By ERNEST HOOPER
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 10, 2000
MINNEAPOLIS -- The much-maligned Bucs special-teams unit was having another bad night until two inserted defensive starters came up with a big play.
Defensive tackle Warren Sapp blocked his second field goal in as many weeks, but unlike the block against Washington, this one was picked up and returned for a touchdown by Donnie Abraham.
It was the first time the Bucs returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown since 1978. Mike Washington returned a Dewey Selmon block 79 yards Sept. 24, 1978, against the Falcons.
Before Abraham's return, the special-teams unit had its share of struggles again Monday night. Aaron Stecker's second-quarter fumble on a kick return led to a Minnesota touchdown and Martin Gramatica missed a 53-yard field goal at the end of the first half.
Gramatica is 8-for-11 (72.7 percent) on field-goal attempts. Special-teams coach Joe Marciano expects Gramatica to convert at least 80 percent.
In the third quarter, Andre Hastings fumbled on his second return as a Buccaneer. The kick return unit was offside on the play, but it was declined.
On the positive side, the kick and punt coverage units did not give up any big returns. The kick coverage unit was the league's worst entering Week 6, while the punt coverage unit was ranked 28th.
FIRST CUT: For the past three years, the Bucs have fallen behind in the first quarter against Minnesota.
Daunte Culpepper extended the streak by running untouched for a 27-yard score on his team's first play from scrimmage. The points were the first the defense had allowed in the first quarter this season.
Last season, the Vikings led 21-0 in the first quarter. In 1998, the Vikings led 21-0 at halftime.
The Vikings have outscored the Bucs 59-10 in the first half of the past three games, 42-7 in the first quarter.
ANYTHING YOU CAN DO: The friendship between Culpepper and Bucs quarterback Shaun King has been well-documented, and in the first quarter King seemed intent on not letting his counterpart outperform him. After Culpepper's touchdown run, King came back with an 11-yard scamper.
The Bucs have nine rushing scores. They had seven in 1999.
DAVIS DOES IT: In 1999, Bucs tight ends coach Ricky Thomas called John Davis the most athletic of the team's tight ends. But Davis had only seven receptions in three seasons, and the team declined to sign the free agent after '99.
Now Minnesota fans understand Thomas' description. As the starting tight end for the Vikings, Davis entered Monday night's game with nine receptions for 112 yards. He tacked on two to that total in the first half, including a 26-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
HOMECOMING: Bucs linemen Randall McDaniel and Jeff Christy returned to Minnesota for the first time since leaving the Vikings. But the return was inauspicious. McDaniel was flagged twice for false starts and Christy was called for a holding penalty.
THIRD QUARTER A CHARM: The Bucs outscored the Vikings 6-3 in the third quarter, maintaining a seasonlong trend. Tampa Bay has outscored opponents 37-6 in the third quarter. The team still has not allowed a touchdown in the third quarter.
It helped the Bucs defense that end Marcus Jones came up with consecutive sacks of Culpepper on the second Minnesota possession.
The Bucs entered Week 6 leading the league in sacks and sacks per opponents' pass attempt.
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