Vikings look to end futility in Tampa

The Vikings haven’t won in their last six trips to Tampa Bay. Why? The players that have been around aren’t quite sure.

The Minnesota Vikings travel down to Tampa Bay, Fla. this week, where they will square off against the Buccaneers. This trip has not been very kind to the Vikings – they haven’t won in Tampa since 1997. This means that they have not won in the Buccaneers’ current venue – Raymond James Stadium – since it opened in 1998.

Even the Vikings’ record-breaking season in 1998, when they went 15-1 on the season, suffered a setback in Tampa Bay when the Buccaneers beat the Vikings 27-24.

This seven-game losing streak has seen three games decided by two or more touchdowns, and only two games have been decided by less than a touchdown – one of which was the 1998 game.

The Vikings used to make the trip to Tampa Bay a lot more frequently than they do now, when both the Vikings and the Buccaneers were a part of the NFC Central division. As of the 2002 season, however, Tampa Bay moved to the NFC South in the NFL realignment and now the two teams only face off every few years. For this reason, very few players on the Vikings have played in Tampa Bay multiple times.

Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn came to the Vikings from the Carolina Panthers this offseason. While he was in Carolina, he traveled to Tampa Bay once a year and has a few reasons why it’s so hard to play at Raymond James Stadium.

“The fans come out there and support their team no matter their record, and they’re loud,” Munnerlyn said. “The team comes out when playing at home and they’re feisty, and like I said – their fans – they just give it to them. They’re going to take every opportunity to get you off your game.”

The heat also plays a factor when the team has to try travel down to Tampa Bay. The average temperature, not including humidity, in Tampa Bay is anywhere from 81-87 degrees in the month of October – compared to Minneapolis, where the average temperature in October ranges from 50-65 degrees.

Along with the heat, traveling across the country can take a lot out of a player as well. Cullen Loeffler, Minnesota’s long snapper, has made the trip to Tampa Bay twice, but he tries to not think of the negatives going against the team.

“I never really thought about it,” said Loeffler when asked if the long trips affect players more than short ones. “I try to block those sort of things out, you know, just try to get to the game at hand. But certainly anytime you have a longer trip it takes a little more out of you.”

Both the Vikings and the Buccaneers come into this game needing a win to save their season. The Vikings are currently 2-5 and the Bucs are 1-5 after coming off their bye week.

“We need to win; we need to win bad,” Munnerlyn said. “To get our goals we got to win this game, so we are going to go out there, we are going to do our job, and we are going to come out – dominate – and win the game.”

With only three players the Vikings have drafted (Loeffler was a college free agent) making the trip to Tampa Bay before, this could be a perfect opportunity for them to end this streak and get a win.

Notes on Vikings at Tampa Bay games from years past:

  • 1998: Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn rushed for a combined 243 yards and two touchdowns for the Bucs in their victory over the Vikings. Jake Reed had 117 yards receiver and two touchdowns.

  • 1999: Shaun King made his NFL debut for the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football and threw two touchdown passes.

  • 2000: The Buccaneers blew out the Vikings 41-13 – they had a 31-13 lead a halftime – as King threw four touchdowns.

  • 2001: Alstott rushed for 129 yards and three touchdowns.

  • 2002: Brad Johnson threw for 313 yards and five touchdowns against the Vikings. Michael Bennett became the first Vikings running back to rush for more than 100 yards in Raymond James Stadium with 114 yards and a touchdown.

  • 2005: Darren Sharper had an 88-yard interception returned for a touchdown, and Daunte Culpepper threw three interceptions and no touchdowns.

  • 2008: Six total field goals were kicked in this game as offense was lacking.

  • The last time the Minnesota Vikings won in Tampa Bay, in 1997, Dwayne Rudd, a linebacker out of Alabama, was the Vikings’ first round draft pick.

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