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TAMPA BAY 38, MINNESOTA 24

Johnson & Johnson Heal an Ailing Offense

November 04, 2002|From Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. — Finally, a breakout game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offense.

Brad Johnson threw for 313 yards and a career-high five touchdowns, and the Buccaneers played their best game on offense for first-year Coach Jon Gruden in Sunday's 38-24 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

"We're moving in the right direction," said Keyshawn Johnson, who had nine receptions for 133 yards and two touchdowns -- all season highs. "This was a big step. What's important now is we keep moving and get better and better."

Karl Williams, Rickey Dudley and Mike Alstott also had touchdown catches for the Buccaneers who matched the 1979 team for the best nine-game start in team history at 7-2

Minnesota (2-6) has lost 15 consecutive road games, including the playoffs. The Vikings are 0-5 at Raymond James Stadium.

"Fifteen in a row, it's tough," said Viking Coach Mike Tice, who changed the team's travel routine -- arriving in Florida a day earlier than usual -- in hopes of ending the skid.

"We had plenty of meetings, plenty of time for football, plenty of time together. I felt like it would give them a training-camp weekend, where they could think about nothing but the game. Obviously, it helped some of us. It didn't help all of us."

Johnson, returning after sitting out a game because of a fractured left rib, completed 19 of 31 passes and didn't throw an interception. Tampa Bay's offensive line didn't allow a sack after previously giving up 21.

The Buccaneers paid a hefty price (four high draft picks, $8 million) to pry Gruden away from the Oakland Raiders in hopes that the NFL's youngest head coach could use his skill at assembling an offense to make a defense-minded team a championship contender.

But until Sunday, Tampa Bay had been winning mostly because of defense, which had allowed only six touchdowns and scored five touchdowns.

Against the Vikings, who were ranked 31st in pass defense and 28th overall, the Buccaneers gained a season-high 446 yards and punted only twice.

"This is what we see in practice all the time," Johnson said.

Minnesota, which has the league's worst turnover differential, fumbled the opening kickoff and went downhill from there. The Vikings also hurt themselves with penalties, including a first-quarter holding call against guard Corbin Lacina that nullified Daunte Culpepper's 40-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss.

The Buccaneers forced three turnovers and sacked Culpepper three times.

"There ain't no excuses," said Moss, who was held to four receptions for 41 yards. "I just can't see how we can play well at home against a good team like Chicago, and then come down here to Tampa and fold under pressure."

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