MINNEAPOLIS--It was billed as Cris Carter's farewell party, but it turned out to be the Minnesota Vikings' second-worst defeat in Metrodome history, and the only highlight of the day for Carter was his brief video address to fans who left Carter with the taste of cheers.
The Jaguars thoroughly dominated a Vikings team that was a ghost of the group that thrashed the Jaguars three years ago, 50-10. This time, it was the Jaguars doing the thrashing, 33-3.
"We're playing good football. That's what I expected. Our confidence is growing. Our people have a good attitude about work," coach Tom Coughlin said.
The season has reached a high point for the Jaguars, who are on a three-game winning streak for the first time this season. At 6-8, the Jaguars are tied with the Cleveland Browns for fourth place in the AFC Central Division's final season.
"This is ideal. This is what we hope for every week," quarterback Mark Brunell said of the win, which produced several impressive statistical comparisons.
• The Jaguars rushed for a season-high 214 yards, and held the Vikings to just 28 yards rushing.
• For the third week in a row, the Jaguars won time of possession, holding the ball nearly eight minutes longer than the Vikings.
• The Jaguars converted 64 percent of their third-down attempts; the Vikings were held to 29 percent.
• Brunell was sacked just once, a single-game season low; the Jaguars defense recorded four sacks and defensive tackle Gary Walker executed the elusive sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery "trifecta."
Of course, these Vikings are not to be confused with the 15-1 team of three years ago. At 5-9, the Vikings have clinched their first-ever losing season under head coach Dennis Green. Against the Jaguars, the Vikings were without star quarterback Daunte Culpepper, and backup Todd Bouman was knocked out of action on just the third play of the game. That left the Vikings in the hands of second-year man Spergon Wynn, who the Jaguars defeated 48-0 last season when Wynn quarterbacked the Browns. In two seasons, the Jaguars have dealt Wynn's teams a combined 81-3 thumping.
But that's no solace for the Jaguars, who are currently playing some of the best football in the league, but for almost no gain. The Jaguars were eliminated from playoff contention last week.
"I can think of four games very early that could've gone our way, and that's 10 wins with two left to play. We have a good team," Brunell said.
Brunell threw for 217 yards, one touchdown and a 112.7 passer rating against the Vikings, and wide receiver Jimmy Smith -- eight catches for 122 yards -- overshadowed Carter and Randy Moss.
But, for the second consecutive week, running back Stacey Mack was the Jaguars' star. Mack, maligned by his coach for most of the season, produced his second consecutive 100-yard effort, rushing for 111 yards in 27 carries. He also scored two touchdowns.
"We felt coming in we had to run the ball. We had some good statistical information about that," Coughlin said, referring to the Vikings' next-to-last league ranking against the run.
"Bob (Petrino) had a very good game today," Coughlin said in complimenting his rookie offensive coordinator's play-calling.
Rookie running back Elvis Joseph added 86 yards on eight carries, including a 27-yard gallop on the third play of the game. "He's provided that little bit of change up," Coughlin said of Joseph.
The Jaguars swamped the Vikings early, scoring on their first four possessions of the game. Meanwhile, the Vikings' first offensive series went like this: Bouman throws high; Bouman hurts hand when hit by Tony Brackens; Bouman throws high.
That was all for Bouman, who attempted to play despite a sore right thumb, but clearly was unable to throw the ball.
"I was real proud of the way we came into this very difficult place to play. Both lines played well; a lot of rushing yards," Coughlin said in evaluating his team's performance.
"We had a good pass-rush. That's the key," he added of the defense, which has become a collection of inexpensive young players attempting to carve out a place in next year's lineup.
"It would be an achievement to get back to .500," Smith said.
The Metrodome was half-full when the Vikings attempted to get the ball to Carter for a farewell touchdown, in what was Carter's final Metrodome appearance as a Viking. Jaguars rookie safety Marlon McCree intercepted the pass that was Carter's last chance at a touchdown.
Carter's contract is up in Minnesota at the end of this season and he and his long-time employer have agreed to part company, since the Vikings are in the throes of the same salary cap problems that are expected to cause the Jaguars to release several veterans this winter.