Vikings finish season on empty

Winless on road, visitors put up fight, wilt with Wynn, porous run defense

January 08, 2002|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Already a team divided by controversy, sparked by the departure of its 10th-year coach, the Minnesota Vikings' season dipped to a final low as they lost to the Ravens, 19-3, last night at PSINet Stadium.

The morale of the team was low, having lost coach Dennis Green three days before the game. After taking the Vikings to eight playoff berths in his tenure, Green agreed to a buyout.

Left with a team that was banged up mentally and physically was interim coach Mike Tice, an assistant and a University of Maryland alumnus.

"It's been a rough 72 hours, nothing that anyone had planned," Tice said. "The transition, I don't think anyone was ready for, but you play with the cards that you're dealt. The players, I told them that they could rally around Denny, maybe dedicate the game to him, or they could rally around me, so that I can be the next one to get the job."

Third-string quarterback Spergon Wynn is winless in three starts, and his Vikings slipped to 5-11 overall, 0-8 in road games. Wynn is 0-2 in Baltimore, his last visit being in November 2000, when, as Cleveland's starter, he was hammered by the Ravens for four sacks and completed only five passes.

Against a Ravens defense ranked 14th against the pass, Wynn was 13-for-29 for 86 yards. One of his two interceptions was in the end zone to Chris McAlister when his team trailed, 6-3. Wynn was sacked five times, four coming from Peter Boulware, whose 15 sacks lead the AFC. His last sack led to a fumble recovery that Jamie Sharper returned for a touchdown.

"There were some passes we didn't make, some plays that didn't go to the right people, but that's going to happen with a quarterback that's young and isn't used to our system," Tice said.

Wynn's targets were an angry man in Randy Moss, and a slightly injured one in Cris Carter. Spurned by the Pro Bowl selection committee after being chosen three straight seasons, Moss entered the game with 39 catches for 893 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Last night, however, he had only two receptions for a season-low 9 yards, was overthrown in the end zone and dropped a screen pass. Moss' second catch, late in the third quarter, a 2-yarder, was short of a first down.

Carter, whose contract with Minnesota expires on March 1 and who is said to be considering the Ravens, had been suffering from a rib injury. Carter had five receptions for 60 yards, but his second-quarter fumble, after being hit by Duane Starks, was recovered by Rod Woodson and led to the Ravens' go-ahead field goal.

Asked if he thought the results would have been different under Green, Carter said, "No."

"I don't think it was done the right way. Coach Green was a good coach, and that could have been done after the season," he added. "But the players rallied around [Tice] like they rallied around Coach Green. He taught [Tice] everything he knows."

The only bright spot was Moss' 29-yard pass to Carter - the veteran's 1,000th career reception - which landed the Vikings at the Ravens' 23-yard line. It came during a nine-play drive and led to Gary Anderson's 26-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead with 5:50 left in the first quarter.

The Vikings' defense, the league's fifth worst against the run, was a mixed bag. Inside the 10, it forced the Ravens to settle for four field goals - three in the first half.

But it simply allowed too much ground yardage over the rest of the field, most of it coming up the middle as Terry Allen rushed for a season-high 133 yards.

Minnesota's running back, Michael Bennett, coming off a bruised heel, gained 52.

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