The Vikings put up the numbers they were expected to, but not on the scoreboard, where the Bucs dominated.
By JAMAL THALJI
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 30, 2000
TAMPA -- The quarterback, in just his second season, performed above and beyond his youth. The fleet wide receivers exposed the secondary on play after play. The running back slipped through holes for big gain after gain. Scoring touchdowns just wasn't a problem.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss watched it all from the sideline, and he could not quite believe that it was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense at work, not his own.
"They put up 40-something points on us," Moss said, "and coming from Tampa Bay, that just used to (play) smash-mouth? It's hard to see Tampa putting up 41, and luckily it happened to us."
Moss' sarcasm aside, Tampa Bay did outscore Minnesota 41-13 Sunday. The Bucs traded their four-game skid for the Vikings' seven-game win streak and handed the visiting team its first loss. After the game, there was an air of unreality in the Minnesota locker room. That winning streak wasn't merely snapped, it was shattered.
"I still think we're a better team," Vikings running back Robert Smith said.
Vikings coach Dennis Green downplayed what the loss meant for the NFC Central race, choosing to focus on next week's Monday night game at Green Bay.
"We missed an opportunity to go undefeated and win the world championship at (19-0)," he said. "That's the only thing we lost out on, and that's the only way our mind-set works."
The Vikings averaged 26.3 points entering Sunday and was giving up 19.6. Yet the Bucs held them to one touchdown and burned the defense for four. Minnesota held the ball for 32 minutes and 13 seconds and led in first downs with 25 but converted just 3 of 6 third downs.
The Vikings' usual cast of offensive stars was productive everywhere but on the scoreboard. Wide receiver Cris Carter caught seven passes for 115 yards, and Moss had seven for 65. Smith rushed 12 times for 61 yards and caught seven passes for 53 yards. Quarterback Daunte Culpepper completed 29 of 53 passes for 313 yards.
But Moss' one-handed 7-yard grab in the second quarter was the Vikings' only touchdown. Culpepper fumbled once and threw two interceptions, one of which Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks returned 34 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Those turnovers led to 14 Tampa Bay points.
The Bucs came at Culpepper with a variety of blitzes but always kept receivers in check with deep coverage. Moss and Culpepper said they wanted to face the blitz but couldn't make Tampa Bay pay for it. Culpepper was sacked twice, and he admitted he did not function well under pressure.
"Coach Green said I tried to make some things happen when they really weren't there, and that's when you put yourself in bad positions," he said.
At halftime, Moss was certain the offense would strike back, only the Bucs held possession for 19:40 of the third and fourth quarters.
"We thought we made some adjustments we could come back with in the second half," Moss said. "But we couldn't really put it together."
Culpepper said confidence would not be a problem next week.
"I'm gonna come back and win the next game," he said. "That's my job. That's what I do."