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PRO FOOTBALL / WEEK 10 | MINNESOTA 31, NEW ORLEANS
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Victory Is Double Trouble for Vikings

November 09, 1998|From Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — The best quarterback situation in the NFL suddenly has become one of the most muddled, and Jay Fiedler might be the only answer for the Minnesota Vikings.

Randall Cunningham and Brad Johnson were injured in the Vikings' 31-24 victory Sunday over the New Orleans Saints, possibly jeopardizing Minnesota's status as the NFC front-runner.

Cunningham left in the first quarter when his right knee was injured while being sacked. Johnson, the starter until he broke his right leg in Week 2, took over but broke the thumb on his throwing hand on the first play of the third quarter when he hit it on a helmet. Nonetheless, he played the rest of the game and finished 28 for 38 passing for 316 yards and one touchdown.

Johnson saw a hand specialist Sunday night, while Cunningham--the backup who became the top-rated passer in the NFL--will have surgery today and might be ready for Sunday's game against Cincinnati. Cunningham missed one game last season because of similar knee surgery.

"I believe that one or both of us will be ready," Cunningham said.

Fiedler, a former third-stringer for the Philadelphia Eagles, has played in only two games and has thrown four passes in his three NFL seasons.

The Saints (4-5) tied the game at 24-24 with 10:10 remaining when a Johnson pass went off the hand of Cris Carter and the helmet of Sammy Knight, who finally gathered the ball in and went 91 yards for a touchdown.

But Johnson and the Vikings (8-1) regrouped for an 81-yard scoring drive, with the touchdown coming on Leroy Hoard's one-yard plunge with 3:43 remaining. On the drive, Johnson--while being dragged down by Wayne Martin--made a left-handed lob to Hoard, who turned it into a 19-yard gain.

The Saints were helped by questionable officiating on two touchdowns by Aaron Craver.

The first came on Craver's 100-yard kickoff return He fell at his own 19-yard line, apparently after being tripped by the Vikings' Pete Bercich--which replays confirmed--but he got up when no whistles blew and ran the rest of the way untouched.

Craver was also credited with a nine-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter when an official ruled he broke the plane of the goal line while lunging with the ball. Replays showed the ball bounced loose short of the goal line.

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