Culpepper leads Vikings to win By John Wawrow
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- What Daunte Culpepper started, the Minnesota Vikings' defense finished.
Culpepper orchestrated three first-half scoring drives and produced 293 yards of total offense, and his team's defense made up for last week's poor debut in Friday's 24-21 preseason win over the Buffalo Bills.
The game was settled in the second half, with the teams' second- and third-stringers on the field. Minnesota's Shaun Hill hit Kelly Campbell for a 25-yard touchdown pass for the go-ahead score five minutes into the fourth quarter.
The Bills' last chance to score ended at the Minnesota 7 with a minute left, when Travis Brown's fourth-down pass was deflected by Cedric Killings.
More important was how the Vikings responded to rookie head coach Mike Tice's demands for a better effort following last weekend's 27-15 loss to Cleveland.
Playing the entire first half, Culpepper finished 12-of-19 for 189 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for 34 yards.
Michael Bennett had 49 yards rushing and scored a touchdown, and Byron Chamberlain had an 8-yard TD reception.
Defensively, the Vikings bounced back after allowing 383 total yards against the Browns.
In the first half against the Bills, Minnesota allowed 134 total yards and held Buffalo to one touchdown and two field goals in three trips inside the red zone.
The Bills (0-2), coming off last week's promising preseason opener against Cincinnati, took a step backward. Drew Bledsoe finished 6-of-8 for 70 yards, while Buffalo's first-string offense sputtered, going 1-for-5 in third-down situations.
Mike Hollis made two field goals, but both came after the Bills had drives stall inside Minnesota's 10.
"The bottom line is, when we have the opportunity to put seven points on the board, we can't settle for three," Bledsoe said. "That's the difference in ballgames right there."
The Bills' defense remained unimpressive. In the first half, Buffalo gave up 104 yards rushing and failed to pressure Culpepper. In two preseason games, the Bills' projected starting defense has yet to produce a sack.
The lone first-half defensive highlight came when Buffalo's Pierson Prioleau forced receiver D'Wayne Bates to fumble on Minnesota's opening play from scrimmage.
The Vikings responded by scoring on their next three possessions. They had a chance to add another score, but Doug Brien -- who earlier hit a 19-yard attempt -- missed a 36-yarder as time ran out in the first half.
Culpepper was sharp from the beginning. He found Randy Moss, who sneaked into a seam for a 48-yard reception that set up Bennett's 3-yard touchdown run.
On the next possession, Culpepper threaded a perfect pass to Bates, who was covered by two Bills defenders, for a 31-yard gain. The drive ended with Chamberlain's score.