Beuerlein: 3 INTs, 1 dislocated finger

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- After opening the season with five wins
against weak opponents, the Minnesota Vikings looked at Sunday's
game against the Denver Broncos as a credibility test.

Question on the Broncos: How far can this team go with Plummer sidelined?
Obviously, not that far, especially when they also don't have their No. 2 quarterback playing. The loss of Plummer changes this team's entire offensive mindset. They counted on Plummer's mobility to keep defenses honest and allow RB Clinton Portis more breathing room. Until his return this offense will struggle.

Question on the Vikings: How impressed were you with Culpepper in his return?
I was very impressed with Culpepper's return. He came back right where he left off. He's shown an amazing amount of maturity this season and his return gives this team back another explosive dimension.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Well, they sure passed.

Daunte Culpepper threw for 277 yards in his return at
quarterback, the defense knocked Steve Beuerlein out of the game,
and the Vikings beat Denver 28-20 Sunday.

"We have to be better before we can beat some of these teams
we're playing in the coming weeks," coach Mike Tice said. "But
that feels pretty good."

Randy Moss had 10 receptions for 151 yards, and his lateral to
Moe Williams on the final play of the first half led to a 59-yard
score for the Vikings (6-0).

Minnesota's first five opponents came against teams with a
combined record of 8-20 entering Sunday.

The Broncos, whose only other defeat came by a point against
unbeaten Kansas City, provided the Vikings' toughest challenge to

Denver (5-2) nearly rallied behind third-string quarterback
Danny Kanell, who went 12-for-18 for 104 yards and a touchdown in
place of the injured Beuerlein.

"Danny did a good job. If he did a great job, we would've
won," wide receiver Rod Smith said.

Clinton Portis ran 25 times for 117 yards and a touchdown in
addition to three catches for 43 yards for the Broncos, who trailed
28-7 midway through the third quarter.

Beuerlein, playing in place of injured starter Jake Plummer,
completed nine of 19 passes for 119 yards and three interceptions
before leaving in the third quarter with a dislocated finger on his
throwing hand. He was sacked five times.

"It felt like they blitzed us about every other snap," Smith

That's what Vikings defensive coordinator George O'Leary wanted.
His aggressive approach has helped a unit that ranked 26th in the
league last season and 27th the year before.

"Anytime you win against a good team like Denver and you know
what you have to work on leaving the building, you're in good
shape," O'Leary said.

Onterrio Smith ran for a score, and Lance Johnstone returned an
interception for a touchdown for Minnesota, which leads the league
with 16 interceptions. Brian Russell has an NFL-high six.

"They're a team that's been able to take the ball away all
year," said Denver coach Mike Shanahan.

Jason Elam's second 46-yard field goal cut the lead to 28-13
early in the fourth quarter. Kanell threw a 1-yard touchdown pass
to Mike Anderson to make it 28-20 with 6:45 left after an
interference call on Denard Walker in the end zone gave the Broncos

Minnesota kicker Aaron Elling has been bothered by back spasms,
and the Vikings went for it on fourth-and-3 at the Denver 32. Kelly
Campbell was open down the sideline but dropped the would-be TD
pass, and the Vikings turned the ball over with 3:24 remaining.

The Broncos had first-and-10 at the Vikings 30, but the drive
stalled there. Johnstone, who also was credited with 1½ sacks,
broke up Kanell's fourth-down pass at the line of scrimmage.

"Danny came out and brought us back," said Shanahan, now down
to one healthy quarterback. "He's going to have to lead the

Culpepper, who broke several bones in his back on a hit in the
second quarter against Detroit on Sept. 21, looked as spry as usual
-- though he was off target on a handful of long throws.

He finished 19-for-26 with two touchdowns, one to Campbell in
the first quarter.

"I feel great," Culpepper said. "On a scale of one to 10, I
feel like I'm a dime."

Portis ran in from 4 yards out at the two-minute warning to tie
the game at 7, but Moss' amazing play swung the momentum back to

The Vikings drove to Denver's 45, then were pushed back by two
sacks. Culpepper rolled out as the clock expired and flung a pass
in the air to Moss, who caught the ball near the 20 and was about
to be tackled at the 15.

He tossed the ball blindly over his back, and Williams caught it
and streaked in for the touchdown to make it 14-7. The play was
reviewed and upheld as a backward lateral. "It's one of the crazy plays that happens once a year,"
Broncos defensive end Bertrand Berry said, "and it happened to

Notes: Shanahan said the Broncos will have to sign a free-agent
quarterback this week. ... Culpepper has thrown seven touchdown
passes without an interception this season.