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Bucs Hand Vikings First Loss


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Minnesota Vikings at their own game.

Moving the ball and scoring almost at will, the Bucs broke out of an offensive funk with a team-record 246 yards rushing Sunday and beat the NFC's last unbeaten team 27-24 on Mike Alstott's 6-yard touchdown run with 5:48 to go.

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

    "I couldn't feel any better than I feel right now," Alstott said. "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 was outstanding in defeat for Minnesota (7-1), completing 21 of 25 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns. But his only interception led to a second-half field goal, and the Vikings' last three possessions didn' 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. That's really the only way you get your rhythm," Vikings coach Dennis Green said.

    "Even though we had 24 points, it was clear we didn't have the rhythm. We made some big plays, but we didn't have the rhythm."

    David Palmer

    Vikings/Bucs
    Robert Smith was held to 46 yards rushing by the Tampa Bay defense. (AP)
    had perhaps the best game of his five-year career for Tampa Bay. Although his passing numbers -- 11-of-22 for 132 yards -- paled in comparison to Cunnigham's, he avoided costly mistakes and made play after play to keep drives alive.

    Dunn scored on a 10-yard run, Dilfer threw a 12-yard TD pass to Reidel Anthony and Michael Husted kicked a 29-yard field goal on Tampa Bay's three first-half possessions. The TDs were the first scored by the Bucs offense in the opening 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," Dilfer said. "We didn't make many mistakes ... and when we did make one, no one panicked."

    Cunningham threw TD passes of 44 and 1 yards to Jake Reed, while Robert Smith scored on a 9-yard run and Gary Anderson kicked a 44-yard field goal for Minnesota 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."

    Dilfer and offensive coordinator Mike Shula have been under fire because of Tampa Bay's lack of production, particularly during last week's 9-3 loss to New Orleans.

    After gaining just 236 yards against the Saints, the Bucs controlled the ball for more than 18 minutes of the first half and scored on all three of their possessions.

    However, Cunningham kept pace by making the most of the limited time the Vikings offense was on the field. He was 4-of-4 for 52 yards on the drive that produced Smith's touchdown, then threw his 44-yarder to Reed and set up Anderson's field goal with a 41-yard completion to Randy Moss>.

    In the second half, it was Tampa Bay's turn to try to keep up.

    The Vikings scored on their fourth consecutive possession, taking a 24-17 lead on Cunningham's second TD pass to Reed just over five minutes into the third quarter.

    Tampa Bay, which actually outgained the Vikings during a 31-7 season-opening loss, rushed for 132 yards in the opening half and continued moving the ball after falling behind.

    Dilfer moved his team from its 32 to the Minnesota 5 before the Bucs 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 Minnesota's next possession to set up Husted's 38-yard field goal, which trimmed the Vikings' lead to 24-20.

    The Bucs forced the first punt of the game with 10 minutes remaining and took advantage of a holding penalty that cost Minnesota 33 yards to go ahead on Alstott's TD run.

    Notes:

    Minnesota's Cris Carter caught a pass in his 107th straight game
  • Vikings offensive tackle Todd Stuessie sat out with a knee injury suffered last week
  • Before Sunday, the Bucs offense had not produced a touchdown in 38 first-half possessions
  • Tampa Bay also outgained Minnesota in a season-opening 31-7 loss.
  • © 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved

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