Former Dallas QB Troy Aikman praised Brad Johnson's ability to involve the Bucs' lesser-used passcatchers
There was so much talk going into this game about the problems Tampa Bay was having offensively and defensively. In my opinion, the most surprising thing was how they'd been playing defense -- it was so uncharacteristic of how they've played under Tony Dungy during the past five years. It was unbelievable how the defense responded in this game, holding Minnesota without a first down for the entire first half.
Over the past three seasons, Tampa has really responded when faced with these types of situations. Last year, they were 3-4 and turned things around with a victory over Minnesota. I think the way the media reacted to where they were this season may have fired them up a little bit and made them feel like they had something to prove.
I attended their practice on Friday and could tell they were pretty focused and understood what was at stake. They recognized that if they had any hopes of trying to turn the season around, they had to win this game at home against a big divisional opponent. I thought they would play well, but I don't think anyone expected them to go out and dominate the Vikings like they did, especially in the first 30 minutes.
Offensively, this was their most complete game of the season. Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen did a nice job of mixing the run and pass. They were able to keep Minnesota off balance with a lot of different formations and first-down packages. Not only did Christensen call an excellent game, but guys stepped up and made some exceptional plays. Mike Alstott was tremendous -- the way he was able to bounce around, make people miss and break tackles was outstanding. Keyshawn Johnson made some big plays before he went down with an injury and Aaron Stecker also made some nice plays.
Guys were making things happen when they had a chance, and that's what it takes to win in this league. The offensive line, which had been much maligned so far this season -- especially after giving up 10 sacks against Pittsburgh -- also did a great job. Left tackle Kenyatta Walker really started to show some signs of growing up.
Additionally, the Bucs went into the game without their second and third leading pass catchers (Jacquez Green and Warrick Dunn) and when Keyshawn (Johnson) went down, they were without their top receiver. Despite that, they were able to have success offensively. That says a lot for Brad Johnson and his confidence in some of the younger guys like Karl Williams and Frank Murphy.
Overall, they did a nice job of using the personnel they have. It's been said that the best defense is a good offense ... all those things work hand-in-hand -- offense, defense and special teams. Their offense was able to control the clock and keep their defense off the field, something they hadn't really been able to do this year. At the same time, their defense did a nice job of stopping Minnesota.