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Vikings Edge Sapp-Less Bucs


From finger-pointing to chest-thumping, Randy Moss is back, even if the Minnesota Vikings' high-powered offense isn't.

After criticizing new offensive coordinator Ray Sherman after three mostly unproductive weeks, Moss broke free for two long touchdowns Sunday as Minnesota beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21-14.

"It was nice to get back in a groove again," said Randall Cunningham, who was 26-of-34 for 296 yards and three TDs.

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Game Summary

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  • For one quarter, the Vikings (2-2) looked like the 1998 scoring machine as they got into the end zone on their first three possessions against the league's top defense. But for the last three quarters Minnesota couldn't score.

    The Vikings needed a last-second defensive stop to end a two-game skid that had them sniping at each other and the coaching staff.

    "When you put up 21 points in the first quarter, that's exciting," Moss said. "But when you have zeros all the rest of the quarters? Luckily, we came out with a victory and that's all that counts."

    "But we're still missing that fire."

    At least they didn't get burned by Trent Dilfer like they did by Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers a week earlier.

    The Bucs (2-2) failed twice to tie it in the final two minutes.

    Corey Miller intercepted Dilfer's fourth-and-1 pass to Warrick Dunn at the Minnesota 10-yard line with 1:54 left for the Vikings' first interception of the season.

    Tampa Bay got the ball back with 1:24 left and drove to the Vikings 17. But Dilfer's pass to Darnell McDonald was broken up by Robert Griffith in the end zone as time expired.

    "I was just trying to defend the goal-line, man," Griffith said in a not-so-subtle reference to Cris Carter.

    Carter had blamed teammate Jimmy Hitchcock for the Vikings' last-second loss at Green Bay, saying Hitchcock should have defended the end zone and not the first down.

    "I had no doubt we were going to score," Dilfer said. "Shows you how much I know."

    The Bucs sorely missed defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who sat out with a broken left hand. With little pressure up front, Cunningham finally had time to go deep to Moss, who accumulated 109 of his 120 yards receiving in the first quarter.

    "I think you always miss a player like Warren," Tampa Bay cornerback Donnie Abraham said. "But that is by no means an excuse."

    Moss tied his career-high with a 61-yard catch for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead, after which the normally cool Cunningham let loose, pumping his fists and yelling at his teammates.

    "I was so excited," Cunningham said. "You just know when that time hits that you've been waiting for. ... It's like we conquered getting Randy the ball. We conquered throwing the deep ball. We conquered throwing early. And I was just like, `Wow!' I couldn't control myself."

    Moss added a 27-yard score and caught a 21-yard pass in triple coverage on the Vikings' third possession, which ended in a disputed touchdown grab by Andrew Glover.

    After his 61-yard TD catch, Moss got a bear hug from run-stuffer Jerry Ball, who rejoined the Vikings last week in a trade with Cleveland. Ball clogged the middle so well that Mike Alstott gained just 32 yards and Warrick Dunn was held to 49.

    "Jerry Ball set the tempo," linebacker Ed McDaniel said.

    Ball's return allowed John Randle to move from tackle to end, and Randle responded with two sacks and caused and recovered a fumble.

    Tampa Bay coach Tony Dungy challenged Glover's 12-yard TD catch, but referee Mike Carey upheld the call, even though replays appeared to show Glover got just one foot inbounds.

    After Dilfer's 26-yard TD pass to Dave Moore made it 21-7, the Vikings reachd Tampa Bay's 11 in the closing seconds of the first half, but Abraham intercepted Cunningham's pass in the end zone.

    Gary Anderson's 37-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter was blocked by John McLaughlin. Anderson, who brought an NFL record streak of 40 consecutive field goals into this season, has already missed five times.

    Reidel Anthony leapt over Hitchcock to pull in a 26-yard TD toss with 7:34 left that pulled Tampa Bay to 21-14. Dilfer finished 25-of-39 for 301 yards.

    Notes

  • Cunningham missed one play in the fourth quarter after being sandwiched by two defenders and bruising his throwing shoulder.
  • Carter started his 100th consecutive game.
  • Vikings strong-side linebacker Kailee Wong (hamstring) sat out for the second straight week.
  • The Bucs' best receiver, Bert Emmanuel (hamstring), was replaced in the starting lineup by Karl Williams.
  • Vikings kick returner David Palmer sat out the second half with bruised ribs.
  • The Vikings' 21 first-quarter points were their second-most ever.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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