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Vikings rebound to rout Seattle

Though they finished November on a terrible note, the Minnesota Vikings know this: Finish strong, and the slump is forgotten.

Daunte Culpepper threw three long touchdown passes, two to Randy Moss, and a suddenly stingy defense shut down the powerful Seattle Seahawks yesterday in a 34-7 victory.

"We want to win in December," Culpepper said. "We've just got to take this momentum into next week. I have no doubt in my mind it will carry over."

In a critical game for both clubs' playoff chances, the Vikings (8-5) reverted to their early season form -- before five losses in six games wiped out a 6-0 start and placed their NFC North lead over Green Bay in serious question.

The Seahawks (8-5) were stymied by a defense that fell to 29th in the league after a 48-17 loss at St. Louis last week. After scoring 110 points in the last three games, Seattle continued to struggle on the road and fell further behind the Rams (9-3 entering tonight's game) in the NFC West.

The Seahawks are 1-5 away from home, with a make-or-break game at St. Louis next week.

Culpepper, who shared some responsibility with the defense for the Vikings' recent struggles, was 21 for 33 for 274 yards, three touchdowns, and no turnovers.

Moss had eight receptions for 133 yards, including scores of 47 and 45 yards. Kelly Campbell caught a 43-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and rookie Mike Nattiel later returned an interception 80 yards for a score, keeping Minnesota a game ahead of the Packers in the division race.

Colts 29, Titans 27 -- Edgerrin James ran for two touchdowns and Mike Vanderjagt kicked five field goals as visiting Indianapolis beat Tennessee to sweep the defending division champions, taking control of the AFC South with three games remaining.The Colts (10-3) improved to 6-1 on the road by scoring 19 straight points and forcing four fumbles, which they turned into 9 points.

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning easily outplayed his counterpart, Steve McNair, even using his legs to scramble for a couple of first downs. He ran for 20 yards and was 22 of 34 for 228 yards.

McNair still nearly rallied the Titans (9-4) to a tie, throwing two touchdown passes in the final 9:24 and even running for a 2-point conversion.

McNair pulled the Titans to within 29-27 with 1:52 to go with his second TD toss, a 2-yarder to Derrick Mason. McNair tried to find Mason again on the 2-point conversion, but defensive end Dwight Freeney, held to one sack, tipped the ball, and it fell incomplete.

McNair, who has a sore calf, finished 22 of 38 for 235 yards.

Vanderjagt kicked field goals of 35, 36, 26, 23, and 21 yards. His 26-yarder in the third period gave him 37 consecutive field goals, the second-longest streak to Gary Anderson's 40.

Ravens 31, Bengals 13 -- Jamal Lewis ran for 180 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, and host Baltimore (8-5) moved a game ahead of Cincinnati in the AFC North.

The Bengals (7-6) came in looking to enhance their turnaround season with a fifth straight win. Instead, they committed five turnovers, yielded a season-high six sacks, and had no answer for the punishing runs of Lewis, who scored on runs of 1, 3, and 13 yards. The Bengals never led after Lewis scored a first-quarter touchdown following a Cincinnati turnover.

Despite playing with a sprained wrist, Lewis ran for 96 yards in the second half and bolstered his lead as the NFL's leading rusher.

Packers 34, Bears 21 -- Burned early for a 61-yard score, Mike McKenzie returned his second interception of the day 90 yards for a touchdown in Green Bay's home victory over Chicago.

The Packers (7-6) were clinging to a 19-14 lead when McKenzie stepped in front of receiver Dez White and picked off Kordell Stewart's pass at his 10-yard line and ran it all the way back with 9:16 left. Chicago (5-8) turned the ball over five times.

Green Bay's Ahman Green ran 30 times for 80 yards and a score. He needed 92 to break Jim Taylor's 41-year-old season rushing record, the oldest team rushing mark in the NFL.

Bills 17, Jets 6 -- Continuing to play with a broken bone in his right leg and torn rib cartilage, Travis Henry ran for a career-high 169 yards and a touchdown, carrying host Buffalo over New York.

Drew Bledsoe had an efficient performance, finishing 9 of 15 for 72 yards and a 6-yard touchdown pass to Josh Reed.

The victory kept Buffalo (6-7) on the fringes of the playoff hunt while the loss all but mathematically eliminated the Jets (5-8).

Redskins 20, Giants 7 -- Bruce Smith set the career sack record and Matt Hasselbeck threw two touchdown passes as Washington (5-8) broke a three-game skid and handed New York (4-9) its fifth straight loss and sixth in seven home games.

Smith, 40, created the most lasting memory in the game for last place in the NFC East when he tackled backup QB Jesse Palmer with 8:33 to play -- his 199th sack that got him past Reggie White.

Steelers 27, Raiders 7 -- Jerome Bettis moved past Thurman Thomas into ninth place on the NFL career rushing list with 106 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown run, to power host Pittsburgh (5-8) past Oakland (3-10).

49ers 50, Cardinals 14 -- Terrell Owens caught seven passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns, Kevan Barlow rushed for a career-best 154 yards, and Jeff Garcia threw four TD passes and ran for two more scores to power host San Francisco (6-7) over lifeless Arizona (3-10), which lost its fifth in a row.

Buccaneers 14, Saints 7 -- Visiting Tampa Bay (6-7) scored two touchdowns in the final 1:25 of the first half, including a 1-yard TD reception by Warren Sapp, to beat New Orleans (6-7).

Chargers 14, Lions 7 -- LaDainian Tomlinson caught nine passes for 148 yards, a season-high for running backs, and had two long touchdown receptions as San Diego (3-10) held on at Detroit (4-9).

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afc east standings
  W L T Pct. PF PA
Patriots 11 2 0 .846 20.7 16.1
Dolphins 8 5 0 .615 18.5 15.6
Bills 6 7 0 .462 16.5 15.4
Jets 5 8 0 .385 18.5 19.6
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