The young quarterback was unfazed by the incident; he says he understands the fire that drives his receivers. "Randy and Cris, their passion for the game is just like mine," says Culpepper. "They want to win, and they're willing to give whatever it takes. I don't get mad when they say something negative about me. I try to look at it as being positive. Sometimes I might say something back to them in the same way. I can take it, but I can give it too." This give-and-take was on display in Dallas on Thanksgiving, when Moss and Culpepper got into it on national TV. Early in the third quarter Culpepper prudently threw the ball away to avoid a blitz. Moss, who had gotten behind the secondary on the play, yelled at Culpepper as they walked off the field. There was a protracted—and heated—exchange of opinions between the two young stars, and then the storm broke, and the two shook hands. Just to make sure there were no hard feelings, Culpepper hit Moss with a 36-yard touchdown pass later in the game.
In fact, Culpepper and Moss have been regularly punishing opposing defensive backs since October. "Daunte understands now what we're trying to do," says Carter. "And he's gotten much more accurate with his throws." Indeed, since that game, Culpepper has completed 63.5% of his passes, fourth in the league over that stretch.
Culpepper and Moss now display a spontaneity the likes of which the NFL hasn't seen in a while. Other quarterbacks and receivers produce better numbers, but they do so by picking defenses apart with the kind of precision that the Minnesota tandem abandons as the game goes on. After he caught a 39-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Culpepper to help beat the Bills in Week 8, reporters asked Moss to name the play that sent him racing to the back of the end zone. Moss said the play call was, "Moss, go get it."
Born little more than two weeks apart, Culpepper and Moss are 23, still young enough to believe anything they desire can be theirs. "What we really want," says Culpepper, "is to dominate."
Three weeks after being upbraided by Moss in front of reporters, Culpepper is back in the team's cafeteria, with yet another victory to celebrate. With what must feel like all the eyes of the world upon him, he announces that he has figured something out. He knows what it will take for him to dominate, for him to be remembered as the best quarterback of all time, not just the biggest. "My goal is to win the Super Bowl," he says. "You know how you do that, don't you?"
When your answer is too slow in coming, Culpepper raises a hand and displays a single finger. "One week at a time...."