MINNEAPOLIS - Opponents of the Minnesota Vikings have enough problems without having to worry about Robert Smith as a pass receiver.
The Vikings, with Daunte Culpepper leading a balanced offense, rolled to a 31-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
"They were as explosive as any team I've seen since I came to Carolina," Panthers coach George Seifert said.
Smith scored by rushing and receiving and gained a total of 173 yards, and Culpepper threw for a career-high 357 yards Sunday, completing 22 of 29 passes for three touchdowns.
And for the seventh time, both Randy Moss and Cris Carter gained more than 100 yards receiving in the same game.
"We're just taking what they give us," Culpepper said. "We are staying patient, and it makes it a lot easier when you have great receivers, a great running back and a great offensive line playing that well."
Smith rushed for 103 yards on 23 carries, including a 3-yard TD run, and caught three passes for 70 yards, including a 53-yard screen pass for a TD. Smith, who has 28 receptions, has become more of a receiving threat in recent seasons. His 322 yards receiving and three touchdown catches this season are career highs.
The screen pass was a near replica of Smith's 33-yard TD on a screen against Arizona last week. He said the Panthers were calling out to watch for the screen on nearly every play.
"If they think it's coming every play," Smith said, "then it doesn't much matter when it comes."
This time, Culpepper faked handoffs to Smith and Chris Walsh and tossed to Smith toward the sideline. Smith turned and raced for the touchdown, with a key block coming from Carter.
"The team realizes that we have the glamour positions and get all the publicity," Carter said, "but it helps them out when they know that the wideouts are down the field blocking."
Carter, who turns 35 next Saturday, caught eight passes for 138 yards, including a 15-yard TD in the third quarter. He moved within seven receptions of becoming the second NFL player to catch 1,000 passes in his career.
"Cris Carter continues to be absolutely phenomenal," Vikings coach Dennis Green said.
Moss caught five passes for 106 yards, with a 36-yard TD catch in the first quarter and became the second NFL receiver to break the 1,000-yard barrier in each of his first three seasons. John Jefferson gained more than 1,000 yards from 1978-8. Moss has 58 catches for 1,026 yards.
"I don't really look at that as anything big," Moss said. "It's no trophy, no ring or anything. When John Jefferson was in the record book, he probably didn't think another guy would come along to join him."
The Vikings (9-2) gained 446 yards, but the defense also played one of its best games.
Carolina's injury-decimated offensive line again had trouble protecting Steve Beuerlein, who was sacked five times. John Randle and Talance Sawyer each had two sacks.
Beuerlein was sacked eight times against New Orleans last week and has been sacked 49 times this season. He completed 26 of 44 passes for 272 yards.
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