Viking quarterbacks quickly learn that they can force the ball in to WR Randy Moss (pictured)
Every head coach in the history of the National Football League, it seems, has claimed his team is taking its schedule 'one game at a time.'
That's fine for coaches and players; after all, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had enough on their hands in Washington on Sunday to be worried about their next opponent, the Minnesota Vikings. But elsewhere in the organization, the preparations for Tampa Bay's Monday night game in Minneapolis next week were already underway.
As is customary in the NFL, the Buccaneers sent an advance scout to watch the game of their next foe. In this case, that put our scout on a plane to Detroit, where a key NFC Central battle was going to take place between the Lions and the Vikings.
And, while the Buccaneers struggled at times with the big-play facets of the Washington offense on Sunday, the team's scout was treated to another pyrotechnic display in the Pontiac Silverdome. Minnesota used three touchdown passes to explosive WR Randy Moss to down the Lions, 31-24.
That, however, is analysis any interested viewer can make. An advance scout is armed with a binder full of charts to fill with information on every player on his team's next opponent. Weekly scouting reports can fill 50 or 60 pages, and the advanced scout's findings often provides much of the filler.
Here's a few pieces of that scout's reports on the 4-0 Vikings.
· QB Duante Culpepper, as most observers have noted, is off to a surprisingly solid start, and he appears to be improving each week. What impressed our scout the most about the second-year player's efforts was his ability to avoid turnovers. The Vikings didn't commit a single giveaway, and that was not because Culpepper was playing it overly safe. Culpepper did force the ball into tight coverage on several occasions, but he had confidence in his athletic receivers and threw the ball in a way that allowed Randy Moss and Cris Carter to out-jump the defenders for the ball. Culpepper has apparently learned rather quickly what recent Viking quarterbacks before him came to understand: Moss and Carter can be trusted to make the difficult catches in traffic.
· The unknown standout on the Vikings' defense is DT Tony Williams. Lineman John Randle has dominated the ink about the Minnesota defense for the last decade, and deservedly so, but it is Williams that is playing best among the Viking linemen at this point. A stout run-stuffer who can play in either a one-gap or two-gap scheme because of his strength and physical style of play, Williams can also bring pressure on the quarterback.
· RB Robert Smith does not appear to have slowed down at all, even at the ripe old age (for an NFL running back!) of 29. Smith may not be getting as many touches as he has in some seasons, but he's still explosive to the outside and he is displaying a lot of toughness for his slight build.
· CB Cris Dishman, a late-August pickup who was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs, has been a good acquisition for the Vikings. Dishman still has excellent ball skills, something the Vikings previously lacked at cornerback, and he can turn and run with the receiver. Minnesota cornerbacks tend to play off the receiver a lot, so Dishman isn't asked to do the type of bump-and-run coverage that the Bucs saw in Washington last week.
All of this information, and much more, both positive and negative, will help Tampa Bay prefer for its crucial game in Minnesota next Monday. Of course, our scout won't be around to see the fruits of his labor. He'll be off in another city preparing another report.