American Football: Culpepper on course to usurp Marino

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The Independent Online

With six weeks gone in the regular season, only the New England Patriots, the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Jets remain unbeaten.

With six weeks gone in the regular season, only the New England Patriots, the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Jets remain unbeaten. The Patriots extended their league-record winning run with a 20th straight victory in a hard-fought battle against the Seattle Seahawks, the Eagles were in cruise control in defeating injury-plagued Carolina Panthers 30-8, while the Jets needed a strong second-half rally to overcome struggling San Francisco 49ers 22-14.

However, the most-talked about team of the campaign so far are the Minnesota Vikings, who continued their assault on the record books with another breathtaking display in their 38-31 triumph against the New Orleans Saints.

The statistics are staggering. The Vikings gained more that 600 yards of total offense, their running back Mewelde Moore, in his first-ever start, gained 115 yards rushing, and despite losing his primary receiver Randy Moss with a hamstring injury, the quarterback Daunte Culpepper went off the scale again, with a career-high 425 yards - and five touchdowns for the third time this season, an NFL record.

Culpepper is on pace to shatter all the single-season records set by the legendary Miami Dolphin Dan Marino. In 1984, Marino threw an unprecedented 48 touchdown passes: Culpepper is currently on course for 60.

The only team to have tamed Culpepper so far are the Eagles, and once again their defence was to the fore in Philadelphia's victory over the struggling Panthers. Lito Shepherd claimed two interceptions, returning the second 64 yards for a touchdown.

The Patriots roll on, despite being pressed hard by the gritty Seahawks. Their triumph was the result of another strong all-round effort, although the result was in doubt until late in the fourth quarter, when Corey Dillon's second touchdown run of the game broke Seattle's resistance. "Our team has a lot of confidence that when we get into these type of games, we are going to make the plays to win," explained their quarterback, Tom Brady.

Trailing 14-0 in the first half, the Jets seemed on their way to a shock defeat at home to San Francisco, and their inept performance led to a half-time assault from the normally mild-mannered quarterback Chad Pennington.

"That's the maddest I've ever seen Chad," said the running back Curtis Martin who, duly chastised, scored two touchdowns to secure a less-than-convincing Jets win. The New Yorkers will need more than rhetoric if they are off the pace next weekend: they are up against the Patriots.

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