MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Though they finished November on a terrible note, the Minnesota Vikings know this: Finish strong, and the slump is forgotten.
“We want to win in December,” Culpepper said. “We’ve just got to take this momentum into next week. I have no doubt in my mind it will carry over.”
In a critical game for both clubs’ playoff chances, the Vikings (8-5) reverted to their early season form—before five losses in six games wiped out a 6-0 start and placed their NFC North lead over Green Bay in serious question.
“I don’t think we achieved excellence, but we certainly played fast and we were loose,” said Minnesota coach Mike Tice, enjoying a victory over the team he played 10 seasons for as a tight end.
The Seahawks (8-5) were stymied by a defense that fell to 29th in the league after a 48-17 loss at St. Louis last week. After scoring 110 points in the last three games, Seattle continued to struggle on the road and fell further behind the Rams (9-3 entering Monday) in the NFC West.
The Seahawks are 1-5 away from home, with a make-or-break game at St. Louis next week.
“I’m angry about how we played,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “The true test of this team will be how we bounce back from this.”
Culpepper, who shared some responsibility with the defense for the Vikings’ recent struggles, was 21-for-33 for 274 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers.
Moss had eight receptions for 133 yards, including scores of 47 and 45 yards. Kelly Campbell caught a 43-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and rookie Mike Nattiel later returned an interception 80 yards for a score, keeping Minnesota a game ahead of the Packers in the division race.
Believe it or not, the Vikings didn’t plan to throw so many deep balls. Culpepper said two of the touchdowns came on audibles after a running play was called.
“Our goal was to run the ball—we had no other goal,” Tice said. “We just got some extra gravy there.”
Though nearly flawless offense played a big part, the Vikings’ performance on the other side of the ball was more impressive—especially since Seattle won this meeting last year 48-23 behind an NFL-record five first-half touchdowns from Shaun Alexander.
“It was like the defense saying, ‘Offense, hurry up and score so we can get back out there,”’ said middle linebacker Greg Biekert, who shared time with rookie E.J. Henderson in one of several shuffles the Vikings have made to their defense over the last few weeks.
The Vikings held the ball for more than 21 of the first 30 minutes. Moss beat Reggie Tongue and Ken Lucas and hauled in Culpepper’s 47-yard pass over his shoulder—Willie Mays-style—to put Minnesota up 7-0 early in the second quarter.
Aaron Elling kicked field goals of 36 and 35 yards, after missing from 40, to make it 13-0 at the half.
Following their only scoreless first half this season, the Seahawks quickly climbed back with a 56-yard kickoff return by Maurice Morris to open the third quarter.
Bobby Engram led Seattle with 93 yards receiving before leaving with a concussion. He caught a 29-yard pass to set up a tough 1-yard touchdown run by Alexander that pulled Seattle to 13-7.
For the rest of the game, though, everything went Minnesota’s way.
“We didn’t do anything today to change the momentum,” Seahawks center Robbie Tobeck said. “We did things to help their momentum.”
Hasselbeck, who had eight touchdown passes in his last two games, didn’t throw any. He was 17-for-34 for 218 yards and two interceptions, though his receivers had several drops and penalties didn’t help.
“For whatever reason, we were making all of the mistakes we talked about not making,” Hasselbeck said. “I don’t think we could’ve beat many teamstoday playing like that.”
Michael Bennett carried a season-high 25 times for 103 yards for the Vikings before spraining his right ankle in the fourth quarter. He was held outas a precaution. … Alexander was held to 56 yards rushing on 14 carries.