Enemy Profile: Vikings

October 26 – Buccaneer Magazine has scouted Tampa Bay's next opponent of the 2001 regular season-the 3-3 Minnesota Vikings. Which player matchup will be the one to watch? Want a prediction and some interesting tidbits? Find out what to expect when the Bucs and Vikings clash on Sunday.

OPPONENT: Minnesota Vikings

WHERE: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida

SPREAD: Bucs by 3

WHERE THE VIKINGS STAND:: 3-3 Record. The Vikings are in sole possession of third place in the NFC Central Division.

HEAD COACH: Dennis Green (6-5 vs. Bucs head coach Tony Dungy).

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Sherman Lewis

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Emmitt Thomas

SPECIAL TEAMS COACH: Gary Zauner

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Buccaneers DE Simeon Rice vs. Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper. The Buccaneers defensive front four has severely underachieved this season, but could seize an excellent opportunity to get on track by getting to Culpepper. Sapp, Rice, McFarland and Jones pressured Culpepper consistently in Week 3, but could only manage to bring him down one time for a sack. Rice was probably the most frustrated of the Bucs front four, but he did record the only sack. Rice and Co. will have to not only put pressure on Culpepper, but they will have to sack him early and often in order to create turnovers and keep him from picking apart their secondary and scrambling out of the pocket. Sacking Culpepper is not an impossible task. In fact, Culpepper has been sacked 18 times this season and has also fumbled 10 times (lost four).

HOW THE BUCS RANK IN THE NFL:

OFFENSE: OVERALL: 23rd RUSHING: 30th PASSING: 13th

DEFENSE: OVERALL: 15th RUSHING: 21st PASSING: 9th

HOW THE VIKINGS RANK IN THE NFL:

OFFENSE: OVERALL: 6th RUSHING: 15th(T) PASSING: 6th

DEFENSE: OVERALL: 20th RUSHING: 13th PASSING: 25th

BUCS CAN STOP BLEEDING BY USING VIKINGS AS A BANDAID, AGAIN: Isn't it ironic how every time Tampa Bay faces Minnesota in Raymond James Stadium, the Buccaneers have their backs against the wall and are in a must-win situation? In 1998 and 2000, the Buccaneers faced undefeated Vikings teams and were off to 3-4 starts, but the Pewter Pirates have somehow managed to turn their seasons around by defeating their division rival. It's one year later and the situation is the same. The Vikings are not undefeated (3-3), but they are playing some good football and the same cannot be said for the Buccaneers. Will the Bucs salvage their season by defeating the Vikings, again?

BUCS RUSHING ATTACK STRUGGLING: Tampa Bay's running game is ranked 30th in the NFL. RB Warrick Dunn, who has been plagued by injuries, is averaging 3.0 yards per carry and only has 168 yards rushing this season. FB Mike Alstott is averaging 4.3 yards per carry this season, but has only carried the ball 31 times. Perhaps it's time the Bucs turned to the A-Train as their feature back since Dunn is not getting the job done, no pun intended.

BUCS MUST CONTAIN CARTER AND MOSS: Vikings wide receivers Randy Moss and Chris Carter didn't get off to the best starts this season, but they have quickly turned things around. Moss is leading the team in receptions with 29 for 394 yards and one touchdown while Carter has 26 receptions for 374 yards and four touchdowns. Tampa Bay did a good job of taking Carter and Moss away from Minnesota's offense, but Culpepper still managed to hit Moss on one deep ball and find Carter when it counted. While Bucs CB Donnie Abraham has been struggling this season, CB Ronde Barber has been playing very well. Barber has hauled in three interceptions, including one against the Vikings in Week 3.

BEWARE OF SCRAMBLING QUARTERBACK: Tampa Bay's defense has struggled against elusive quarterbacks this season. Things will not get easier for Tampa Bay when QB Daunte Culpepper comes into Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. Culpepper is leading the Vikings in rushing with 273 yards, five touchdowns and is averaging 6.7 yards per carry. Culpepper rushed nine times for 70 yards and one touchdown against Green Bay's defense last week.

TELLING STATISTIC: Perhaps throwing against Minnesota's secondary is a good idea. After all, the Bucs offense has had success throwing the ball on them in the past and they are still without Pro Bowl S Robert Griffith. But Tampa Bay is 0-8 when their quarterback throws 40 or more passes in a game.

BUCS SOUND OFF ON THEIR UPCOMING OPPONENT
QB Brad Johnson on the Minnesota Vikings: "Minnesota's playing very well right now," said Johnson. "A few weeks ago, they were in a hole, but at that time, it seemed like they were playing pretty conservative. But they're doing a better job on defense. They're always creating turnovers and it seems like you're able to move the ball against them, but they do a good job in the red zone as far as not giving up points."

QB Brad Johnson on the importance of bouncing back this Sunday: "I think you have to bounce back," said Johnson. "It's still early in the season and this is where you have to stick together. Sometimes, when you get sacked or hit, there are a lot of factors involved in that. Sometimes it's a guy who got beat or missed their assignment, sometimes it's the quarterback holding onto the ball too long and sometimes it's a coverage sack. When you're trying to make plays and throwing the ball as much as we have, those kinds of things can occur. It's one game that we threw away and the key now is to bounce back. Now, we have to make a run."

QB Brad Johnson on what winning can do for the Bucs : "I think we're all embarrassed about what happened," said Johnson. "It's not just the sacks itself. It's how the game went. I don't think the thing to do now is point fingers at each other. That stuff is over. We're going to take enough beating from the public and the media. That's part of the game. If we go out there and win, good things will happen for us."

QB Brad Johnson on the injuries to wide receivers Keyshawn Johnson and Jacquez Green: "This is where you find out how good your depth is," said Johnson. "If they're not back this week, then you have some playmakers in Reidel (Anthony) and Karl (Williams). They'll have to step up."

QB Brad Johnson on how he's feeling after being sacked 10 times vs. Pittsburgh:"I feel good right now," said Johnson. "I'm fresh, I'm practicing. I very fortunate so far to still be healthy and be playing. Any quarterback goes through those kinds of deals. But right now I feel very fresh, feel good and I'm ready to play."

WR Jacquez Green on the importance of winning against the Vikings: "We can't dig ourselves into a bigger hole," said Green. But the good thing about it is St. Louis is the only team really playing well right now in the league. The league's still wide open and a lot of teams with two and three losses."

WR Jacquez Green on why the Bucs are not trying to throw downfield more: "We always feel we can get deep," said Green. "But you can only run what's called. I can't be the coordinator and receiver at the same time, so I just try to run what's called."

SS John Lynch on being in a must-win situation vs. the Vikings, again: "You don't like to be in this situation, but in a sense, you do," said Lynch. Because you get to show yourself what you're made of and it gets to show everyone in this locker room what they're made of. This is a group that is going to find a way to rally and play the kind of football we're capable of playing."

SS John Lynch on Pittsburgh Lee Flowers' disrespectful comments after last Sunday's game and how it could light a fire under the Bucs: "I think it should," said Lynch. I think we got embarrassed and physically dominated by a team the team that came down here. I think if we could take a little bit of that attitude, which was them against the world, we might be all right. I didn't like hearing what they had to say about us after the game, but you can see how that type of mentality works in this league."

Head Coach Tony Dungy on the Vikings: "They're playing with more confidence offensively and they're playing more aggressively on defense. They're coming after people, blitzing a lot and putting pressure on you. So, I think they are playing a lot better."

RT Jerry Wunsch on the need for the Bucs to get the job done: "The last time I checked, we have some good athletes," said Wunsch. "But we don't have a Superman that is going to come in and save the day. We've all got to get it done."

FLYNN'S FINAL: When the Bucs and Vikings met in Week 3, Tampa Bay had a chance to all but end Minnesota's season by defeating them, but they couldn't do it. Now, the Vikings have the same opportunity. Will they take advantage of it?

Minnesota still has their own problems, but saved their season with wins over Tampa Bay, Detroit and Green Bay last Sunday. Minnesota is 3-0 against opponents in the NFC Central Division and can improve to 4-0 with a win over Tampa Bay.

But winning in Raymond James Stadium will not be easy for the Vikings. Every time Minnesota comes into Tampa to take on the Buccaneers, it seems like they are inevitably facing a desperate bunch of Pewter Pirates. It's happened every year since Raymond James Stadium opened in 1998 and the trend will continue this Sunday.

But in the past, the Bucs could always hang their heads on their relentless defense. That's not the case anymore. Tampa Bay is having just as many problems on defense as they are on offense and they will need to get them corrected in a hurry in order to defeat Minnesota. Injuries have never really factored into the equation either, but they will this time. Tampa Bay may be without WR Keyshawn Johnson, LB Derrick Brooks and RB Warrick Dunn. It's hard to make an argument for the Buccaneers winning this game with those playmakers hurt. Johnson has been the life support for an offense that has looked dead in their first five games and even if he plays at less than 100 percent, it will be hard for him to contribute. The Bucs need all three of those players healthy and it looks like that might not happen. The only way Tampa Bay can win this game with Johnson injured is if its defense finds its old self and creates scoring opportunities for the Bucs offense.

FLYNN'S PICK: Vikings 26 Bucs 21


Copyright 2001 Buccaneer Magazine/BucMag.com

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