The Minnesota Vikings went to the fourth quarter trailing once too often and it cost them, almost as much as the letdown no one on the team would acknowledge.
Aaron Pierce scored on a 1-yard run on a tight end around, Brad Daluiso kicked three field goals and the New York Giants defense set up the go-ahead score in knocking the Vikings from the unbeaten ranks 15-10 Sunday at East Rutherford, N.J.
“It wasn’t a fluke,” Dan Reeves insisted after the Giants got their second straight win. “We went out there and executed. Playing a 1-3 team, maybe they weren’t as fired up as they should have been and maybe we caught them the right time. But there wasn’t anything fluky about it.”
The Vikings were ripe to be upset after getting off to their best start since winning 10 straight at the start of 1975. Not only had they rallied to win all four of their games, but they were coming off an emotional win over Green Bay last week.
“You write whatever you want,” an annoyed Cris Carter said when asked if the Vikings might have have suffered a letdown.
“I tell you, this is reality,” added quarterback Warren Moon, who had Minnesota in place for some more fourth-quarter magic until Phillippi Sparks stepped in front of a pass to Carter at the New York 4 to end the Vikings’ final drive with 3:59 to play. “We got a reality check today. We didn’t come out and play our game and the Giants outplayed us. They made the plays and we didn’t.”
What the Giants did best was keep Moon and company off the field. New York controlled the ball a season-high 37:43 and limited the Vikings to 228 yards, a season-low for Minnesota.
Chargers 22, Chiefs 19
Junior Seau intercepted Steve Bono twice and Chris Mims blocked Pete Stoyanovich’s 47-yard field goal attempt with 22 seconds left as San Diego, which had the league’s worst defense, handed visiting Kansas City its first loss.
The Chiefs had won their previous 12 divisional games dating to the final game of 1994.
San Diego entered the game ranked 30th in defense after allowing an average of 374 yards in its first four games. The Chargers tackled poorly at times and allowed some big plays, but also came up big when needed.
Seau’s second interception came with 5:50 left and led to John Carney’s fifth field goal, a 33-yarder to set the final score with 3:17 to go.
Then, with the Chiefs facing third-and-4 from the 50, Seau was hammered while blitzing, but bounced off blockers and came through again to drop Bono for a 6-yard loss.
A fourth-down pass to Tamarick Vanover was incomplete, but the Chiefs got the ball right back when Leonard Russell’s fumble was recovered by Tracy Simien.
Bono moved the Chiefs to the Chargers’ 29, where Mims, a defensive end, leaped from the middle of the line and blocked Stoyanovich’s kick.
Steelers 30, Oilers 16
Houston dared oft-erratic Mike Tomczak to dominate play and the Pittsburgh quarterback did, throwing two first-quarter touchdown passes following Oilers mistakes.
The Steelers have won three straight games since a season-opening loss to Jacksonville, matching their best first-month start under coach Bill Cowher. The Oilers missed a chance to take the divisional lead and have lost five straight to Pittsburgh and seven of nine overall.
The Oilers’ game plan was to run rookie Eddie George, stay close and let Tomczak beat himself with critical mistakes. Instead, Pittsburgh won with almost an identical plan as Jerome Bettis ran for 115 yards - his third straight 100-yard game - and Houston quarterback Chris Chandler threw two interceptions and lost a fumble.
Jaguars 24, Panthers 14
Mark Brunell directed three time-consuming touchdown drives to lead Jacksonville to victory over previously unbeaten Carolina at Jacksonville, Fla.. in the first regular-season meeting between last year’s expansion teams.
The Jaguars sacked Steve Beuerlein five times and were in control of the game after scoring touchdowns on their first two drives.
Rookie Tony Brackens of the Jaguars had two sacks, forced two fumbles and recovered two fumbles, while Joel Smeenge also had a pair of sacks.
Broncos 14, Bengals 10
Turned loose against one of the NFL’s worst pass defenses, John Elway threw for a season-high 335 yards and two touchdowns, leading Denver to its victory at Cincinnati.
Elway’s first career game in Cincinnati wasn’t nearly as dramatic or impressive as some of his well-chronicled late heroics, but it was just as effective.
Elway threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Shannon Sharpe in the first quarter and a 23-yarder to Anthony Miller for the go-ahead score late in the third period.
Terrell Davis complemented Elway with 112 yards rushing, matching the club record with his fourth consecutive 100-yard game.
Bears 19, Raiders 17
Jeff Jaeger, cut by Oakland in training camp, got even by kicking four field goals, including a 30-yarder with 11 seconds left, that gave Chicago its victory over his former team.
The Bears trailed 17-3 in the second half, and were booed by their fans. But they rallied behind two interceptions and Jaeger’s three final-quarter field goals.
49ers 39, Falcons 17
Elvis Grbac did just fine in place of the injured Steve Young and Bobby Hebert had one problem after another playing in place of suspended Jeff George as San Francisco ran off 33 straight points and whipped winless Atlanta at San Francisco.
Jeff Wilkins added a team-record-tying six field goals for the 49ers, who rebounded from last week’s 23-7 loss at Carolina.
Redskins 31, Jets 16
Washington needed all the razzle-dazzle it could muster to put away supposedly hapless New York.
One touchdown came on a reverse, another on a flea-flicker - both scored by Leslie Shepherd - and Gus Frerotte had his best game this season as the Redskins gained their fourth straight victory and the Jets their ninth consecutive loss.
Cardinals 31, Rams 28 (OT)
LeShon Johnson, making his first NFL start at running back for Arizona, ran 66 yards to set up a 24-yard field goal by Greg Davis that gave Arizona the win at Tempe, Ariz.
Kent Graham, who threw four TD passes for the Cardinals, completed 5-yard TD passes to Larry Centers and Frank Sanders in the fourth quarter to tie the game as the Rams wilted in the 97-degree heat at Sun Devil Stadium.
Lions 27, Buccaneers 0
Slowing Barry Sanders down didn’t help Tampa Bay as Scott Mitchell threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns and Bennie Blades scored on a 98-yard interception return to help Detroit beat the winless Bucs at Tampa, Fla.
Ravens 17, Saints 10
Earnest Byner ran for 149 yards and Vinny Testaverde drove Baltimore 75 yards to break a 10-10 tie early in the final quarter, lifting the Ravens to victory over winless New Orleans at Baltimore.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: SUNDAY’S BEST Quarterbacks Kent Graham 37-58-366-4-0 John Elway 23-37-335-2-1 Steve Bono 25-54-280-1-2 Running backs Earnest Byner 24-149-0 Jerome Bettis 29-115-0 Terrell Davis 24-112-0 Receivers Rob Moore 9-143-1 Anthony Miller 5-131-1 Mark Carrier 8-124-2