OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Rick Mirer’s acrobatic leap toward the end zone landed him 2 yards short of the goal line. The important thing was he kept the ball in his hands—something counterpart Daunte Culpepper failed to do all day.
Mirer, Oakland’s third-string quarterback, calmly directed the Raiders’ inconsistent offense and Phillip Buchanon scored on a 64-yard interception return 49 seconds into the game in a 28-18 victory Sunday. It was their best win of the season and first since Sept. 28, ending a five-game losing streak and sending the Vikings to their fourth straight defeat.
Mirer insisted he wasn’t aching after going airborne.
“I’m feeling good from the win,” a relieved Mirer said. “If we lost, it would have hurt. I don’t think I’ve ever done that. It was a new one.”
It led to a touchdown, too.
Culpepper passed for 396 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score. But his mistakes far outweighed his contributions as Minnesota (6-4) lost for the second straight week in California to a team with a losing record.
With two fumbles and three interceptions, he had five of his team’s six turnovers after Minnesota came into the game with only nine giveaways all season. Aaron Elling also missed two field goals.
“I don’t see us falling apart,” Culpepper said. “We will be a playoff team. That’s what it’s all about. You’ve got to put a little fire under you in this situation, and that’s in me.”
Buchanon, who scored a touchdown for the second straight week, also had a drive-killing interception in the end zone.
The Raiders had a chance to seal the victory on a fourth-and-1 from the Minnesota 4, but franchise receiving leader Tim Brown let the ball slip through his hands while wide open in the end zone with 3:06 left.
“I was really being a jerk on the sidelines to the coaches,” Brown admitted. “I was being un-Tim Brown like.
“Sometimes you’ve got a funny way of being brought down to earth. God don’t like ugly.”
Culpepper then threw three straight terrible passes, and the third was intercepted by Rod Woodson with 2:46 left.
Moments later, Mirer, making his second straight start after not throwing a pass since 2000, capped a gutsy performance with the high-flying act. That set up Zack Crockett’s second short touchdown run.
On a day when reports claimed four Raiders would face four-game suspensions for testing positive for the designer steroid THG, Oakland (3-7) managed to stay out of big trouble on the field.
Rich Gannon, last season’s NFL MVP, watched from the sideline with a sling over his surgically repaired right shoulder. Backup Marques Tuiasosopo also is out for the season.
The Vikings solidly outgained Oakland while holding the ball for more than 18 minutes in the first half, but Culpepper essentially handed 14 points to the Raiders.
After his badly underthrown pass was returned by Buchanon for a score, he foolishly failed to protect the ball while getting sacked near the Vikings’ goal line midway through the second quarter. Oakland recovered at the 1, and Crockett then scored.
Culpepper had thrown just three interceptions in his first 204 passes, and the Vikings had lost just four fumbles all year.
The Vikings mounted another long drive early in the fourth quarter, but Culpepper slipped at the Oakland 14 and appeared to push the ball away in disgust. The problem was he hadn’t been touched yet, and the Raiders got the ball.
“We haven’t really turned the ball over all season, and today they came in droves,” Vikings coach Mike Tice said. “It’s been a rough four weeks. We worked diligently to try to find an answer. The guys worked diligently and played hard. This turnover thing was a new one. Now we’ve got to get off ofthat.”
Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis, the NL Rookie of the Year, attended the game wearing a vintage Howie Long jersey. Willis is an Oakland native. … WR Jerry Rice extended his NFL record with a reception in his 267th straight game, though his only catch was a 20-yarder in the fourth quarter. … Wheatley has carried 55 times the last two games. … Randy Moss had four catches for 25yards, none in the second half.