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Minnesota 20, Miami 17

Dec. 21, 2002 at 8:29 PM   |   Comments

MINNEAPOLIS, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Gary Anderson, the NFL's all-time leading scorer, lined a 53-yard field goal that grazed the right upright and sneaked over the crossbar with 17 seconds left Saturday, lifting the Minnesota Vikings to a thrilling 20-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins.

Waived in the offseason in what Coach Mike Tice called his "toughest decision," the 43-year-old Anderson was brought back in Week 3 to replace Doug Brien, who missed two extra points and a 44-yard field goal in a 45-39 overtime loss to Buffalo on Sept. 15.

Although Anderson had converted 16 of 20 field goals this year, his longest had been from 44 yards and the 53-yarder appeared to be outside his range.

"I knew from 53 yards I was going to have to give it all I got," Anderson said. "From that distance, everything has to be perfect. The snap was great, the hold was great and I gave it all I had."

Former Viking Cris Carter watched in stunned disbelief from the Miami sideline as the crowd of 64,285 erupted and Minnesota star receiver Randy Moss ran onto the field and lifted Anderson off his feet. Anderson ran his career point total to 2,215.

"I didn't think he could make it," Carter said.

The NFL's second all-time leading receiver, Carter played for Minnesota from 1990-2001 and came out of retirement to play for Miami midway through this season. He had a chance to make a go-ahead touchdown catch, but a pass by Jay Fiedler glanced off his hands in the end zone and Miami settled for a tying 25-yard field goal by Olindo Mare with 6:12 left.

"I ran the route the way I expected to, we just didn't connect," Carter said.

Minnesota consumed nearly the rest of the clock with a 12-play drive on which Daunte Culpepper completed four of four passes for 39 yards, including a pair of 13-yard strikes to tight end Byron Chamberlain.

Culpepper accounted for 311 yards and was able to overcome three turnovers -- two interceptions and a fumble. He completed 20 of 29 passes for 244 yards and rushed for 67 yards on 10 carries.

Named to his fourth Pro Bowl in five years earlier this week, Moss caught seven passes for 110 yards and threw a 13-yard touchdown to D'Wayne Bates. He has a career-high 100 receptions for 1,238 yards.

"We showed how much fight we have," Moss said. "We've played a bunch of playoff teams tough over the last four weeks and showed how tough we can be."

The loss hurt Miami's chances for a first-round playoff bye, but the Dolphins (9-6) still can win the AFC East title with a victory at New England (8-6) next week.

"To get in (the playoffs), we have to win next week," Dolphins Coach Dave Wannstedt said. "To win the division, we have to win next week. It will be important for us to regroup."

The victory was the second in a row for the Vikings (5-10), who upset New Orleans, 32-31, last week when Tice went for the winning two-point conversion in the final seconds and Culpepper scored.

Tice had another gamble pay off on Minnesota's winning drive Saturday. Facing fourth and two at the Miami 45 with 2:07 left, Culpepper faked a handoff and raced up the middle for three yards. Tice at first sent the punting unit onto the field only to draw the wrath of the crowd.

After a time out, the Vikings went for the first down.

"It came down to what the heck," Tice said. "We got two minutes to go, we might not get the ball back, we might as well have some excitement with this. Plus, I heard the fans yelling for us to go. It's been a long year for the fans. They deserved it."

Following the two-minute warning, Culpepper hit Moss with a five-yard pass and Michael Bennett rushed for three yards. But on third and two, Moe Williams was stuffed for a one-yard loss by defensive end Adewale Ogunleye.

The Vikings let the clock wind down to 22 seconds before turning to Anderson, who last made a field goal of more than 50 yards in 1998.

"That was probably the longest one he has kicked in a while," Wannstedt said. "It's been four years, I heard. Yeah, that's about right."

In 1998, Anderson made all 35 of his field goal attempts and 59 extra points. However, his first miss came late in the fourth quarter of an overtime playoff loss to Atlanta.

Whether or not Anderson retires at the end of the season, he provided a memorable sendoff at a place he has called home for the last five of his 21-year career.

"It's been a frustrating year for the Vikings, so it's gratifying to help the team," Anderson said. "We've lost our share of close ones this year, so it was exciting to get a victory over a great team."

Miami's Ricky Williams took over the NFL rushing lead, but his streak of five straight 100-yard games was broken. He had 52 yards at halftime but finished with just 67 on 15 carries. Williams has rushed for 1,668 yards, 53 more than Kansas City's Priest Holmes.

It was Minnesota which controlled the ball, however. The Vikings had it for nearly 36 minutes and outgained the Dolphins, 368 yards to 239.

After committing three turnovers in the first half, the Vikings scored on all three of their second-half possessions and consumed more than 17 1/2 minutes.

Despite the turnovers, the Vikings trailed at halftime by only a 7-3 martin, then opened the second half with a 13-play, 78-yard drive that lasted more than seven minutes. Culpepper was five of seven for 52 yards, including two passes to Bates for 25 yards, and raced around left end for a seven-yard gain to the Miami five.

After a two-yard run by Bennett, Moe Williams scored his 11th touchdown of the season from three yards out, giving the Vikings a 10-7 lead.

The Dolphins responded with a 10-play, 56-yard drive that was aided by an unnecessary roughness penalty on linebacker Greg Biekert, giving Miami first and goal at the three.

James McKnight caught three passes for 35 yards to highlight the drive. It appeared Miami would have to settle for a field goal when Ricky Williams was pushed out of bounds by cornerback Corey Chavous at the Miami 16 after catching a nine-yard pass on third and 16.

But Biekert was called for a late hit and, on the next play, Fiedler rolled left and fired a three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jed Weaver that gave the Dolphins a 14-10 lead with 1:19 left in the third quarter.

But Moss, Minnesota's lone Pro Bowl representative, starred on the next possession, catching a 60-yard bomb from Culpepper to the Miami 10. After Culpepper was sacked for a six-yard loss, the Vikings were faced with third and goal at the 13.

Moss took a handoff from Culpepper, ran right, evaded Ogunleye and threw a pass off his back foot to Bates, who got behind nickel back Jamar Fletcher in the end zone with 11:53 remaining.

"Randy Moss is a great receiver, one of the best," Dolphins cornerback Sam Madison said. "He went out and had a great showing."

Travis Minor returned the ensuing kickoff 45 yards and Fiedler immediately hit tight end Randy McMichael with a 13-yard pass to the Minnesota 39. On third and seven, Carter drew jeers from the crowd when he was left open at the right sideline on an out pattern and caught a 15-yard pass to the Minnesota 21 for his only reception of the game.

Two plays later, fullback Rob Konrad caught a 13-yard pass and the Dolphins reached the Minnesota five. But Carter was well covered by Biekert when he was unable to catch a pass in the end zone on third and goal. Mare then kicked the tying field goal.

The Vikings made four trips inside the Miami 30 in the first half but ended up with just a 35-yard field goal by Anderson with 4:21 left in the second quarter.

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