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Series History: Bucs-Vikings

Posted Sep 20, 2017

The Buccaneers have had the upper hand in the series since they left the NFC Central, but Minnesota won the most recent matchup on a stunning overtime play

Since packing up and moving out of the NFC Central in 2002, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have enjoyed their occasional visits back to Minneapolis. This year, there's a new tourist attraction that will be at the top of the Buccaneers' weekend itinerary: U.S. Bank Stadium. Hopefully they'll find the accommodations as pleasant as the Metrodome.

Actually, the gameday nuances at the Metrodome, what with the motorcycle-riding Norsemen and ubiquitous Gjallarhorn, could be somewhat grating, but that was easy to overlook when the Buccaneers kept leaving the building with victories. (There's apparently an even bigger horn at the Vikings' new home, thank goodness.) Tampa Bay got big road victories at Minnesota in 2012, 2011 and 2005, their only three visits to their former division rival since the '02 realignment. Those were part of an overall six-game winning streak against the Vikings that was one of the best things the Bucs had going…until it ended in a 19-13 overtime defeat at Raymond James Stadium in 2014.

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All good things must come to an end, though automated sales calls and Gjallarhorns will probably live forever. The Bucs will head to Minnesota this weekend looking to start up a new streak against the Vikings, who still own the all-time series lead by a fairly comfortable 10-win margin, 32-22. Most of that was built, of course, during the teams' shared time in the ol' Black-and-Blue division, which ran a quarter century from 1977 to 2001. Minnesota was 31-17 against the Buccaneers in that span, including 18-6 in 24 combined games at Metropolitan Stadium (1977-81) and the Metrodome.

The Buccaneers missed a chance to record their first head-to-head seven-game winning streak against any team when they came up short in that last matchup with Minnesota in 2014. Still, Tampa Bay has acquitted itself quite well in the series since its own franchise turnaround in 1997. The Bucs surprised the league that year with a 5-0 start, which included a Week Three win at Minnesota; unfortunately, the Vikings fired back with a win in Tampa at midseason. Since that '97 campaign, the Buccaneers are 10-6 against the Vikings.

Again, the series dates all the way back to 1977, and it started off a bit strangely, with the road team winning each of the first five meetings. The Bucs' first introduction to the "Purple People Eaters," as the Vikings' star-studded defensive line was known, was on Sept. 24, 1977, when one of those PPE's – Hall of Fame-bound Carl Eller – started the scoring by sacking QB Randy Hedberg for a safety. Hedberg and Gary Huff combined to complete just five of 17 passes, only two more than they threw to Viking defenders. Minnesota, coming off its fourth Super Bowl appearance (and fourth Super Bowl loss) beat the Bucs, 9-3 in Tampa.

Tampa Bay evened the series the following September with what was just the second road win in franchise history. Playing in Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, the Buccaneers again completed just five passes (in 19 attempts by rookie Doug Williams), four of those to WR Morris Owens, who scored on a five-yard pass in the third quarter to make it 16-7 in the visitors' favor. After a Minnesota field goal in the fourth quarter, an interception by Cecil Johnson and a huge fourth-down stop by Billy Cesare preserved the victory. Lee Roy Selmon had three sacks. The Buccaneers won in Minnesota again the next year in a game that had way more raw yardage but fewer points; Ricky Bell's three-yard TD run in the fourth quarter won it, 12-10. In between the Vikings won both games in Tampa, including a heartbreaker in 1979. Doug Williams scored on a 13-yard scramble with 17 seconds to play but the Vikings blocked Neil O'Donoghue's extra point attempt to hold on to a 23-22 victory and delay the Bucs from clinching their first playoff berth.

The two teams split their two-game set almost every year from 1978-84, with the Vikings getting a sweep in 1980 and taking the only matchup in the 1982 strike campaign. Minnesota's home win in '80 was remarkable in that it featured 1,023 yards of offense, 573 of it belonging to the Buccaneers. That remains a franchise record 34 years later, as does Williams' 486 passing yards, but it wasn't enough to avoid a 38-30 loss. The Vikings needed overtime to get their half of the split in 1983, giving the Bucs their first-ever sudden death loss (they were 2-0-1 in their first three OT experiences) after Tampa Bay's Bill Capece missed a 33-yard field goal try in the extra period. Minnesota's Benny Ricardo was good from 42, however, and the Vikings won, 19-16.

Ditching the timeline for a minute, it's worth noting that the Bucs have more overtime wins against the Vikings than any other club. They've taken Green Bay to extra time just as often, with five OT games each, but they are 2-2-1 against the Packers and 3-2 against the Vikings. Those three wins all came in a six-season span, from 1990-96, and all by almost identical scores. A Wayne Haddix interception off Rich Gannon (this not being the last time the Bucs' defense would victimize Gannon, as many Tampa Bay fans will happily recall) set up the winning field goal in a 23-20 decision in the Metrodome in 1990. Four years later in the same location, long-snapper Ed Brady recovered a muffed punt at the Vikings' four-yard line to set up Michael Husted's game-winner in a 20-17 Bucs win. The next time the two teams met was in Tampa, but the final score was the same, as Husted again delivered the game-winner though this time from 51 yards out. The Bucs looked like they might be doomed when TE Jackie Harris fumbled and S Orlando Thomas recovered, but WR Lawrence Dawsey subsequently stripped the ball from Thomas' grasp and G Ian Beckles recovered for Tampa Bay.

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The Bucs were on the better side of another shootout with the Vikings in 1984, as James Wilder put up 129 yards of offense and two touchdowns in a 35-31 decision. Wilder had 192 yards and two more scores when the teams met again in Minneapolis a month later, but Jan Stenerud's 53-yard field goal with two seconds left won it for the Vikings, 27-24. That win kicked off a five-game run for Minnesota, one of three such streaks they posted between 1984 and 1993; it is that period of dominance that accounts for the Vikings' advantage in the all-time series. The worst of those (from a Buc perspective, was a 49-20 decision in Tampa in which Wade Wilson completed 22 of 30 for 335 yards and three touchdowns. Although his name may not have the same historical staying power as such former Tampa Bay foes as Brett  Favre or Barry Sanders or Cris Carter, Wilson was a noted Buc-killer during his career (1981-89). He threw for more yards and touchdowns against Tampa Bay than any other team and finished with a career 104.0 passer rating against the Bucs' defense.

There were a few bright spots during that stretch for Tampa Bay, including their only season sweep over the Vikings in 1990. In addition to the overtime win described above, the Bucs also won, 26-13, at home in a game in which QB Vinny Testaverde had a rough day throwing (12 of 30 for 148, one TD and two INTs) but made up for it with the best rushing day ever by a Buccaneer passer. He ran seven times for 105 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown scamper that started the scoring.

The two teams mostly alternated victories during the second half of the '90s, but there were two very notable wins for Tampa Bay in that stretch. In 1996, former Vikings Defensive Coordinator Tony Dungy took over as the Bucs head coach but saw his team lose its first five games. After a Buccaneer bye week, the 5-1 Vikings came to town and the Bucs chose that opportunity to give Dungy his first win, 24-13, powered by Trent Dilfer's three TD tosses, one to rookie FB Mike Alstott. The Bucs were an established playoff contender under Dungy by 1998 but were off to a ragged 3-4 start before Randy Moss and the high-powered Vikings came to town on November 1. The Bucs won one of the most memorable regular-season games in franchise history, 27-24, on Mike Alstott's six-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, and that would prove to be the only regular-season game Minnesota lost in 1998.

After a string of such close Bucs-Vikings games, the NFL chose to put the 1999 edition on Monday Night Football. Rookie QB Shaun King, in for the injured Dilfer, got the start and threw two touchdown passes and CB Donnie Abraham started the scoring with a 55-yard pick-six. The Bucs got a much-needed 24-17 win that eventually propelled them to the NFC Central title.

The Bucs said goodbye to their NFC Central foes in 2001 with a dominant 41-14 decision powered by Alstott's 129 rushing yards and three touchdowns. They welcomed the Vikings back to town – now as an inter-divisional foe – the next year and walloped them again, 38-24. QB Brad Johnson had one of the finest afternoons ever for a Buccaneer quarterback, completing 24 of 31 passes for 313 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions, leading to the third-best single-game passer rating in franchise history (148.3).

And with those two games began the Bucs' aforementioned streak of six straight. The 2005 matchup in Minnesota was actually the season opener, and part of rookie RB Cadillac Williams' record-breaking three-game debut. Of his 148 rushing yards in his first NFL game, 71 came on a game-clinching breakaway in a 24-13 final. The Bucs' next trip to Minnesota, in 2011, was the second game of the season, and it included another fine RB performance, this time LeGarrette Blount's 71 yards and two scores. Finally, the two teams' most recent get-together was a Thursday-night affair in 2012 in which yet another Buccaneer back took center stage. This time it was then-rookie Doug Martin, who began an impressive midseason surge with 214 yards from scrimmage as the Bucs got their first prime-time road victory since 2003. Martin became the first Buc back in more than 10 yards to score on both a run and a reception in the same game, helping the Bucs prevail, 36-17.

The Vikings needed overtime to deny the Buccaneers a seventh straight win the series three years ago, but they didn't need very much overtime. After Blair Walsh hit a 34-yard field goal at the end of regulation to make it 13-13, Tampa Bay won the toss and elected to receive. On the first play from scrimmage, QB Mike Glennon hit TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins for a 10-yard gain but Seferian-Jenkins fumbled near the sideline and LB Anthony Barr scooped up the loose ball and sprinted 27 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

Bucs-Vikings Game-by-Game Record:

1977 L, 9-3 Tampa
1978 W, 16-10 Minneapolis
1978 L, 24-7 Tampa
1979 W, 12-10 Minneapolis
1979 L, 23-22 Tampa
1980 L, 38-30 Minneapolis
1980 L, 21-10 Tampa
1981 W, 21-13 Tampa
1981 L, 25-10 Minneapolis
1982 L, 17-10 Minneapolis
1983 L, 19-16 (OT) Tampa
1983 W, 17-12 Minneapolis
1984 W, 35-31 Tampa
1984 L, 27-24 Minneapolis
1985 L, 31-16 Tampa
1985 L, 26-7 Minneapolis
1986 L, 23-10 Tampa
1986 L, 45-13 Minneapolis
1987 W, 20-10 Tampa
1987 L, 23-17 Minneapolis
1988 L, 14-13 Minneapolis
1988 L, 49-20 Tampa
1989 L, 17-13 Minneapolis
1989 L, 24-10 Tampa
1990 W, 23-20 (OT) Minneapolis
1990 W, 26-13 Tampa
1991 L, 28-13 Minneapolis
1991 L, 26-24 Tampa
1992 L, 26-20 Minneapolis
1992 L, 35-7 Tampa
1993 L, 15-0 Minneapolis
1993 W, 23-10 Tampa
1994 L, 36-13 Tampa
1994 W, 20-17 (OT) Minneapolis
1995 W, 20-17 (OT) Tampa
1995 L, 31-17 Minneapolis
1996 W, 24-13 Tampa
1996 L, 21-10 Minneapolis
1997 W, 28-14 Minneapolis
1997 L, 10-6 Tampa
1998 L, 31-7 Minneapolis
1998 W, 27-24 Tampa
1999 L, 21-14 Minneapolis
1999 W, 24-17 Tampa
2000 L, 30-23 Minneapolis
2000 W, 41-13 Tampa
2001 L, 20-16 Minneapolis
2001 W, 41-14 Tampa
2002 W, 38-24 Tampa
2005 W, 24-13 Minneapolis
2008 W, 19-13 Tampa
2011 W, 24-20 Minneapolis
2012 W, 36-17 Minneapolis
2014 L, 13-19 Tampa


Series Notes:

  • Overall Season Series: Minnesota leads, 32-22
  • Bucs' Home Record: 13-14
  • Bucs' Road Record: 9-18
  • Current Streak: Lose 1 (2014)
  • Buccaneers' Longest Winning Streak: 6 (2001-12)
  • Vikings' Longest Winning Streak: 5 (three times, most recently 1991-93)
  • Regular Season Point Total: Buccaneers 983, Vikings 1,149
  • Most Points in a Game for Tampa Bay: 41, twice, most recently…Buccaneers 41, Vikings 14 (2001)
  • Most Points in a Game for Minnesota: 49…Vikings 49, Buccaneers 20 (1988)
  • Most Points, combined: 69…Vikings 49, Buccaneers 20 (1988)
  • Fewest Points in a Game for Tampa Bay: 0…Vikings 15, Buccaneers 0 (1993)
  • Fewest Points in a Game for Minnesota: 9…Vikings 9, Buccaneers 3 (1977)
  • Fewest Points in a Game, combined: 12…Vikings 9, Buccaneers 3 (1977)