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Vikes compete with Giants only in stopping themselves

Meltdowns in nearly every phase of the game make Minnesota its own worst enemy.

By BRUCE LOWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 15, 2001


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- So what went wrong for the Vikings on Sunday?

How about everything?

How about not being all that different from past seasons?

In the past three years, the Vikings have given up an average of 40 points in their playoff losses.

"Nothing we tried to do today worked," coach Dennis Green said in the aftermath of the 41-0 shellacking by the Giants in the NFC Championship Game. "I think you get into a 16-game schedule and you get in the playoffs and you just get a good feel for your team and what you think you can do and what you think you have a chance to do, and today it just didn't work.

"We were trying to get in a position to stop their run and try to work on the pass. We never got in that position," said Green, 4-8 in the playoffs. "I think they made a lot of big plays passing the ball early and, as much as anything, the turnover and then our ability to get our offense going" was the problem.

He said the pressure the Giants defense put on quarterback Daunte Culpepper, sacking him four times and repeatedly chasing him out of the pocket, caused him to make bad passes, and the Vikings were unable to get a running game going.

"There's just no way you think those things are going to happen," Green said, "especially when, again, it's not like we're new at this, it's not like we're new in the game.

"I think a certain amount of credit goes to the Giants. They did a lot of great things, but most of it, again, has to fall on yourself."

The Giants took receiver Randy Moss out of the game and didn't let Culpepper get a pass to Cris Carter until the fourth quarter.

Culpepper completed 13 of 28 passes for 78 yards. Carter was held to three receptions for 24 yards; Moss two catches for 18.

"I think all of our losses this year have been because we were either too cocky or just not up for the challenge," Moss said. "All week we've been whooping and hollering, talking this, talking that. ...

"All week we've been talking; we haven't really been talking too much Super Bowl. We've been talking about the Giants and coming to New York and Kerry Collins and what type of quarterback he is, and Tiki Barber's arm hurting, Ron Dayne being so big he doesn't want to do this and do that. That's all I heard this week, nobody really talking about going out here and smacking them in the mouth, regardless of who they put out there."

The problems started almost immediately.

Keith Thibodeaux, inserted into the Vikings' nickel package because of Thomas' absence, was burned on the game's fourth play from scrimmage, a 44-yard touchdown catch by Ike Hilliard.

Then the kickoff fell between Troy Walters and Moe Williams, and the Giants' Lyle West recovered. One play later, the Giants' Greg Comella scored on an 18-yard pass.

The Vikings never climbed out of the hole.

When they attempted to convert on fourth and 4, trailing 14-0, a false start forced them to punt. They had the Giants pinned at their 2 after the kick but let them off the hook by giving up a 24-yard pass to Amani Toomer.

Later in the quarter, the Vikings couldn't even punt right. Mitch Berger's 26-yard shank helped set up a 22-yard field goal by Brad Daluiso on the first play of the second quarter.

Things got worse right away in the second half. Culpepper lost a fumble on the Vikings' first play, and offensive tackle Todd Steussie lost his temper, throwing his helmet in disgust.

"I was just talking to Daunte and 41-to-doughnut, I think that's the worst defeat I've ever been in in my life," Moss said.

"I'm not really pointing fingers, making excuses. The New York Giants wanted it more than us."

-- Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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