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Vikings knock Chiefs off stride

The Minnesota Vikings played the part of a desperate team perfectly yesterday.


Onterrio Smith ran for 146 yards and three touchdowns, and Randy Moss caught two of Daunte Culpepper's three touchdown passes in a 45-20 victory over the visiting Kansas City Chiefs.

The Vikings boosted their postseason hopes and delivered a blow to the Chiefs' chances for home-field advantage through the AFC playoffs.

The Chiefs (12-3), who have wrapped up the AFC West and their first playoff berth since 1997, can still clinch a first-round bye if Indianapolis loses to Denver today. But Kansas City's goal of getting the top seed and securing the home-field advantage in the playoffs, took a big hit.

Culpepper completed 20 of 29 passes for 260 yards and one interception as Minnesota, which opened the season with six straight wins and improved to 9-6, moved a half-game ahead of Green Bay in the NFC North race. Moss, playing with his puffed-out Afro protruding from his helmet, had seven catches for 111 yards.

Priest Holmes, held to 55 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving, scored three times for Kansas City and matched Emmitt Smith's 1995 NFL record with 25 rushing touchdowns in a season.

Minnesota held the NFL's top-scoring offense in check for most of the game, limiting tight end Tony Gonzalez to 65 yards and no touchdowns, and holding Dante Hall to a long return of 21 yards. Hall, who hasn't returned a kick for a score since Oct. 5, left in the third quarter with leg cramps.

Trent Green was 18 for 38 for 224 yards and two interceptions for Kansas City, which failed to score in the first half for the first time all season and trailed, 31-0, midway through the third quarter.

A win at Arizona next week gives Minnesota the division title, regardless of what Green Bay does.

But the Vikings can also clinch this weekend if the Packers lose to Oakland tomorrow night and two of the following three scenarios occur today: Detroit beats Carolina, Washington tops Chicago, and Pittsburgh downs San Diego.

Falcons 30, Buccaneers 28 -- Michael Vick relished the role of spoiler. Vick and visiting Atlanta beat Tampa Bay to end the Buccaneers' hopes of overcoming injuries, the jettisoning of wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, and other distractions to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

It's been a miserable season for Atlanta (4-11), which lost Vick for the first 11 games with a broken right leg. Coach Dan Reeves was fired 11 days ago, and the Falcons were coming off a 38-7 loss to Indianapolis in their debut under interim coach Wade Phillips. But Vick threw for 119 yards and two touchdowns against a Tampa Bay defense that shut him down twice last year. The Falcons' defense did its part, too, intercepting four of Brad Johnson's passes and scoring once.

A furious Tampa Bay rally fell short when Travis Hall batted down Johnson's 2-point conversion pass with 27 seconds remaining.

With the Bucs trailing, 30-7, going into the fourth quarter, Johnson threw three TD passes in the last 11 minutes, including an 11-yarder to Jameel Cook that gave Tampa Bay (7-8) a chance to send it into overtime. The loss was the second of the week to Atlanta, which hired former Bucs general manager Rich McKay to the same job with the Falcons last Monday.

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  W L T Pct. PF PA
Patriots 13 2 0 .867 317 238
Dolphins 8 6 0 .571 268 237
Bills 6 8 0 .429 240 228
Jets 6 9 0 .400 262 276
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