TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- This is what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had in
mind when they spent most of the preseason talking about their
Super Bowl aspirations.
Playing with a sense of urgency that appeared to be absent in
their first five games, the Bucs finally looked like a championship
contender in a 41-14 rout of the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
Tampa Bay played with uncharacteristic efficiency on offense,
excelled on special teams and got its nasty edge back on defense,
answering doubters with a complete performance.
"I think we all just took the criticism and said it's us
against the world. I think we like it that way," All-Pro defensive
tackle Warren Sapp said.
"When nobody believes in the Bucs -- 'Same old Bucs, same old
this, same old that, they're going to find a way to lose' -- we like
that because we know we have the know-how and the personnel to get
Mike Alstott ran for 129 yards and three touchdowns, and Brad
Johnson threw for 214 yards and two TDs as Tampa Bay (3-3) stopped
a two-game losing streak.
Was this a great performance by the Bucs or did the Vikings quit?
The Bucs played Bucs' football -- they ran the ball and they stopped the run. This is the first time all season Tampa Bay scored a touchdown in the first quarter (today they got three in the first). The Bucs got off to a good start in the running game with Mike Alstott. In the passing game, QB Brad Johnson made quick, short throws (so he kept away from getting sacked). The Bucs had a good game plan coming in.
On defense, Tampa Bay shut down the run and got after Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper. They took Minnesota out of the game, and the Vikings reverted to bickering and being upset with each other.
ESPN.com NFL analyst Vinny Cerrato has served as director of player personnel for the Redskins and 49ers.
Alstott, starting at tailback instead of fullback because
Warrick Dunn is injured, scored on runs of 3 and 5 yards to help
the Bucs to a 28-0 halftime lead. He broke two tackles on a 10-yard
TD burst that made it 41-8 late in the third quarter.
Tampa Bay punted on its opening drive, then scored on seven
straight possessions while holding Minnesota (3-4) without a first
down until Cris Carter's 40-yard reception five minutes into the
"This is what we're capable of," said Bucs coach Tony Dungy,
who improved to 6-6 against close friend and former boss Dennis
Green. "We put it together and we're still in the hunt. ... I just
thought our guys were determined to win."
The Vikings, who beat Tampa Bay 20-16 at home last month, scored
on Travis Prentice's 1-yard, third-quarter touchdown run and Daunte
Culpepper's 25-yard pass to Randy Moss with just under six minutes
Minnesota finished with a season-low 192 yards net offense,
while Tampa Bay gained a season-high 446 and held the ball for more
than 38 minutes.
"They just outplayed us," said Culpepper, who broke his nose
in the first quarter but didn't leave the game. "It was very
surprising to me because I know what we have. But like we found
out, if we don't come out there ready to play, that can happen to
us. Our intensity level wasn't as high as theirs."
Slow starts have not been unusual for the Bucs under Dungy, and
they've used home victories over the Vikings to begin strong
stretch runs the past three seasons.
Johnson, sacked 10 times in Tampa Bay's loss to Pittsburgh last
week, completed 18 of 25 passes against the team he played for from
1992-98. Aaron Stecker scored his first NFL touchdown on a 35-yard
pass play, and Dave Moore's 5-yard TD reception gave the Bucs their
28-point margin at halftime.
The Bucs played the second half without Keyshawn Johnson, who
had five catches for 62 yards before leaving the game with a right
knee bruise. He already was bothered by a sore right hip that
limited him in practice last week and will have a MRI test on the
new injury Monday.
A week after allowing 220 yards rushing against the Steelers,
the Bucs limited the Vikings to 62 yards on the ground. Meanwhile,
Culpepper completed 13 of 24 passes for 150 yards and one
interception, Moss was held to three catches for 49 yards, and
Carter finished with four receptions for 51 yards.
"They were in a desperate situation, or whatever you want to
call it, and there was really a tremendous difference in the
intensity, especially initially," Carter said.
"Coach Green had warned us all week. ... You look at the film
and they don't look that good, but we knew. We talked about the
challenge. There are certain things you can't explain and this is
The Bucs scored on four of five possessions in the first half,
outgaining the Vikings 297-44 and compiling a whopping 20-0 edge in
Instead, King kneeled on three straight plays to turn ball over
on downs with 35 seconds left.
"There's really nothing special to talk about," said Alstott,
who had his first 100-yard game in two years. "All 53 guys came in
here and took it personal, like we always should. This was a
must-win, and we stepped up to the plate."
The NFC Central rivals split their season series for the
ninth straight year ... Dunn (right hamstring) and receiver Jacquez
Green (left groin) were inactive for Tampa Bay ... Minnesota ran 13
offensive plays to Tampa Bay's 46 in the first half.
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