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Smith Is Looking Good on Big Screen

November 20, 2000|From Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Opponents of the Minnesota Vikings have enough problems without having to worry about Robert Smith as a receiver.

The Vikings, with Daunte Culpepper leading a balanced offense, rolled to a 31-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

Smith scored touchdowns by rushing and receiving and gained 173 total yards, and Culpepper threw for a career-high 357 yards and three touchdowns. For the seventh time, both Randy Moss and Cris Carter gained more than 100 yards receiving in the same game.

"We're just taking what they give us," said Culpepper, who completed 22 of 29 passes. "We are staying patient, and it makes it a lot easier when you have great receivers, a great running back and a great offensive line playing that well."

Smith rushed for 103 yards in 23 carries, including a three-yard touchdown run, and caught three passes for 70 yards, converting a screen pass into a 53-yard touchdown play. Smith has become more of a receiving threat this season. His 322 yards and three touchdowns receiving this season are career highs.

Smith's touchdown on the screen pass was a near duplicate of his 33-yard scoring play against Arizona last week. He said the Panthers were calling out to watch for the screen on nearly every play.

"If they think it's coming every play," Smith said, "then it doesn't much matter when it comes."

Culpepper faked handoffs to Smith and Chris Walsh and tossed to Smith toward the sideline. Smith turned and raced for the touchdown, with a key block coming from Carter.

"The team realizes that we have the glamour positions and get all the publicity," Carter said, "but it helps them out when they know that the wideouts are down the field blocking."

Carter, who turns 35 next Saturday, caught eight passes for 138 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown play in the third quarter. He moved within seven receptions of becoming the second NFL player to get 1,000.

"Cris Carter continues to be absolutely phenomenal," Viking Coach Dennis Green said.

The Vikings (9-2) had 446 total yards, and the defense had perhaps its best game.

An interception by Robert Tate was the first in eight games for the Vikings. Kailee Wong intercepted a pass late in the fourth quarter, giving the Vikings five this season.

"We've talked about interceptions from Week 3 on up," Tate said. "We forced fumbles and things like that, but we wanted to get one out of the air."

Carolina's injury-decimated offensive line again had trouble protecting Steve Beuerlein, who was sacked five times. John Randle and Talance Sawyer each had two sacks. Beuerlein was sacked eight times against New Orleans last week and has been sacked 49 times this season. He completed 26 of 44 passes for 272 yards.

In the fourth quarter, the Panthers (4-7) settled for a 28-yard field goal by Joe Nedney after having a first-and-goal at the Viking one.

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