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Culpepper Stumps Defensive Genius

September 18, 2000|From Associated Press

FOXBORO, Mass. — Daunte Culpepper confused New England's defense and left Drew Bledsoe searching for his comeback touch.

Culpepper threw for two first-half touchdowns against a scheme devised by defensive mastermind Bill Belichick, and the Minnesota Vikings held off the Patriots for a 21-13 victory Sunday.

"They were trying to contain me. And when they blitzed outside, I was able to stay in the pocket," said Culpepper, a running and passing threat in his first full season as quarterback of the Vikings (3-0).

He completed 19 of 28 passes, seven to Cris Carter, who moved from fourth to second place with 942 career catches. He passed Art Monk (940) and Andre Reed (941) and trails only Jerry Rice (1,217).

Culpepper "outran us a couple of times," Belichick said, "and, a couple of times, we probably could have been in a little better defensive call. We didn't do a very good job in the first half."

The Patriots (0-3) lost their third consecutive close game. In each one, they had the ball in the last two minutes with a chance to win or tie, but Bledsoe fell short. On Sunday, he had the ball at the Minnesota 14 but was sacked on fourth down by Bryce Paup with 54 seconds left.

"It's something I look forward to, coming back at the end of the game," Bledsoe said. "Coming up short at the end of the game, emotionally, it's tough to take."

In 1994, Bledsoe rallied the Patriots from a 20-0 deficit against the Vikings late in the first half to a 26-20 overtime win in Foxboro. He completed 37 of 53 passes, including three touchdown passes after halftime, and finished 45 for 70, both NFL records.

With the Patriots trailing, 21-7, Bledsoe completed 10 of 14 passes for 112 yards in the fourth quarter, including an eight-yard touchdown pass to Terry Glenn. But the Vikings stopped him when they had to.

"In the last two minutes, New England had to go for that touchdown and we had to stop them, plain and simple," Minnesota defensive tackle Chris Hovan said.

In Culpepper's first game this season, he ran for three touchdowns. In his second, he threw for 355 yards and his first pro touchdown. On Sunday, the Patriots stopped him for most of the second half, but he still finished with 177 yards passing and touchdowns passes of one yard to Johnny McWilliams and 39 yards to Matthew Hatchette.

The 6-foot-4, 266-pound quarterback gained 59 yards in 12 carries.

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