Culpepper, despite pressure from the Saints’ defense, completed 26 of 37 passes for 425 yards. He threw two interceptions and was sacked twice. It was a career high in passing yards for Culpepper, beating his previous record of 396 yards against Oakland on Nov. 16, 2003.
“After Moss went down somebody else just had to step up and make a few plays,” Culpepper said. “But it wasn’t just somebody. Everybody on offense had to step up their game a little big and that made us a lot better.”
The Vikings (4-1) had 605 yards of offense and converted 8 of 11 third downs.
Rookie running back Mewelde Moore had another big game for Minnesota, rushing for 109 yards and catching seven passes for 78 yards.
“I had to tweak a couple of things,” Moore said. “I had to be sharper and make sure my technique was a little more sound. You get away with a lot of things on the college level, but here you have to make sure you’re on point.”
Moss, who leads the NFL in TDs receiving, injured his hamstring in the second quarter. He had two receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown. It was the 10th consecutive game in which Moss had a touchdown reception.
Nate Burleson had six receptions for 134 yards for Minnesota (4-1).
“In all my time in the NFL, I’ve never seen a quarterback this hot,” said cornerback Ashley Ambrose, a 13-year veteran.
A pass interference call against Ambrose set up the Vikings’ first touchdown, giving them a first down on the 1-yard line. On the next play, Culpepper hit Jermaine Wiggins for the touchdown.
Minnesota, the only NFL team without an interception before the game, prevented a New Orleans (2-4) touchdown with its first pickoff. Antoine Winfield stepped in front of Ernie Conwell, grabbed the ball and returned it 56 yards. Three plays later, Culpepper hit Moss in the end zone for a 43-yard touchdown, making it 14-0 less than a minute into the second quarter.
Culpepper fumbled a snap, which rolled downfield until Saints safety Jay Bellamy finally got the ball. He lateraled to Ambrose, who returned it 68 yards to set up New Orleans’ first score, a 2-yard run by McAllister that made it 14-7.
Marcus Robinson caught a 16-yard touchdown pass to give the Vikings a 21-7 lead. But the Saints put together their best drive of the half, going 73 yards in four plays, with Brooks connecting with Joe Horn for a 7-yard touchdown.
The Vikings opened the second half with Culpepper capping a 66-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Wiggins for a 28-14 lead.
“He had a real hot hand,” Saints defensive lineman Charles Grant said of Culpepper. “They had a lot more chances to win than chances to lose with him.”
The Saints then used some trickery. On fourth-and-3 on their 28, they lined up in punt formation, then snapped the ball to blocking back Fred McAfee, who scampered 53 yards to the Minnesota 19. McAllister finished it off with a 1-yard run, making it 28-21.
Culpepper, who led the NFL with a 126.0 passer rating going into the game, threw his fifth touchdown pass of the game to Robinson, making it 38-24.
Brooks then scrambled 5 yards for a touchdown to pull the Saints within 38-31 with 2:51 left. But Minnesota kept the ball the rest of the way.
Notes:@ It was the first time Minnesota and New Orleans played each other on prime time TV … The game matched Minnesota’s top-ranked NFL offense (444.5 yards per game) against the Saints’ No. 29 defense (376 yards per game). … Culpepper had only one interception on the year going into the game. He had two against the Saints. … New Orleans WR Joe Horn has caught at least one pass in 83 consecutive games. … It was the Saints’ 34th consecutive sellout in the 72,000-seat Louisiana Superdome.