Randy Moss caught the go-ahead touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter and the Minnesota Vikings held on for an exciting 30-23 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday to remain undefeated.
The NFC Central Division leaders improved to 5-0, equalling the 5-0 start of the defending Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams. The Rams and Vikings are the only unbeaten teams in the NFL, while Tampa Bay suffered its third successive tough loss to fall to 3-3.
But Minnesota’s perfect record was uncertain until the final play of the entertaining contest.
Less than four minutes after the Buccaneers took their first lead of the game with some sensational defence and special teams play, Daunte Culpepper found Moss in the end zone on a 42-yard touchdown strike as Minnesota regained the lead.
“They gave us the defence that we wanted,” Moss said of the pivotal play.
“We was kind of in a bind, we were down, I just told our guys ‘let’s fight to live, let’s try to stay together as a team, let’s make it happen,’” Moss recalled.
“Our offensive line played a helluva game keeping that defence out of there to give Daunte time in the second half to find me and Chris (Carter). We just made it happen tonight.”
Tampa Bay had grabbed a 23-20 lead when Warren Sapp blocked field goal attempt and cornerback Donnie Abraham picked up the ball and raced 57 yards untouched for the score.
Gary Anderson added a 19-yard field goal in the final minute for Minnesota, but Tampa Bay had a chance to tie on the game’s final play.
Shaun King launched a “Hail Mary” pass into the crowded end zone and, with players from both teams fighting for position, Tampa Bay’s Jacquez Green nearly made a shoestring catch, but officials ruled that the ball had touched the ground.
Culpepper continued to make Minnesota coach Dennis Green look good for handing him the starting job in the preseason.
He completed 15-of 19 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns and ran 27 yards for Minnesota’s first score, despite being sacked six times by the ferocious Bucs defence.
King also ran for a touchdown and completed 26-of-40 passes for 295 yards for the Buccaneers, who were considered preseason favourites but were left licking their wounds after falling 2-1/2 games back of the Vikings in the NFC Central.