Minnesota (3-1) at New Orleans (2-3)

Light Rain Currently: New Orleans, LA
Temp: 75° F
  • Game info: 8:30 pm EDT Sun Oct 17, 2004
  • TV: ESPN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Daunte Culpepper has been torching defenses all season.

He’ll look to continue his prolific passing as the Minnesota Vikings visit the New Orleans Saints.

Culpepper, who leads the NFL with a 126.0 passer rating, has been the league’s most explosive offensive player during the season’s first five weeks. The 27-year-old quarterback has completed 72.7 percent of his passes for 1,341 yards, 13 TDs and only one interception.

“He’s playing outstanding football,” Vikings coach Mike Tice said of Culpepper. “He’s leading us.”

Culpepper’s fifth touchdown pass, a 50-yarder to Marcus Robinson on the Vikings’ second possession in overtime, lifted Minnesota to a wild 34-28 win over the Houston Texans last Sunday.

Culpepper matched his career best in touchdown passes, a mark he set in the season opener against Dallas.

Minnesota won despite blowing 21-0 lead in the third quarter.

“You talk about a confidence builder for your football team,” Tice said.

Tied for first place in the NFC North with surprising Detroit, Culpepper and the Vikings gained some extra momentum heading into New Orleans.

The Saints’ secondary has been a weak point for several seasons and this year has been no different. New Orleans is allowing 232.2 passing yards per game, ranking 21st in the NFL.

Newly acquired cornerback Mike McKenzie is expected to get his first start for the Saints on Sunday. New Orleans acquired McKenzie from Green Bay on Oct. 4 to help boost their pass defense.

McKenzie, a starter for the Packers since his rookie year in 1999, has 15 career interceptions. He is coming off one of his most productive seasons with four interceptions, 58 tackles (55 solo) and 20 passes broken up.

McKenzie figures to see plenty of Minnesota wideouts Randy Moss and Marcus Robinson. Moss leads the NFL with seven receiving touchdowns despite only 24 receptions overall, and a 12.7 yards per catch average. Robinson averages 15.6 yards per catch and has three TDs.

New Orleans allowed third-string quarterback Brian Griese to throw for 194 yards and a touchdown in relief of starter Chris Simms as the Saints suffered a 20-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday.

It was the second straight week that New Orleans lost to a previously winless team. The Arizona Cardinals beat the Saints 34-10 for their first win on Oct. 3.

“I’m frustrated and I think everyone in the organization, city and the fans are frustrated,” Saints coach Jim Haslett said. “We need to start doing the little things right to get over this hump.”

One of the few positives for New Orleans was the return of running back Deuce McAllister.

McAllister, who was expected to miss six weeks with a sprained ankle, came back after missing just two games. He ran for 102 yards on 21 carries, but fumbled twice—one of which was returned for a touchdown.

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