Cunningham wasn't the only vexed Viking. Last year Minnesota set an NFL record by averaging 34.8 points a game; this year, with the same personnel, the team has scored just 34 points in two games. The natural scapegoat is new offensive coordinator Ray Sherman, and several Minnesota players privately grumbled about his play-calling after the Oakland game. However, Sherman, who on Sunday vacated his preferred perch high in the stadium in favor of the sideline in an effort to make Cunningham feel more comfortable, can't be blamed for dropped passes or kicker Gary Anderson's sudden lack of accuracy. The fact is, the Vikings have been out of sync since the latter stages of last year's NFC Championship Game loss to Atlanta, when the Falcons' defense stifled the game plan of Brian Billick, Minnesota's offensive coordinator at the time and now coach of the Baltimore Ravens.
Even Minnesota's old standby, the Cunningham lob to Moss, seems a little stale, though it did provide one thrilling highlight on Sunday. Moss and Woodson were matched up for 25 plays, but Moss's lone photo op came five minutes into the second quarter when he ran a fade down the right sideline and made a glorious, 29-yard, one-handed catch at the Oakland five-yard line. Woodson appeared to have perfect position, but Moss beat him to the punch, shoving the backpedaling corner to the turf with his left hand while gracefully pulling the ball in with his right. Then the stunned Woodson got flagged for pass interference. "That was bulls—," he groused, "but, hey, the guy made a damn good catch. I'm never going to live that down. My boys will be calling me all week."
Woodson was outshone on that play, but he made up for it. Though he has not been able to persuade Raiders coach Jon Gruden to let him return kicks or play wideout, Woodson is an impact player who affects the game in ways that don't translate into the Playstation landscape. With 2:46 remaining in the first half, Anderson lined up for a 42-yard field goal that could have put Minnesota up 13-3. Woodson gave a quick shove to 257-pound blocker Kailee Wong, darted around the right side of the Minnesota line and got horizontal to block the kick. Oakland linebacker K.D. Williams, a skycap at the Tampa airport this time last year, scooped up the ball and charged across midfield like O.J. in the old Hertz commercial, setting up Husted's 37-yard field goal with 36 seconds left in the half. A six-point swing in what turned out to be a five-point game—perhaps Woodson's boys will cut him some slack for that.
At game's end Moss sought out Woodson on the field, renewing a friendship that flourished at last February's Pro Bowl when the two shared a limo ride to Scruples, a Honolulu nightspot known for its creaky dance floor and frequent bikini contests. On his way to the locker room Woodson got a congratulatory handshake from Marcus Allen, who was on the sidelines for his current employer, CBS, and not his former boss and longtime tormentor, Raiders owner Al Davis. "That's a pretty good team," Allen said.
On this day, at least, all was well in Raiderland.