Saints Get Moss-acred By Vikings 34-16

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ All season long, the New Orleans defense was the backbone of the Saints' amazing turnaround. It terrorized quarterbacks, leading the NFL with 66 sacks and holding teams to fewer than 297 yards a game. On Saturday, the defense met its match. New Orleans was plundered by Minnesota for 429 yards and four touchdowns as the Vikings routed the Saints 34-16 in the second round of the NFC playoffs. ``Their offensive line did a great job of blocking us and controlling the line,'' Saints defensive tackle Norman Hand said. ``We just couldn't make any plays on them.'' The Saints (11-7) bounced back from a 3-13 season and seven years without a winning record, capturing their first playoff win on the strength of the defense. They were eighth in the NFL in total defense, allowing 296.4 yards a game, 10th against the run (104.5), and 10th against the pass (191.9). But the Vikings handled New Orleans' defense easily, scoring their first touchdown 3:03 into the game, running up a 17-3 halftime lead, then hitting for another long TD less than two minutes into the second half. ``I think that was the killer,'' said Saints safety Sammy Knight. ``We were only down two touchdowns and they came out and made it three.'' The Saints entered the game wanting to stop running back Robert Smith, pressure quarterback Daunte Culpepper and disrupt the receivers. ``We stopped Smith, which we wanted to do, but we didn't stop (Randy) Moss or Cris Carter,'' defensive coordinator Ron Zook said. ``And the other thing this offense had is that quarterback running the football.'' Moss caught two passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns, Carter had eight catches for 120 yards and a score. Culpepper rushed four times for 51 yards. He also completed 17 of 31 passes for 302 yards and three scores. ``I didn't watch all their games, but most of them, and he hasn't ever thrown the ball like he did tonight,'' Zook said. The Saints couldn't move the ball _ New Orleans' second touchdown didn't come until there was 2:19 left in the game. But unlike it had throughout the year, the defense could not get the ball back, let alone score, as it had five times during the season. Culpepper was not intercepted or sacked, only the second time the Saints have been held without a sack this season. ``We don't need to overanalyze this,'' said tackle La'Roi Glover, who led the NFL with 17 sacks. ``The bottom line for this ball game is that they made big plays and we didn't.'' The Vikings also converted 59 percent of their third downs. ``We just couldn't get them off the field on third down,'' Knight said. ``It seemed like they always came up with a big play when they needed it. It was very frustrating.'' After holding off the high-powered St. Louis Rams and their No. 1-ranked offense in the wild-card game, New Orleans was confident going against the Vikings, who have the No. 5 offense _ especially because Minnesota lost its final three regular-season games. ``Whatever it was that they lost the last three weeks, they sure found today,'' Saints cornerback Kevin Mathis said.