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Buccaneers Are on Solid Ground at Home

November 02, 1998|From Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. — So much for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' shaky offense being a liability against the explosive Minnesota Vikings.

The Buccaneers broke out of a season-long offensive funk with a team-record 246 yards rushing on Sunday in a 27-24 victory over the Vikings, the NFC's last unbeaten team.

Mike Alstott ran for a career-high 128 yards in 19 carries and Warrick Dunn gained 115 in 18 attempts, giving Tampa Bay (4-4) two 100-yard rushers in a game for the first time in franchise history.

"I couldn't feel any better than I feel right now," said Alstott, who scored the go-ahead touchdown with 5:48 left. "We knew what we could do. It was frustrating those first seven weeks, because we kept hurting ourselves through penalties and missed opportunities.

"A lot of people were saying we needed a new quarterback or we needed some offensive linemen. All we had to do was go out there and execute."

Randall Cunningham completed 21 of 25 passes for 291 yards and and two touchdowns for the Vikings (7-1). But his only interception led to a second-half Michael Husted field goal, and Minnesota's last three possessions didn't produce points.

"In this league, you have to be able to stop the run first. And, you have to be able to run the ball yourself," Viking Coach Dennis Green said. "That's really the only way you get your rhythm. We made some big plays, but we didn't have the rhythm."

Tampa Bay had a season-high 378 total yards and remained unbeaten (4-0) at Raymond James Stadium, its new $168 million home.

After gaining only 236 yards in last week's 9-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Buccaneers controlled the ball for more than 18 minutes of the first half and scored on all three of their possessions.

Dunn had a 10-yard touchdown run, Trent Dilfer threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Reidel Anthony and Husted kicked a 29-yard field goal on Tampa Bay's three first-half possessions. The touchdowns were the first scored by the offense in the first half this season.

"I made enough plays to help us win, but I really felt like our offense came out with an attitude to dominate the game," said Trent Dilfer, who was 11 for 22 for 132 yards with no interceptions. "When we did make [a mistake], no one panicked."

In the third quarter, Dilfer moved Tampa Bay from its 32 to the Minnesota five before the Buccaneers were stopped on downs, eschewing a short field goal. The gamble wasn't as costly as it appeared at the time.

Derrick Brooks intercepted Cunningham's pass on the Vikings' next possession to set up Husted's 38-yard field goal which cut the Buccaneers' deficit to four, 24-20.

Tampa Bay forced the first punt of the game with 10 minutes remaining and went on a 43-yard drive that resulted in Alstott's go-ahead touchdown.

Cunningham threw touchdown passes of 44 yards and one yard to Jake Reed, Robert Smith scored on a nine-yard run and Gary Anderson kicked a 44-yard field goal that made it 17-17 at the half.

"It was one of those games where you have a shootout and whoever has the ball at the end of the game wins," Cunningham said. "They got the best of us today, but we humbly accept this loss and we'll just keep on going. It's not going to knock us down. It's not going to knock us out."

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