[size=18px]Robinson, Moore show they know the meaning of special[/size]

Vikings coach Mike Tice's faith in his special teams was validated Sunday when two kick returns went for touchdowns.

By Judd Zulgad, Star Tribune
Last update: November 13, 2005 at 9:03 PM

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Through a season of a few ups and many downs, coach Mike Tice often has reserved praise for the play of the Vikings' special teams. He continually pointed to how close the return units have been to making a big play that would result in a touchdown.

But not even Tice could have expected both his kickoff and punt return teams to accomplish that feat in one game as they did Sunday in the Vikings' 24-21 victory over the New York Giants.

An 86-yard kick return by Koren Robinson opened the second half and a 71-yard punt return by Mewelde Moore later in the third quarter -- along with an interception return by Darren Sharper and a 48-yard game-winning field goal by Paul Edinger -- accounted for all of the Vikings' points.

If only for one day, it made the emphasis Tice has placed on special teams since training camp look like a stroke of genius.

"We talked [Saturday night] about our special teams being explosive, winning the battle of the special teams," said Tice, who more often than not saw things go wrong on special teams in his first three seasons. "I think we did that. ... Special teams guys really believe in what they're doing right now."

That is largely because the Vikings appear to have settled on two very capable return men in Robinson (kickoffs) and Moore (punts).

Robinson averaged a season-high 39.5 yards on four kick returns. Moore -- who had been the Vikings' starting running back since Week 3 but did not get on the field for an offensive play because of a sprained right wrist -- returned three punts for a season-high average of 29 yards.

"That was the key to the whole game," said cornerback Ralph Brown. "The defense was doing our job stopping them from scoring, but we weren't scoring any points on offense. So you look for another team to pick it up, and special teams did. It was tremendous."

Robinson's return gave the Vikings a 14-6 lead and confidence to open the second half. "They kicked the ball short," said Robinson, whose longest kick return had been 72 yards since taking over that duty in Week 3. "... I was just looking for holes. [Ciatrick] Fason went ahead of me, I just followed Fason and it opened up."

The touchdown came as no surprise to Robinson, who also had a reception of 44 yards, his longest of the season. "I felt I was going to get one this year," he said. "I wasn't going to make any guarantees, but, like I said, the 10 guys ahead of me on the kickoff return team have been doing a great job, giving me holes to run through. I knew it was just a matter of time before I broke one all the way."

Moore's touchdown made it 21-13 and showed the confidence he has developed since taking over the role of punt returner four games ago. Moore returned only four punts last year as a rookie.

"I'm comfortable back there [now]," he said. "I understand what's going on, and it's just a natural gift."