Cris Carter's competitiveness left both him and an official red-faced Sunday.
The NFC's leading receiver joined the elite 900 catch club and hauled in two touchdown receptions as the Minnesota Vikings held off the San Diego Chargers 35-27 to remain in a tie atop the NFC Central.
But Carter's big day was tarnished by a first-quarter sideline tantrum in which he spiked a football that struck an official in the nose. Carter was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct, but not ejected.
Carter stuck around and had his fourth straight 100-yard receiving game for the first time in his stellar career. He had 11 catches for 136 yard and two TDs and joined Jerry Rice, Andre Reed and Art Monk as the only players in NFL history with 900 career catches.
But midway through the first quarter, the ill-tempered Carter, known not only for his catching skills but also for his constant complaining to officials, drew an unsportsmanlike penalty. He spiked a ball in disgust and it bounced and smashed head linesman Mark Hittner in the nose.
Hittner ruled Carter's tiptoe sideline catch invalid, although television replays appeared to show otherwise. Had Carter made contact with the official, he'd have been ejected.
"It was clearly an accident," teammate Robert Smith said.
Hittner agreed, flagging Carter but not ejecting him.
"Cris is an emotional player," said Chargers defensive end Raylee Johnson. "I know him. He wasn't directing his anger at the referee. He was just frustrted, because he thought he was in-bounds."
Minnesota Finally Shook Loose From A Pesky San Diego Team, Winning 35-27 Sunday.(AP)
"Cris thought he made the catch," George said with a shrug. "That's just the competitor he is."
Carter, who entered the game with 898 career receptions, joined the 900 club with a 4-yard TD reception from George that gave the Vikings a 21-7 lead.
"With the talent we have, somebody's going to be open," said Carter, who cut his postgame remarks short before addressing his tantrum.
Carter's biggest catch came on a 34-yard flea flicker for a touchdown with four minutes left in the third quarter after the Chargers trimmed the deficit to 28-24.
Carter has 10 TD catches in 22 quarters George has been in charge of the offense.
"I've never seen Cris play like this," teammate Robert Smith said. "He's no spring chicken, yet he's getting better every week."
The Vikings (7-4) watched their three TD halftime cushion shrink as San Diego (4-7), losers of six straight, stormed back in the second half. The Chargers were driving for the tying score when Robert Griffith picked off Jim Harbaugh's pass at the Vikings 1 with 4:29 left, and the Vikings ran out the clock.
"When you let your guard down, you're going to get punched," Griffith said. "We didn't hammer the nail in the coffin and gave up some big plays."
The teams combined for 900 yards of offense. Jeff George was 28-of-43 for 363 yards and four TDs for Minnesota, and Harbaugh was 25-of-39 for 404 yards and one touchdown.
The Vikings equaled a team record with four touchdowns in the second quarter. But their 28-7 halftime lead quickly withered as Harbaugh hit Kenny Bynum with a short pass the running back turned into a career-high 80-yard score on the first play of the second half.
"That pass to Kenny was a 5-yarder," Harbaugh said. "I threw it, I thought 10, 15 yards. It turned into 80."
Carney's second 40-yarder made it 35-27 with 11:41 left.
After the Vikings fell behind on Stephens' 1-yard dive, George threw TD passes of 34 yards to Randy Moss, 5 yards to Jake Reed and 4 yards to Carter before Leroy Hoard rumbled in from 4 yards for a 28-7 lead.
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