Jacksonville (6-4) at Minnesota (6-4)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Minneapolis, MN
Temp: 4° F
  • Game info: 1:00 pm EST Sun Nov 28, 2004
  • TV: CBS
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The Minnesota Vikings haven’t been the same without All-Pro wide receiver Randy Moss.

The Jacksonville Jaguars sorely missed starting quarterback Byron Leftwich last week.

Both players should be back in action when the Vikings host the Jaguars at the Metrodome.

Moss, who had 26 receptions for 394 yards and eight touchdowns during Minnesota’s fast start, has not caught a pass the last five weeks as the Vikings have gone just 2-3.

One of the NFL’s most potent weapons, Moss saw limited action in the last two games in October due to a pulled hamstring, and sat out the last three weeks with the injury.

Earlier this week, Vikings coach Mike Tice said Moss would be held to 25 plays Sunday. But Moss’ progress in practice this week prompted Tice to retract that statement Friday, saying Moss won’t be limited by any artificial play count.

“The only thing that’s holding him back is endurance in his legs—and not necessarily (from) the injury,” Tice said. “He feels like he has training camp legs now; he hasn’t done anything in five weeks.

“He worked extremely hard Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Now, he’s going to stretch and get himself feeling as good as he can feel by Sunday.”

Moss participated in a walkthrough Friday, but did not practice. That’s his usual Friday routine, even when he’s healthy. He remained questionable on the injury report.

For the struggling Vikings, who lost three straight before pulling out a 22-19 victory over Detroit last weekend, Moss’ return should provide a much-needed boost.

“You put Randy going down the field, it’s just going to open up so many more things,” said Minnesota tight end Jermaine Wiggins.

The Vikings appeared headed for a fourth straight loss Sunday before Daunte Culpepper engineered a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback against Detroit.

“The character of this team really showed today,” said Culpepper, who helped Minnesota overcome a 12-point, fourth-quarter deficit by going 22-of-32 for 233 yards and two touchdowns.

With the win, Minnesota remained tied with surging Green Bay atop the NFC North standings.

Last season, the Vikings began the season 6-0 only to suffer a brutal second-half collapse, which kept them out of the postseason. With Moss back, Minnesota expects to come up big down the stretch this year.

“The team belongs to the players, and until the players take over the team we won’t win the championship,” Tice said. “Until that veteran leadership steps up and makes the players do the right things, I just think you’re going to be an average team. I think we showed some of that (Sunday), and that’s encouraging.”

The Jaguars lost Leftwich to a knee injury three weeks ago, but were able to beat Detroit 23-17 in overtime behind backup David Garrard on Nov. 14.

Garrard had another solid performance Sunday, running for a touchdown and directing two other scoring drives, but he threw a costly interception in the closing seconds of an 18-15 loss to Tennessee. Jacksonville is 1 1/2 games behind first-place Indianapolis in the AFC South.

After practicing Wednesday, Leftwich got the go-ahead from coach Jack Del Rio to make his first start since a 20-6 loss at Houston on Oct. 31.

“He was able to work in full pads and moved around pretty well,” Del Rio said following the afternoon workout. “He threw the ball accurately and made good decisions. He basically picked up where he left off a little bit, so we’re glad to see that.”

Leftwich echoed those sentiments. After throwing for 1,891 yards the first eight weeks of the season, he said he’s ready to return after three weeks of rehab. “I wasn’t perfect out there today, but I wasn’t off,” Leftwich said. “I actually did better than I thought I would after being out for a couple weeks.”

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