Tampa Bay Expects Minnesota's "A" Game

September 27 – The Vikings might be down, but according to the Buccaneers players, they are far from out. While many have been quick to point out Tampa Bay can send Minnesota to 0-3 with a win on Sunday, the Buccaneers are more focused on the opportunity to secure a division win on the road and improve their own record to 2-0.

There's no doubt Minnesota will be a very desperate team come Sunday when Tampa Bay comes into town. But the Buccaneers consider a 0-2 Vikings club just as dangerous as a 2-0 one.

"It's still a good football team," said Bucs LB Derrick Brooks. "They're still moving the football. It's just not as balanced with the running game, but they're still wracking up yards on offense."

Minnesota is moving the ball offensively, but failing to hit the big play they have always relied on in the past. After two weeks, Minnesota is ranked ninth in the NFL in total offense. The defending NFC Central Champions are also ranked 16th in rushing and ninth in passing in the NFL, but Minnesota is sorely missing last year's 1,000-yard rusher in Pro Bowl RB Robert Smith, who retired this past offseason.

"They're struggling to get the big play," said Lynch. "But they're still moving the football. We need to go play our game. They're forcing some footballs and if the opportunity arises where he (QB Daunte Culpepper) is forcing the ball, then we need to make him pay."

Tampa Bay would love nothing more than to send their division rival to 0-3 on Sunday, but the Bucs players are licking their chops more at the possibility of improving their record to 2-0 and winning a division game on the road.

"I think the emphasis for us is going to 2-0," said Bucs DE Simeon Rice. "With that in mind, it keeps this team's focus on what we're doing, what we're trying to get accomplished and were we are going. It's not about putting them to 0-3. It's about getting us to 2-0."

Improving to 2-0 will be a tough task for the Pewter Pirates. The Vikings are 6-17 all-time at home against the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay has not won in Minnesota since 1997, when the Bucs beat the Vikings 28-14. The Buccaneers and Vikings have also split their regular season series eight years in a row.

"They're 0-2, which they've never been since Denny's been there," said Bucs head coach Tony Dungy. "With a home game and Central Division game, it's obviously big for them. Hopefully it means just as much to us. We've got a chance to go 2-0, so I think it's just going to be a big, big game, which we better be ready for."

Although Tampa Bay has not come away with a win in the Metrodome since 1997, they have had their chances. The Bucs have lost by one touchdown each of their last two times they played the Vikings in Minnesota. Tampa Bay dug themselves a hole at the beginning of each of those games, which proved to be too deep to climb out of by the end.

"We've got a conscious effort to start fast," said Brooks. "We've never been in this situation where we have two weeks off. We don't know how we're going to respond, but we've got to guard ourselves from getting in the same problem we've gotten ourselves into in the past. We've let them up early and we fight uphill the whole game. We've got to do the same thing we do at home and we'll win."

Fans and the media have not been the only ones noticing the Vikings demonstration of their frustration due to their 0-2 start. In last Sunday's 17-10 loss to the Bears, Vikings wide receivers Chris Carter and Randy Moss adamantly displayed their displeasure in their offense, which has only scored 23 points in their first two games of the season. But the Bucs say this is nothing new.

"Where have y'all been the past three years," DT Warren Sapp asked. "They've been bickering the whole time. They were just winning games then. It's a lot easier when you're 15-1 to bicker about not throwing people the ball. There's some finger-pointing going. But they're still an excellent ball club. Don't believe all of that."

Tampa Bay is prepared to face an angry team and is well aware of the fact that Minnesota has responded well to adversity in the past and will be looking to do the same against them.

"They respond well," said linebacker Derrick Brooks. "The same as us, we respond well. So, we're not really looking at what's happening on the sidelines. They were probably having the same thing going on when they were winning."

The majority of the Bucs players insist they could care less about what is happening on the Vikings' sideline and must worry about what's going with their team on the field, but DE Simeon Rice thinks good play from the Bucs will keep Minnesota's sideline unhappy.

"My interest is not in them," said Rice. " My interest in where I am at right now. I think the thing we have to do is keep them arguing on the sideline."

One cannot help but become curious as to how the Buccaneers will come out after 20 days off in-between their first game of the season and their second. So, are the Bucs concerned about coming out rusty against Minnesota?

"No, I don't think so," said Bucs WR Keyshawn Johnson. "We'll be fine. We haven't played in three weeks, but other people forget they were off too for a while. They just happened to play an extra game before us. We're not worried it."

Head coach Tony Dungy feels his team cannot afford to come out rusty against a team like the Vikings, who are known for jumping up on their opponents early in games. Dungy is convinced his team has benefited more from the layoff than they have been hurt by it.

"They're going to come out ready to go," said Dungy. "If we're not ready, we're going to be in big trouble.

"I don't think we can use that as an excuse. I think we have to look at it as we're rested up and healthy, and we're prepared. We've got to go up there and be ready to start off fast and be sharp. We've put ourselves in holes every time we've been there recently and we can't afford to do that."

Tampa Bay feels their game against the Vikings will be their second season opener. If they are in fact rusty, the Buccaneers can't wait to take the field Sunday and shake all of it off.

"It's been a long time," said Lynch. "We're like a bunch of caged dogs ready to be let out We're ready."

Become an insider today with a subscription to Buccaneer Magazine or the BucMag.com Insiders Pass. Sign up for the Insiders Pass by clicking here or and call 1-800-881-BUCS(2827) to subscribe to Buccaneer Magazine.

Looking for the largest selection of Bucs merchandise on the internet? Check out BucGear.com and BucsStore.com.

Bucs Blitz Top Stories