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Culpepper shines as Vikings slip past Lions

DETROIT (AP) -- The Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions provided
proof that all losing seasons are not the same. While the Vikings
finished strong, the Lions sank.

Based on how they ended the year, do you expect big things from the Vikings in 2003?
Yes. Minnesota's players believe they're a better team than their record this season suggests. I could see the Vikings winning 10 games next season. They found a running back (Michael Bennett) to replace Robert Smith, and Randy Moss produced again (100 catches). Defensively, the Vikings need to buy into coordinator Willie Shaw's scheme.

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

Daunte Culpepper threw two touchdown passes and ran for another
score as the Vikings held on to beat the Lions 38-36 Sunday.

The Vikings (6-10) ended the season with a three-game winning
streak to surpass last season's victory total by one, ensuring that
coach Mike Tice will be back for a second season. Minnesota lost
its first four to start the season.

"It may not mean a lot to a lot of people, but being able to
finish with one more win than last year gives you something that
you can reach out and touch,'' Tice said. "We probably are a
little bit better than our record. I don't think we're a 6-10
team.''

The Lions (3-13) also improved on last year's 2-14 record, but
that won't be much consolation to coach Marty Mornhinweg or chief
executive Matt Millen. Detroit lost its final eight games and put
together the worst two-year stretch (5-27) in franchise history.

Team owner William Clay Ford Sr. said he will decide whether
Mornhinweg and Millen will be back for a third year. Millen was
expected to talk by phone Sunday night with Ford, who is
vacationing in Florida.

Mornhinweg, a head coach for the first time at any level, was
asked why he should be back.

"I'm not answering those questions,'' he said. "But I will say
this franchise is primed for some success.''

Like they've often done during the Millen-Mornhinweg era, the
Lions came close to winning Sunday.

Gary Anderson's 18-yard field goal put the Vikings ahead by
eight with 1:09 left, but Mike McMahon's third TD pass -- a
19-yarder to Scotty Anderson -- got Detroit within two with 13
seconds left. The Vikings won when McMahon's 2-point conversion
pass was incomplete.

Culpepper, who was 21-of-29 for 312 yards, injured his left foot
during the game, but he wanted another opportunity to play.

"We definitely wish we had a chance at the postseason, because
we feel we could make some noise,'' said Culpepper, who led
Minnesota to wins over Miami and New Orleans this month.

Randy Moss caught six passes for 109 yards but was hindered late
in the game with a sprained left knee. Moss refused to answer any
questions after the game.

Kelly Campbell caught four passes for 60 yards and two TDs,
which doubled the rookie's season total.

McMahon, in his second straight start for Joey Harrington, who
was sidelined with an irregular heartbeat, was 19-of-44 for 293
yards with three TDs and three interceptions.

"I figured, hey, let's have some fun, so I took some shots
downfield and the guys made some plays,'' McMahon said.

Bill Schroeder caught six passes for 132 yards and a TD for
Detroit.

The teams combined for scores on the first five possessions and
35 points in the first 18:11 -- a lot of action for a game that
meant little for both teams in the standings. Minnesota led 28-17
at halftime.

Lions rookie Andr De Goodman intercepted a lob thrown well short
of Moss just outside the end zone on the first drive of the second
half. Detroit drove from its 5 to the Vikings 1, but McMahon threw
three incomplete passes and James Stewart was stuffed on a run.

On Minnesota's next play, Kalimba Edwards stripped the ball from
Culpepper in the end zone, and Robert Porcher recovered the fumble
for his first career score to cut Detroit's deficit to 28-24 with
5:41 left in the third quarter.

Culpepper's second TD pass to Campbell gave the Vikings a 35-24
lead late in the third.

It appeared the Vikings were going to put Detroit away for good
when Brian Williams' interception set up a field-goal attempt, but
Detroit's Shaun Rogers blocked the kick and Todd Lyght returned it
75 yards for a score.

The Lions then forced Minnesota to punt, but McMahon's
up-for-grabs pass was picked off by Eric Kelly at Minnesota's 27.

The Vikings were able to run out much of the clock on
Culpepper's sneak on a fourth-and-inches at Detroit's 38, and Moe William's 25-yard draw on third-and-8 before Anderson's field
goal.

Game notes
Minnesota's Michael Bennett ran for 82 yards and finished
with the second-highest total (1,296) in team history. ... The
Lions are 5-17 in single-digit games the past two seasons. ...
Stewart ran for 25 yards on 11 carries to surpass the 1,000-yard
mark for the second time in his eight-year career.

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