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Analysis: Merrill Hoge, ESPN

By ERNEST HOOPER

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 9, 2000


I can sit down every week and give you nine reasons why the Bucs are going to win and nine reasons why Minnesota is going to win. Obviously, how each one of those nine factors plays out better for each team will determine who wins.

Right now, it's obvious the Bucs are reeling. They're in a place they haven't been in a long time. You look at the stability of coach Tony Dungy, and I've always seen him in the same mold as Chuck Knoll, and he's the kind of coach who will keep things in perspective. At the same time, Tony is a coach who will keep things in perspective and let them know the severity and importance of winning this game.

Against the Redskins, I thought they got whipped, just handled. Washington did as good a job against the Bucs as I've seen since the Raiders (last season). The Bucs uncharacteristically broke down in areas where they're usually fundamentally strong, like tackling.

Defending Minnesota starts with Randy Moss. The Vikings like to put him in motion and when they do that, it's tough to get a hand on him. If you don't disrupt his speed at the line of scrimmage, he will hurt you. So that's going to dictate some of the Bucs' coverages.

You immediately have to respect the big play. At the same time, the front seven has to be outstanding against the run. They don't have to stop it completely, they just have to control and dominate it. You cannot give Robert Smith one big run like Detroit did last week. If they do, obviously Minnesota has won because then the Bucs will have to drop a safety into the box and the Vikings are going to have the chance to dictate matchups and get opportunities downfield.

The Bucs defense will give you opportunities to win, and what you can't do is mess them up offensively like Shaun King has the past two weeks. I'm not talking about 5-6 huge plays downfield, I'm just talking about sustaining the offense and creating field position, if nothing else.

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