MINNEAPOLIS – The Minnesota Vikings were in desperate need of some big plays after two weeks of offensive futility. They got them against the road-weary New Orleans Saints.

Daunte Culpepper threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns and the Vikings got back on track with a 33-16 victory over the mistake-prone Saints on Sunday.

The Vikings (1-2) took advantage of two Saints turnovers deep in their end to take a 24-0 lead in the first half, but the Saints (1-2) made a game of it in the fourth quarter.

Deuce McAllister’s 1-yard touchdown run with under 12 minutes made it 24-16 before yet another mistake by New Orleans put the game out of reach.

After a holding penalty, the Vikings had a second-and-17 at the Saints 37. Culpepper threw a 10-yard completion to Jermaine Wiggins, but Saints defensive back Dwight Smith gave them a first down when he taunted Wiggins after tackling him.

That led to a 28-yard field goal by Paul Edinger, his fourth of the game, and Aaron Brooks was picked off by Antoine Winfield on the next possession to seal it.

The Saints, rendered nomads after Hurricane Katrina devastated their city and tore up the Superdome, were listless and sloppy again in the third straight road game of a season that will essentially will be full of them.

The Saints committed four turnovers and 14 penalties, one of which negated an interception in Vikings territory and another that took away a punt return for a TD by Donte Stallworth, derailing any bid for a comeback.

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf presented Saints owner Tom Benson with a $100,000 check for the hurricane relief effort before the game, but that was all the charity Minnesota was in the mood for after two extremely disappointing losses to start the season.

The Vikings’ defense bounced back from a horrendous showing in a 37-8 loss to Cincinnati last week, holding Joe Horn to one catch and Brooks to a 12-for-32 effort for 199 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Normally among the league’s most dangerous offenses, the Vikings committed 12 turnovers and scored only one touchdown in season-opening losses to Tampa Bay and the Bengals.

It took them 13 seconds to resume their big-play ability against the Saints.

Aaron Stecker fumbled the opening kickoff and Winfield recovered at the Saints 24.

On the first play, Culpepper hit Travis Taylor, who beat Mike McKenzie on a corner route, for a 7-0 lead.

That was just the beginning.

The Saints handed the Vikings their second TD when Keith Newman intercepted a pass by Brooks at the Saints 26. Culpepper threaded a pass down the middle among four Saints defenders to Taylor for a 13-yard score and a 17-0 lead.

Culpepper capped a sterling first half with a 53-yard TD to rookie Troy Williamson that made it 24-0.

The Saints’ performance was eerily similar to their loss last week to the New York Giants, in which they committed six turnovers and 13 penalties.

Mewelde Moore had 101 yards rushing for the Vikings, who sputtered on offense in the second half, managing just three field goals.

AP-ES-09-25-05 1652EDT

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