New Strategies vs. Bucs

Early travel and a commitment to stopping the run are two things the Vikings are pinning their Sunday hopes on, as they look to reverse the thrashing they took last year in Tampa.

The Vikings ordinarily travel on Saturdays for Sunday road games. But this week head coach Mike Tice decided to have his team head to Tampa Bay on today.

The reason? Many players make their offseason homes in the Florida area, meaning it is easy for players' thoughts to travel outside the football field.

"I'm going down Friday because I believe there's a lot of a distraction with family down in Tampa," Tice said. "Let them be distracted on Friday and do their family thing on Friday and then Saturday get back to football. Break up their day. Don't give them a lot of hours in a long period of time together, no five or six hours where they have a chance to do anything.

"Then this way I think we can get back to the business of football on Saturday. Get them into bed at 10:30 and see if that will work. We have to try something. We've been going down there getting our butts kicked. We haven't played very physical football down there, and the only way you can beat Tampa Bay is playing physical football."

The Vikings hold a 31-17 advantage in the series against their former division rival, but they have not won at Tampa Bay since 1997. That includes an 0-4 record at Raymond James Stadium.

One of the big reasons for the Buccaneers' success has been their ability to run the ball against the Vikings at home. Last season, the Bucs gained 177 yards on the ground to 65 for the Vikings in a 41-14 victory at Raymond James Stadium.

Fullback Mike Alstott, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, went for 129 yards and three touchdowns. So when Tice was asked if he expected to see much of the 6-1, 248-pound Alstott on Sunday he had a quick response.

"Well, I tell you what, I kept (defensive tackle) Darius Holland on this roster for this game," he said. "Because they shoved the ball down our throats. Were you there? Because I was. It was demoralizing. They can beat us however they want to beat us, but they're not going to shove the ball down our throats."

By the way, the Vikings and Buccaneers are not scheduled to play again until the 2005 season.

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