Dolphins fail to clinch playoff spot

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Vikings had nothing to lose. So

why not let Randy Moss throw the ball, and send a 43-year-old

kicker out for his longest field-goal attempt in four years?

Michael Bennett ran for 54 yards during Saturday's victory.
Michael Bennett ran for 54 yards during Saturday's victory.

Moss threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to give Minnesota the lead

early in the fourth quarter, and Gary Anderson's 53-yard kick with

17 seconds left gave the Vikings a 20-17 victory over the Miami

Dolphins on Saturday.

Anderson's previous long this season was 44 yards, and his last

make of 50 yards or more was a 53-yarder on Dec. 20, 1998 against

Jacksonville.

Even though Anderson hadn't tried a field goal as long as 53

yards since that game against the Jaguars, the NFL's all-time

leading scorer was confident.

"You've got to bring your driver out,'' Anderson said with a

laugh. "It's not a 5-iron shot.''

The defeat prevented the Dolphins (9-6) from clinching a playoff

spot. They lead New England by a half-game in the AFC East and can

win the division by beating the Patriots in Foxboro, Mass., next

week. A loss could leave them out of the playoffs.

"Life is simple for the next seven days,'' said defensive end

Jason Taylor, who had 1½ of his league-leading 18½ sacks. "Win, or

we're home for New Year's.''

Moss, named to his fourth Pro Bowl this year after being left

off last season, had seven receptions for 110 yards. He has 100

catches this season, 18 more than the career high he set last year.

The Vikings (5-10) continued taking risks, six days after Daunte

Culpepper ran for a 2-point conversion with 10 seconds left in a

32-31 victory at New Orleans. A kick would've sent the game to

overtime.

Culpepper kept the pivotal drive going Sunday by running 3 yards

on fourth-and-2 at the Miami 45. Minnesota coach Mike Tice sent the

punt team out, but he called timeout and changed his mind as

Vikings fans urged them to go for it.

"I heard them,'' Tice said. "What the heck. They deserve some

fun. They've been through a long season.''

The Vikings reached the 35, and Anderson made the line-drive

kick. It curled right, grazed the right upright and sneaked over

the crossbar.

"Everyone said he didn't have the leg,'' center Matt Birk said.

"But he showed he had it, boy.''

Three plays after he caught a 60-yard pass from Daunte

Culpepper, Moss took the handoff, juked safety Shawn Wooden and

threw the TD pass to D'Wayne Bates, giving the Vikings a 17-14 lead

with 11:53 remaining.

Bates was covered, so Moss intentionally threw the ball behind

him.

"Big-time players make big plays,'' Tice said.

Culpepper was 20-for-29 for 244 yards and two interceptions.

Jay Fiedler was 15-for-21 for 177 yards passing and two

touchdowns for the Dolphins, who were outgained 368 yards to 239.

Cris Carter's return to the Metrodome was a dud until he caught

a wide-open 15-yard pass -- his only reception of the game -- on

third-and-6 midway through the fourth quarter.

Fiedler's pass on third-and-7 glanced off Carter's hands at the

goal line, and the Dolphins had to settle for Olindo Mare's 25-yard

field goal that tied it at 17 with 6:09 left.

Carter retired last year after 12 seasons with Minnesota, and he

joined Miami in November. As the Dolphins' third-down receiver, he

was only on the field for a handful of plays.

Four first-half trips by Minnesota to Miami's 30-yard line or

further yielded only three points, because of three turnovers. But

the Vikings ate up half the third quarter with a 78-yard drive that

Moe Williams capped with a 3-yard touchdown run to give them a 10-7

lead.

Fiedler hit tight end Jed Weaver for a 3-yard touchdown pass to

make it 14-10 Miami.

Culpepper's turnovers have crippled the Vikings' offense many

times this year, but he's been far better over the last month, and

he even earned the NFC's offensive player of the week award after

his game against the Saints.

For most of the first half, though, Culpepper reverted to

earlier form against the NFL's second-ranked defense and its five

Pro Bowlers. He threw two interceptions and fumbled three times,

losing the second one at the Dolphins 30 midway through the second

quarter.

Miami touched the ball first on Culpepper's two other fumbles,

but the Vikings recovered those.

"Guys were straining their guts to get it done,'' Wannstedt

said, "and we just didn't come up with the football.''

Game notes

Miami's Ricky Williams had 43 of his 67 yards in the first

quarter, ending a streak of five straight 100-yard games. ... Moss

also threw a TD pass against the New York Giants on Dec. 26, 1999.

... Chris Chambers caught a 59-yard touchdown pass from Fiedler in

the first quarter. ... Carter and Moss hugged on the field before

the game.