Tampa Bay scored on its first four possessions and ended an offensive touchdown drought that had spanned over eight quarters when Johnson connected with Karl Williams for a 15-yard score early in the first quarter after Nick Davis fumbled the opening kickoff at the Minnesota 21-yard line.
Bucs linebacker Jack Golden forced the fumble with the hit on Davis, and the loose ball was recovered by rookie free safety Jermaine Phillips. Three plays later, Johnson threaded the needle to Williams, who was running a seam route between Minnesota cornerback Corey Chavous and strong safety Brian Russell.
The Vikings tried to counter on their next possession and thought they had knotted the score when Daunte Culpepper hit wide receiver Randy Moss on a 40-yard deep post over the outstretched arms of free safety Dexter Jackson. The 6-foot-4 Vikings wide out did a superb job of shielding Jackson with his body on a third-and-9, but it was all for naught as left guard Corbin Lacina was flagged for holding, which negated the score. On the next play, Culpepper was forced into throwing the ball away and Minnesota had to punt.
Tampa Bay stretched its lead to 14-0 on their next possession with a 2-yard flip from Johnson to tight end Ricky Dudley near the end of the first quarter. Dudley beat Vikings linebacker Sam Rogers on a crossing route at the goal line.
The drive was the longest of the season for the Bucs, traversing 86 yards and tied the longest of 2002 in terms of plays with 12. The big play of the possession was an improvised throw by Johnson to tight end Ken Dilger, who made an acrobatic catch for 18 yards.
Dilger was running a crossing route from left to right and the Bucs signal caller saw that if he led him to the sidelines it would take him out of bounds. Seeing that the cornerback had vacated the area, Johnson led the 6-foot-5 tight end up the field and he made a tremendous adjustment on the football. That put the Bucs in business with a fresh set of downs at the Minnesota 21-yard line. Five plays later, Dudley's score would push the Bucs' lead to 14-0.
Tampa Bay moved deep into Vikings territory early in the second quarter with their next possession. A 25-yard punt squirted out of bounds at the Vikings 48-yard line, giving Tampa Bay excellent field position. But the Pewter Pirates' drive stalled at the Minnesota 18-yard line and Gramatica booted a 36-yard field goal to up the lead to 17-0 at the 12:19 mark in the second quarter.
On the first play of the Bucs' next possession, tailback Aaron Stecker went 59 yards on his first, and only, carry of the game. Stecker started up the middle, then cut it back against the grain to take it from the Bucs' 16-yard line down to the Vikings 25-yard line. An unnecessary roughness call on cornerback Tyrone Carter moved the football to the Minnesota 12-yard line.
Stecker's run was the longest from scrimmage by a Buccaneer since a 70-yard scamper by Warrick Dunn against Dallas on December 3, 2000.
The Bucs moved 84 yards in just five plays eclipsing 1:52 off the clock and the drive ended with a 2-yard touchdown strike from Johnson to a wide open Keyshawn Johnson, who led the way for the banged up receiving corps with a season-high nine catches for 133 yards and two scores.
The Bucs had to play without the services of the injured Keenan McCardell and Joe Jurevicius, but Johnson and Williams, who had four catches for 49 yards, were able to take advantage of Minnesota's 31st ranked passing defense.
The Vikings offense finally showed up with 7:02 left in the first half and recorded their first points of the afternoon in a heartbeat. After a holding penalty on reserve guard Cory Withrow moved the football back to the Vikes 15-yard line running back Michael Bennett turned a handoff from a seemingly short gain into an 85-yard romp to the house. Bennett showed off his Olympic class speed as he ran away from all the Bucs pursuers to cut Tampa Bay's lead to 24-7.
The Vikings narrowed the gap to 24-10 after time expired at the end of the first half with the strangest play of the afternoon. After Gramatica was wide left on a 40-yard field goal attempt, Minnesota took over at the own 31-yard line with 2:02 left in the opening half.
Without any timeouts the Vikings seemed destined to run out of time when they faced a third-and-18 from the Bucs 48-yard line. Culpepper hit receiver Chris Walsh with a long pass down to the Bucs' 21-yard line. The nine-year veteran then lateralled to running back Moe Williams, who took it another six yards, before being brought down by Jackson as time expired. The only problem was that cornerback Ronde Barber was flagged for unnecessary roughness and Minnesota had one more play because the half cannot end on a defensive penalty. Anderson drilled a 26-yard field goal to cap a 61-yard drive that took eight plays and the Vikings went into halftime with some momentum.
But that momentum was snuffed out by the Bucs midway through the third quarter when Johnson and Johnson hooked up for their second passing touchdown. This one was from 19 yards out to extend Tampa Bay's lead to 31-10.
Minnesota answered that with a Williams 1-yard touchdown run to trim the lead to 31-17 and were successful with an onside kick that was recovered by safety Jack Brewer. But the Buccaneers again took any life out of the Vikings offense when, on the very next play, Culpepper was pressured by end Simeon Rice into an interception by defensive tackle Warren Sapp. Tampa Bay turned that turnover, their second of three on the afternoon, into Johnson's touchdown pass -- a 5-yard strike to Alstott, which put the Bucs up 38-17 with 13:34 to go in the game.
The Bucs defense did a great job of containing Culpepper, who was sacked three times, on two occasions by Rice, and was intercepted twice.
Minnesota added a meaningless touchdown with 4:40 left in the contest on another one yard run by Williams. That closed the gap to 38-24 but it was too little, too late.
The Bucs improved to 7-2 with the win, which ties the franchise mark (1979) for the best record after nine games.
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