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Talking it upAll week, the Minnesota Vikings...


Talking it up

All week, the Minnesota Vikings and Miami Dolphins engaged in verbal warfare.

Dolphins coach Don Shula claimed that Minnesota's defensive linemen like to go for quarterbacks' knees. Vikings defensive coordinator Tony Dungy said that Shula, chairman of the NFL's competition committee, should stop whining and write different rules if he wants games to be played differently.

Well, before yesterday's game, won 38-35 by the Vikings, Dungy and Shula chatted briefly and shook hands.

"It was a private conversation," Dungy said. "We talked about some of the things that had been said and [decided] it's better off to just leave it alone."

The war of the words all week was not lost on the players.

"I think the buildup had a lot to do with the way the game was played," said Vikings defensive tackle Henry Thomas. "We wouldn't quit. They wouldn't quit. We wanted to live up to the buildup."

What's the big deal?

If Detroit's Barry Sanders is so great, why doesn't he score--more often?

Sanders scored his first touchdown in nearly a year when he got two yesterday in the Lions' 23-17 loss to the New England Patriots.

He'd last reached the end zone on Oct. 24, 1993, with a 5-yard run against the Los Angeles Rams.

Sanders, who had rushing scores of 35 and 39 yards, also posted his first two-touchdown game since Oct. 25, 1992, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Patriots were believers in Sanders' scoring ability after his two runs yesterday. "He just can't be stopped," Pats cornerback Maurice Hurst said. "No matter what you do, he has a way to beat it. I really don't think one guy can bring him down in an open-field situation."

Jerome Bettis was right.

He said all he needed was to be on the field more, something that hadn't happened in the Los Angeles Rams' previous two games when they'd fallen behind and reverted to their shotgun formation.

The Rams obviously never trailed in yesterday's 16-0 victory over Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium, and Bettis had a heavy workload: 35 carries, the second-most in his career, for 132 yards.

"I was on the field definitely enough," Bettis said, laughing.

They're No. 2

The Lions (2-2) finally have fallen out of first place in the NFC Central Division.

They had at least shared the division lead after each of their past 19 games, but yesterday's loss to New England dropped them to second place behind Minnesota (3-1).

OC The 19-game run had been the longest current streak in the NFL.

Welcome back

Houston Oilers quarterback Cody Carlson returned to action against the Cincinnati Bengals. He may not be so eager to return again.

He struggled in his first game since sustaining a second-degree shoulder separation in the season opener. His timing was clearly off as he completed 12 of 33 passes for 211 yards. He was sacked three times, twice by end Alfred Williams.

Carlson also suffered a broken nose in the third quarter and was

taken to a hospital after the game for X-rays.

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