highlight reels likely will replay Moss' back-breaking touchdowns of 53 and 68 yards -- and they were special -- those reviewing Vikings film for next weekend's NFC Championship game will spend as much time on Carter.

The man who once was waived by the Philadelphia Eagles finished with eight receptions for 120 yards and a 17-yard touchdown that pushed Minnesota to a comfortable 17-3 halftime lead.

"He's the man," quarterback Daunte Culpepper said. "Everybody on this team has a role and Cris' is to be one of the leaders in his way. That's his way. Everyone is talking about Randy, and he just quietly goes about his business. We've come to expect that of him."

With a reputation for "just catching touchdowns," Carter reminded the Saints and the team the Vikings play next weekend that he makes other catches as well.

Trailing 7-3, the Saints thought they were in good position when they forced the Vikings to a third and 8 at the New Orleans 35. Carter's 34-yard acrobatic sideline catch put the ball on the 1-yard line. The Vikings kicked a 24-yard field goal a few plays later.

In the third quarter, he made two third-down catches for 26 yards and added two in the fourth quarter for 28 yards.

"I could talk for hours about what I've seen Cris do in key games this year," running back Robert Smith said.

The reality is the exploits of Carter and Moss, while quite different on the field, aren't mutually exclusive.

In boxing terms, Carter works the belly mercilessly, Moss supplies the knockout punch.

"They work really well together because Cris can work the inside and the corners," Vikings coach Dennis Green said. "He made two big corner catches, one for a touchdown and one for close to a touchdown. Randy only caught two balls. ... I just think they work really well together."

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