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Fourth-quarter woes mean unhappy ending

By RICK STROUD

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 29, 2000


TAMPA -- The Bucs cannot go forth until they are able to stop teams again in the fourth quarter.

Tampa Bay has been outscored 46-20 in the fourth quarter in the past four games, with half of the Bucs points on offense coming against Washington.

"What it's been in those games is being there in the fourth quarter and having one or two plays that either you make or they make and they've made them and we haven't," coach Tony Dungy said. "And we've got to get a resolve that when we get in those situations we're going to be the ones to make the play."

The Bucs' inability to control field position and time of possession has put their defense in bad positions. They participated in 75 plays against the Lions on Oct. 19.

But 46 points?

"We shouldn't give up that many in four games," defensive tackle Warren Sapp said.

REPEAT PERFORMANCE: The Vikings were undefeated, the Bucs were reeling and not many fans gave them a chance.

But Tampa Bay handed Minnesota what would be its only defeat that day in '98 as the Vikings went on to a 15-1 record before losing to Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game.

How similar is today's scenario against the 7-0 Vikings?

"I hope very similar," Dungy said. "I don't know. But they're playing well. That's similar, and we're playing hot and cold. We've been more cold than hot recently. We were a little bit more up and down in '98. But they're coming in with a very explosive team, with a team that hasn't lost. So it probably is very similar."

What enabled the Bucs to have their best game of the year offensively that day was their aggressiveness as Dungy was willing to take chances on several fourth-down situations.

"We played aggressively in that game and I think we will play a similar game, knowing we've got to put points on the board and keep our drives going and we've got to play better defensively," Dungy said. "That game we didn't have our two starting corners and we felt it was going to be tough for us to really shut them down. This year, hopefully, we'll have everyone healthy."

FROM WITHIN: Who says you can't change coordinators and have success instantly?

New offensive coordinator Sherm Lewis and defensive coordinator Emmitt Thomas are in their first season with Minnesota.

Coach Dennis Green says their familiarity with the NFC has made for a smoother transition than if he had hired someone from the AFC (like Les Steckel?).

"Both of those guys have a lot of experience," Green said. "Now they also bring continuity with a lot of years in the National Football Conference. Washington, Philadelphia, Green Bay -- all NFC. Sherman Lewis -- San Francisco, Green Bay -- all NFC. I think it also helps us that they come directly -- even though it was just one year for Emmitt -- from the NFC Central. And that was part of it, too, getting guys who had a strong familiarity with the conference and the teams we play against."

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