EDEN PRAIRIE (AP) -- What did Mike Tice and his Minnesota Vikings have to lose?
Just another road game, really.
"I don't know what I would've done if we were 10-3, but we were 3-10," Tice said the day after he called for a 2-point conversion after a Vikings touchdown with 10 seconds left instead of kicking an extra point that would've forced overtime against New Orleans.
Daunte Culpepper's plunge into the end zone gave Minnesota a 32-31 victory and ended a 17-game losing streak on the road.
"I don't think your chances of winning on the road in overtime are as good," Tice said. "I was concerned about some fatigue, and I was concerned about the crowd noise. I just felt that it was the right thing to do."
The players did, too.
With their receivers double-teamed and an empty backfield, the Vikings had plenty of protection for Culpepper to charge up the middle. He dropped the low snap and bobbled it twice before picking it up and reaching the end zone untouched.
"I was thinking, 'Just grab it,"' said Culpepper, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more without a turnover in one of the best games of his career.
"We've been practicing that play for the same situation for a 2-point play to win the game," Culpepper said. "I knew the offensive line was going to execute it, so I knew the hole was going to be big."
The Vikings kept the NFC's leading rusher, Deuce McAllister, in check. They sacked Aaron Brooks four times. And they didn't turn the ball over, once. Forget about the terrible kickoff coverage for a moment, and it might have been their best game thus far.
Trailing 31-24 with 5:21 to go, Culpepper led a 13-play, 73-yard drive that should go down as the Vikings' most-memorable offensive possession of the season.
"Certainly that was the best drive in the most crucial time of a game that we've had this season," Tice said. "We started fast. We finished strong."
Finally, the Vikings were able to do both of those things.
In losses to Chicago, Buffalo, Carolina, Atlanta and Green Bay, they led for much of the game before blowing it at the end.
In defeats to Seattle, the New York Jets, Tampa Bay, the New York Giants and New England, the Vikings dug themselves in holes of various sizes and late rallies came up short.
With a short week to prepare, Minnesota (4-10) has another chance to knock a playoff contender back in the race a bit against Miami (9-5) on Saturday at the Metrodome. It's also a reunion with wide receiver Cris Carter, who came out of retirement halfway through the season to join the Dolphins.
"We're trying to square away the things that have gotten us beat so far in many of the games," Tice said. "Hopefully our guys will understand that you've got to want to be the guy to make the play to win the game, within the boundaries of the scheme, and not go out and do your own thing. You don't want to be the one who's thinking, 'I don't want to be the guy' -- the guy who makes the mistake to get you beat."
It's amazing what confidence can do.
"I don't think ... there was any point in the game that I saw my guys looking around for something bad to happen," Tice said.
For the first time since a trip back from Dallas on Thanksgiving Day 2000, the Vikings lived it up a little on the flight home.
"We had fun," Tice said. "That's why it's a charter plane."
Notes: LB Henri Crockett has a strained pectoral (chest) muscle and will be listed as probable for Saturday's game against Miami. He'll wear a harness in practice this week. ... OL Lewis Kelly was placed on injured reserve, S Jason Perry was released and DT Cedric Killings and CB Carey Scott were signed. OL Kenny Sandlin was added to the practice squad to replace DE Mike Cecere, who was released.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.