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Three Vikings reserves put it all on the line

MINNEAPOLIS -- Who were those guys anyway?

There was Cory Withrow at center, Adam Goldberg at right tackle and Adam Haayer at right guard.

There was no Matt Birk or Nat Dorsey or David Dixon.

Withrow, Goldberg and Haayer were all called into action Sunday because of injuries to starters on the Minnesota Vikings offensive line.

And do you know what? The Vikings hardly missed a beat in downing the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-16 for their first victory this season over a team with a wining record.

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"If it hadn't been for the guys up front we wouldn't have been able to get the ball downfield," Vikings coach Mike Tice said. "Those guys did a great job."

Withrow filled in for Matt Birk, who underwent hernia surgery during the week and will be sidelined for at least a month. Goldberg played for Nat Dorsey, who is out with a shoulder injury. Haayer was moved into the lineup Sunday after starting right guard David Dixon left the game with a sprained knee.

Actually, Goldberg is the fourth right tackle the Vikings have used this season. When starter Mike Rosenthal was put on injured reserve for the season with a broken right foot, Haayer replaced him and then Dorsey replaced Haayer.

"When somebody goes down, somebody else has to step up," Vikings tight end Jermaine Wiggins said. "And these guys stepped up."

They were at their best on the Vikings' 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ate almost 10 minutes off the clock to start the second half. There were no holding calls (except for one on tight end Sean Berton), no false start penalties and only one 4-yard sack (that was because Daunte Culpepper hung on to the ball too long).

The drive culminated in a 2-yard TD pass from Culpepper to Randy Moss, who made a spectacular catch in the end zone in his return from a hamstring injury. It broke a 13-13 tie and the Vikings never trailed again.

"Withrow, Goldberg and Haayer stepped in and did an excellent job," Culpepper said. "I'm excited for them."

Culpepper was sacked four times in the game, but he said they were all coverage sacks. "The offensive line wasn't at fault."

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But it wasn't just the offensive line that played a big role in the win, according to Culpepper. "I'm excited about our defense, too," he said. "They've given up only one touchdown in the last seven quarters."

It was the defense that came up with the clinching touchdown in Sunday's game. End Kenechi Udeze jarred the ball from Jaguars quarterback Bryan Leftwich and tackle Kevin Williams scooped it up and lumbered 77 yards for a TD with 1:59 to go in the fourth quarter.

"I never thought he'd have a longer TD in a game than Randy Moss," Culpepper said.

The defense bailed Culpepper out in the second quarter. An interception by Donovin Darius gave the Jaguars the ball at the Vikings 20-yard line. The Vikings held Jacksonville to a field goal. "That was huge," Culpepper said. "It helped us get back out there and score points. When the defense plays like that, our chances of winning go way up."

The Jaguars made seven trips into the red zone (inside the 20-yard line), but they managed only one touchdown against the Vikings' defense.

Still, the play of Withrow, and Goldberg and Haayer were the talk of the day for the Vikings.

"Let me tell you they were playing against some beast defensive linemen," Culpepper said.

Tice agreed. "Jacksonville plays more like an NFC team," he said. "They get in your face; they play it tough on defense."

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Bob Brown is the executive sports editor of the Post-Bulletin. His column appears Wednesdays and Saturdays. He can be reached at brown@postbulletin.com.

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