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New Colors Just Perfect for Buccaneers

September 15, 1997|From Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Forget all those jokes about the orange-sherbet uniforms for the losing-all-the-time Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Pewter Power is for real.

Clad in their new subdued colors, the surprising Buccaneers are the only unbeaten team in the NFC after Sunday's 28-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, who were the conference's only other perfect team after two weeks.

Horace Copeland caught his first touchdown pass since 1995 and set up another score with a 49-yard reception, and rookie Warrick Dunn had a 52-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

The Buccaneers, 3-0 in their red-and-pewter uniforms, are off to their best start since the 1979 team won its first five games on the way to the NFC championship game.

"I would like to chalk it all up to the uniforms," Coach Tony Dungy quipped. "It has nothing to do with the players."

The victory over the Vikings (2-1) had everything to do with big plays, a rarity for the stumbling, bumbling Buccaneers of old.

"The past is in the past," Copeland said. "It's what is happening now."

Quarterback Trent Dilfer was 15 for 20 for 192 yards and two touchdowns. He has four touchdown passes--matching his 1995 total--and no interceptions. Dunn, who had 130 yards and a touchdown rushing at Detroit last Sunday, finished with 101 yards in 16 carries.

Minnesota, which had not lost a home opener since 1986, went into the game with the NFC's top-rated offense, but until Brad Johnson's 30-yard touchdown pass to Cris Carter with 38 seconds left, the Vikings managed only two short field goals by Greg Davis against Tampa Bay's tough, young defense.

A 56-yard reception by Jake Reed set up Davis' 25-yard field goal for a 3-0 Viking lead late in the first quarter, but Minnesota's failure to get a touchdown on that drive after having a first down at the Tampa Bay seven-yard line appeared to turn the momentum.

"We just came together and said, 'Wait a minute. Let's stop it right now,' " defensive tackle Warren Sapp said.

While the Vikings got only three more first downs the rest of the half, the Buccaneers took a 14-3 halftime lead.

Copeland, who missed all of last season because of a knee injury, set up Jackie Harris' five-yard touchdown catch with his 49-yard reception. Mike Alstott later scored a touchdown on a hard-earned one-yard run, bulling into the end zone backward after he was stopped on his initial push.

"His will was more than ours," Viking defensive end Derrick Alexander said.

The Buccaneers are 8-2 since starting 1-8 last season, Dungy's first as their coach following four seasons as Minnesota's defensive coordinator.

"There's been a total team improvement in Tampa," Viking offensive tackle Korey Stringer said. "Tony's done some excellent things, but it's more than just Coach Dungy. They've done well in the draft and picked up some key guys. They seem to be putting everything together."

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