Flynn's Focus

October 29 – Tampa Bay's 26th ranked rushing attack has yet to get on track this season, but history suggests the Buccaneers could have success running the ball against Minnesota Sunday. But in order for that to happen, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden has to put the ball in the right player's hands. Find out who that player is and why it's so important he gets plenty of touches Sunday in this installment of Flynn's Focus.

Flynn's Focus usually appears weekly on PewterReport.com
Copyright 2002 Pewter Report/PewterReport.com
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Tampa Bay is halfway through the season and Bucs head coach Jon Gruden is still trying to figure out whether Michael Pittman, Mike Alstott or Aaron Stecker should handle the majority of carries for Tampa Bay's 26th ranked (90 yards rushing per game) ground attack. While this debate will likely continue throughout the second half of the season, the Bucs do possess a short-term remedy for its rushing woes.

That remedy's name is Mike Alstott and Gruden needs to put the ball in his hands Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.

Yes, it's only my opinion, but history certainly supports it. "The A-Train" has had some of his best outings against the Vikings. In fact, Alstott has posted his second and third-best single-game rushing performances against Minnesota. He has rushed a total of 80 times for 408 yards (5.1 avg.) and scored five touchdowns in Tampa Bay's four meetings against Minnesota at Raymond James Stadium.

Last season, Alstott rushed 28 times for 129 (4.6 avg.) yards and scored three touchdowns in Tampa Bay's 41-14 win in Ray-Jay.

In 2000, The A-Train rushed rushed 10 times for 56 yards (5.6 avg.) in the team's 41-13 win over Minnesota in Tampa.

Alstott rushed 23 times for 95 yards (4.4 avg.) and scored one touchdown in Tampa Bay's 24-17 win over Minnesota on Monday Night Football in Ray-Jay in 1999.

In '98, Alstott rushed 19 times for 128 yards (6.7 avg.) and scored one touchdown in the Buccaneers' 27-24 upset win over the Vikings at Ray-Jay.

While it would certainly make sense to give Alstott plenty of carries Sunday, Gruden stopped short of anointing him the feature back against Minnesota.

"We're going to try to get Mike (Alstott) more and more involved," Gruden said at his press conference Monday. "But to do that you have to make more plays and convert more situations. We'd like to give Mike Pitman history against Minnesota, too. Just because he hasn't played against the Vikings doesn't mean he doesn't get an opportunity to play against them either."

Minnesota's defense is ranked 26th in the league and they're actually ranked 5th against the run. But that number is a bit deceiving since teams have opted to attack the Vikings' weak secondary (ranked 31st against the pass) through the air this season. Minnesota's defense is allowing 90.3 yards rushing per game this season.

While Alstott produced those impressive numbers in Tony Dungy's offenses, his running style hasn't changed and it's been obvious that Minnesota's defensive players don't care to try and tackle Alstott and his 6-foot-1, 248-pound frame in hot and sunny Tampa.

This game has Alstott's name written all over it. Tampa Bay will go into Sunday's game with Keyshawn Johnson (foot contusion), Keenan McCardell (fractured scapula) and Joe Jurevicius (ankle sprain)nursing injuries, its offensive line can't provide any protection for the quarterbacks and the Bucs may have to start third-string QB Shaun King, who has thrown just one pass this season, due to injuries suffered by Brad Johnson and Rob Johnson. But the decision to call Alstott's number will be Gruden's and the last time he chose to have No. 40 carry the torch for his team's running game, Alstott rushed for 126 yards and scored two touchdowns in Tampa Bay's game against Cleveland.

Alstott may or may not be a good fit for Gruden's system, but history would suggest he's a perfect fit for Sunday's game plan.


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