Cleveland (4-6) at Minnesota (5-5)

Scattered Showers Currently: Minneapolis, MN, US
Temp: 40° F
  • Game info: 1:00 pm EST Sun Nov 27, 2005
  • TV: CBS
Preview | Box Score | Recap

When they were 2-5, both the Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns seemed lost. In three weeks since then, though, neither team has lost much.

The Vikings look to extend a three-game winning streak and move above .500 for the first time this season when they host a Browns team coming off one of its most lopsided wins in six years.

Minnesota has four wins in its last five games after sweeping the Green Bay Packers for the first time since 1998 with a 20-17 win Monday, and is back in the NFC playoff race.

The Vikings lost Pro Bowl quarterback Daunte Culpepper for the season with a knee injury in a 38-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 30, but Brad Johnson has gone 3-0 as the starter.

Many of his throws haven’t been pretty, but the 37-year-old Johnson has thrown one interception in 112 attempts and has orchestrated drives in crucial situations.

“We’re not going to go out and score 35, 40 points much, unless we get a bunch of turnovers,” Vikings coach Mike Tice said, “so we’ve got to be able to play great special teams, which we are playing. We’ve got to be able to play great defense, which we are playing.

“Times have changed. As long as we’re winning, it doesn’t bother me at all. I’m kind of liking this new way.”

The Vikings’ offense is ranked 25th in the league in total yardage, but for the second time in the last three weeks, Minnesota managed to run the ball effectively—especially in the second half against Green Bay.

The Vikings were averaging 84.1 rushing yards in their first seven games, but have run for 112 a contest during the winning streak.

The defense is stuck near the bottom of the league, too, ranking 28th in total yardage allowed. But Minnesota has scored defensive touchdowns in consecutive games and yielded an average of 17.3 points over the last three.

“We’ve got a lot of good guys on defense,” Vikings cornerback Brian Williams said. “I thought it would’ve come around sooner … but we’re starting to pick it up.”

If Minnesota can continue to move the ball when it really needs to, get strong production from its special teams and force turnovers and fourth downs on defense, it has a chance to give the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears some competition.

Tice, however, knows his team is far from where it needs to be.

“We’ve got to make sure that we don’t become too smart all of a sudden,” Tice said. “It’s not the week to not take good notes and it’s not the week to start feeling good about ourselves. We still have some things we’re stubbing our toe on. … We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Cleveland scored 20 points or more in only two of its first seven games, but has reached that mark three straight times, winning twice.

Reuben Droughns ran 75 yards for a touchdown on the Browns’ first play and finished with 166 as they dominated the Miami Dolphins in a 22-0 win last Sunday.

It was Cleveland’s second shutout in 107 games since returning to the NFL in 1999.

Much of the Browns’ recent success has been the emergence of Droughns as the team’s feature back. With 868 yards, Droughns is closing in on becoming Cleveland’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 1985.

Cleveland, though, has a frustrated starting quarterback.

Trent Dilfer expressed his displeasure Sunday with coach Romeo Crennel’s decision to play rookie Charlie Frye for three series.

“Trent is a competitor and as a competitor he wants the ball in his hands,” Crennel said. “He’s told me he wants the ball in his hands, and so when I take it out of his hands, he is not satisfied. I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t be satisfied either.”

Crennel understands Dilfer’s frustration with being benched temporarily, but that doesn’t mean he will hesitate to put Frye in the game again.

“It’s a gut feeling on my part,” Crennel said. “Sometimes, you don’t get the feeling until the game is in progress. You have to see how the game is going and what the situation is.”

Crennel had been saying all season that he was waiting for the right time to play Frye, the team’s third-round pick. Frye finished 6-of-11 for 58 yards and one interception on a ball that fellow rookie Braylon Edwards should have caught.

Edwards, who in the week leading up to last Sunday’s game vented his frustration at not getting more chances to make plays, had a season-high six catches for 90 yards.

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