Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bad Trip

The Bucs lose at Minnesota, 30-23, seeing their comeback hopes ended by a tripped-up trick play

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QB Shaun King scored the Bucs' first touchdown and also passed for 295 yards

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have suffered through bad Minnesota trips before, but this trip might have been the worst.

Wide open on a fourth-and-one with just over five minutes left in the game, rookie TE Todd Yoder turned to haul in a halfback pass thrown by fullback Mike Alstott. As Yoder put his hands up, his feet tripped on the Metrodome turf. The pass fell incomplete.

Tampa Bay lost to the still-undefeated Vikings by a final of 30-23, a score not indicative of how close the Buccaneers came to victory.

Tampa Bay actually took a 23-20 fourth-quarter lead on a 66-yard return of a blocked field goal by CB Donnie Abraham after DT Warren Sapp got his hands on Gary Anderson's 51-yard field goal try.

That gave the Bucs their first lead of the day, but it was short-lived. Minnesota's next drive went the distance and ended in a way all-too familiar for NFL cornerbacks. Abraham went up with third-year WR Randy Moss on a deep pass from QB Duante Culpepper, but it was Moss that came down with the ball for a 42-yard score.

That set up the Bucs' fateful drive. Having reached the Vikings' 47-yard line and facing a third-and-one, Tampa Bay brought in its jumbo package and ran Alstott off right tackle, but Minnesota's defense held. In the same formation on fourth down, Alstott took a pitch from QB Shaun King to the right, then suddenly stopped and threw across the field to Yoder at the Vikings' 30.

When Alstott's pass fell incomplete, the Vikings then took over at midfield and used four of the five remaining minutes, and both Buccaneer timeouts, to drive 51 yards for a field goal.

That put Minnesota up by a touchdown and left Tampa Bay with 59 seconds. Another Buccaneer trick play worked considerably better to kick-start that drive, as a hook-and-lateral from King to TE Dave Moore to RB Warrick Dunn netted 30 yards and gave the Bucs hope. However, a 'Hail Mary' pass with time running out fell just incomplete, though WR Jacquez Green felt he had made the touchdown catch at the front of the end zone.

Green caught just about everything else. Tying a record for Buccaneer receivers and setting a personal high, Green racked up 131 yards on 11 catches. That helped King complete 26 of 40 tosses for 295 yards, his second-most prolific day ever.

This wasn't a complete surprise to the Buccaneers, who felt they could move the ball against the Minnesota Vikings' 12th-ranked defense. They were right.

The Buccaneers also believed they had to avoid costly miscues and an early deficit in the noisy Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

They were, we are sorry to say, very much right.

Two first-half fumbles resulted in two Minnesota touchdowns. WR Keyshawn Johnson lost a fumble on the Bucs' first drive, leading to a one-play touchdown drive when Culpepper scrambled 27 yards for the score.

Tampa Bay tied the score at 7-7 with an impressive nine-play, 74-yard drive on which King converted a third-and-17 and a third-and-11. On first down from the Vikings' 11, King matched his fellow 1999 draftee with his own touchdown run.

The Vikings followed with a 58-yard field goal drive to go up 10-7, then got the ball right back when Aaron Stecker fumbled on the resulting kickoff return. Former Buccaneer tight end John Davis gave Minnesota a 10-point lead with a 26-yard touchdown catch.

Still the Bucs fought back, marching 71 yards on 19 plays for Martin Gramatica's 23-yard field goal drive.

The third quarter featured three field goals, two by the Buccaneers, setting up the fourth-quarter fireworks.

And, once again, those fireworks were enjoyed more by the Buccaneers' opponents.

It was Tampa Bay's third emotional, last-quarter loss in three weeks, ending a draining and sobering set of showdowns with top opponents. On September 24, the then-undefeated New York Jets scored two touchdowns in the last three minutes of the game to defeat Tampa Bay 21-17. The following Sunday, it was the Bucs who made a rousing 10-point comeback in Washington, but the Redskins won it in overtime, 20-17.

With those three losses, the Buccaneers have fallen back to .500, at 3-3, and are now well behind Minnesota in the race for the NFC Central title. The Vikings are now 5-0.

On defense, the Buccaneers racked up six sacks of Culpepper and kept his running in check after that first touchdown. DE Marcus Jones had two of the Bucs sacks and Sapp had another to go with three tackles and his blocked field goal. LB Derrick Brooks had 11 tackles and a forced fumble. S Damien Robinson came up with his second interception of the season.

Buccaneers.com provided detailed reports of each quarter's action, with a snap-by-snap account. Those wrapups follow to provide a further look at the Bucs' narrow loss.

First Quarter

The Buccaneer defense found Minnesota's powerful attack tough to contain, giving up 139 yards in the first quarter. However, the most important numbers were on the scoreboard, where the tally was tied, 7-7.

The first bit of good news came at 8:10, local time. Former Viking standout called heads for the Buccaneer captains and the coin agreed, giving the Bucs the opening possession.

Tampa Bay's First Drive

Punter Mitch Berger hit the opening kickoff two yards deep into the Buccaneer end zone, from where return man Aaron Stecker took it back to the Bucs' 16. Before the Bucs could even start from that point, McDaniel was flagged for a false start.

So, on first-and-15, QB Shaun King threw a quick slant to WR Keyshawn Johnson that appeared to be enough for a first down. However, CB Robert Tate knocked the ball out of Johnson's grasp and it was recovered by Minnesota at the Tampa Bay 27.

Minnesota's First Drive

The Vikings wasted no time turning that giveaway into points. QB Duante Culpepper dropped back to pass and, finding no one open, took off up the middle. Following several key blocks, Culpepper ran all the way to the end zone for the first score of the game. Minnesota 7, Tampa Bay 7.

Tampa Bay's Second Drive

After Stecker brought the ball out to the 21, RB Warrick Dunn got the first-down handoff and picked up one yard off right tackle. King was nearly sacked on second down and couldn't get the ball to Dunn, bringing up a third-and-nine. King's next pass was on target but through WR Reidel Anthony's hands.

P Mark Royals came on to punt and hit a 53-yard drive to the Vikings' 25. WR Troy Walters returned it just three yards before being run over by linebackers Don Davis and Jeff Gooch.

Minnesota's Second Drive

The Vikings started their second drive with a handoff to RB Robert Smith, but LB Derrick Brooks caught him after a gain of just two yards. On second down, Culpepper dropped back and found TE John Davis open at the Viking 45 for a first down.

Smith started the next set of downs with another run up the middle, netting two yards again before LB Shelton Quarles wrapped him up. Smith got the handoff again on second down on a delay, but DT Anthony McFarland limited him to two yards once again. On third-and-six, Culpepper threw a quick out over a Buccaneer blitz to WR Troy Walters, who was forced out of bounds by S John Lynch just before the first-down sticks. With just inches to go, the Vikings elected to go for it on fourth down. The Bucs loaded up the middle, but Smith leaped over the line and landed on his feet to pick up eight yards and a new set of downs.

Culpepper faked a handoff on the next play and threaded a pass to WR Cris Carter on the sideline despite good coverage by CB Donnie Abraham. That was good for 12 more yards and another first down.

On the next snap, Smith found a lane around right tackle and appeared to have an open field to explore, but Lynch stopped him after a five-yard gain. On the next snap, Lynch stopped the entire drive, recovering a fumble after a botched Viking snap.

Tampa Bay's Third Drive

The Bucs' third drive started off quite a bit better than the first. With the Bucs lined up in a three-receiver formation, Dunn took a delayed handoff and knifed through the middle of the Vikings' defense for 15 yards.

The Bucs lined up in the same formation on the next snap, but this time King faked a handoff to Dunn and went deep over the middle to WR Jacquez Green for a 19-yard gain. King held the ball a little longer on the next first down and was eventually sacked by DE Talance Sawyer.

So, facing a second-and-15, King tried to hand off to Dunn but tripped going back from center. He did manage to get the ball to Dunn, but the broken play resulted in a two-yard loss. However, Johnson rescued the Bucs on third-and-17 with a truly remarkable catch. King threw a deep seam pass on the left side and Johnson leaped high to tip it in the air. As Johnson fell to the turf, he kept his eye on the ball and caught it on the ground at the Vikings' 21.

The Bucs tried Green on an end-around on the next play, but the Vikings sniffed it out and stopped the receiver for a loss of one. King found Johnson over the middle with his next pass, but a hard hit from behind dislodged the ball for an incomplete pass. On third down, King threw a quick slant to Green, who turned it upfield just in time to get the first down at the Vikings' 11.

Not to be outdone by his Viking counterpart, King scored the touchdown himself on the next play. King took a shotgun snap, paused for a second, then bolted up the middle on a designed keeper. He scored without being tackled. Tampa Bay 7, Minnesota 7.

Minnesota's Third Drive

Martin Gramatica's first kickoff of the game was taken by S Tyrone Carter at the Vikings' three and returned to the 22 before Stecker stopped Carter.

The Vikings struck quickly with another big play. Culpepper stood in as DT Warren Sapp neared him and delivered a sideline strike to a wide open Randy Moss. Moss picked up 35 yards to the Bucs' 43. The next pass also went to Moss for a gain of 17 more.

With a first down at the Bucs' 26, Smith took the ball around right tackle and made two nice cuts to pick up six more yards. Smith then picked up three more with a rugged run around left tackle. On third-and-one, Lynch made a crucial tackle on Smith to force another fourth down; the Vikings elected to go for it again.

Before they could, however, the quarter ended.

Second Quarter

The Buccaneer offense continued to find success against the Viking defense, ending the first half with 187 total yards, 20 more than Minnesota managed. However, the Bucs also committed two first-half turnovers, each of which led to a Viking touchdown, and Tampa Bay went into halftime trailing by a touchdown, 17-10.

Minnesota's First Drive

The Vikings opened the second period needing just a few inches on fourth down to get a new set of downs. QB Duante Culpepper took care of that himself with a keeper, bulling for three yards over the left guard.

After a delay-of-game penalty on Minnesota, RB Robert Smith picked up three yards on first down to make it second-and-13. Tampa Bay's pass rush then got into the act. Culpepper tried to run again when he couldn't find an open man on either second or third down, but DT Anthony McFarland tripped him up for a two-yard sack and DE Chidi Ahanotu followed with his own two-yard sack.

K Gary Anderson then came on to nail a 37-yard field goal. Minnesota 10, Tampa Bay 7.

Minnesota's Second Drive

The Buccaneer defense had virtually no time to rest. RB Aaron Stecker darted up the middle of the field on a kickoff return but fumbled at the Bucs' 26. Minnesota recovered.

The Bucs blitzed on first down and managed to catch Smith from behind when he took a quick handoff, limiting the gain to one yard. LB Nate Webster broke up a potential touchdown pass on second down, leaping high to bat away a pass intended for TE John Davis at the goal line.

However, Culpepper found a much more open Davis on the next snap, hitting him in virtually the same spot on the field for a 26-yard touchdown. Minnesota 17, Tampa Bay 7.

Tampa Bay's First Drive

Stecker got the ball back to the 25 again on the next return and held onto the ball, giving the Bucs their first possession of the second quarter.

RB Warrick Dunn tried a sweep to the left side on first down but ran into a Viking wall and lost four yards trying to reverse field. FB Mike Alstott shot straight up the middle seam on second down but good coverage kept him from hauling in King's pass. On third-and-14, King stood in under a blitz and delivered a strike to WR Jacquez Green at the Bucs' 40. The result was a 19-yard gain and a first down.

On the resulting first down, the Bucs brought in their power package and ran Mike Alstott off right tackle for a nine-yard gain. On second-and-one, King faked a handoff and threw a quick slant pass to Green, but it was out of Green's reach.

The power package came back onto the field for third-and-one and converted it with a two-yard Alstott run up the middle. Another quick slant to Green on the opposite side worked this time as Green caught the pass for an eight yard gain despite having CB Robert Tate draped all over him.

After an illegal substitution penalty backed the Bucs up to second-and-seven. Tampa Bay tried a delayed handoff to Dunn that didn't fool the Vikings, but a quick cut by the Bucs' runner allowed him to pick up four yards. Dunn then got the first down on the next snap when he took a screen on the left side and darted between tacklers for six yards to the 36.

Dunn found nowhere to run on the next snap, picking up just one yard up the middle. After center Jeff Christy was called for holding, the Bucs' faced a second-and-19 from the Vikings' 45.

Another screen pass to Dunn picked up 11 yards. King converted the Bucs' sixth third down in seven tries by hitting TE Dave Moore over the middle for eight yards to the Vikings' 26.

Another screen to Dunn wasn't a surprise to the Vikings, who stopped it for no gain. King then fired a short pass over the middle to Green, picking up five to set up third-and-five. King converted yet another third down, this time scrambling out of pressure and picking up 10 yards to the Vikings' 11. After that play, the two-minute warning arrived.

After the break, King rolled right on first down and hit Green for a five-yard gain at the right sideline. Alstott took the ball up the middle on second down and picked up three yards, setting up third-and-two from the three. The Bucs' third-down luck then ran out when Alstott was stopped for a one-yard loss trying to blast up the middle. K Martin Gramatica came on to try a 23-yard field goal and stuck it through, trimming the Viking lead to seven. Minnesota 17, Tampa Bay 10.

Minnesota's Third Drive

The Vikings had just a minute left on the clock but got a good start when Tyrone Carter's kickoff return ended at the Minnesota 31. However, the next play went in the opposite direction, as a bobbled snap resulted in a 10-yard loss.

On the next play, Minnesota committed its first turnover. Duante Culpepper faked a handoff to Smith and threw deep down the right sideline to Randy Moss. The pass was overthrown, however, and S Damien Robinson intercepted it at the Viking 48.

Tampa Bay's Second Drive

With just 43 seconds remaining, the Bucs tried to make the most of it. King threw for seven yards to Johnson over the middle, then hustled up to get off another snap and threw for another seven to Reidel Anthony.

On first down from the 34, King first tried a deep sideline pass to Anthony but overthrew the open receiver. The next pass was a little high for Johnson to handle. With 11 seconds remaining, Gramatica came on try a 53-yard field goal but missed it to the right.

A kneeldown by the Vikings ended the half.

Third Quarter

The Bucs finished the third quarter with a smaller deficit than they opened it with, closing the gap to 20-16. However, the team failed to capitalize on two long drives, settling for a pair of field goals despite getting inside the five-yard line twice.

Minnesota's First Drive

Tyrone Carter took Martin Gramatica's low, bouncing kickoff out to the Viking 27. Minnesota got moving right away from that point, throwing a well-designed screen pass to RB Robert Smith for 15 yards. Smith then knifed up the middle for eight more yards, setting up a second-and-two.

More Smith on the next snap. The slashing Viking running back found a hole around left tackle for a 14-yard pickup. A pass interference penalty on S Damien Robinson continued the Vikings' inexorable march downfield, resulting in a 13-yard gain to the Bucs' 24.

Safety John Lynch blitzed on the next play and was there to meet RB Moe Williams on the Vikings' draw play. Lynch and Quarles stopped Williams for a loss of one, and the Vikings then called a timeout before the next snap.

The next pass was intended for Hatchette but got on him too fast and was incomplete. The Bucs blitzed on third down and still managed to stop a screen pass to Smith for no gain. The Vikings then converted with Gary Anderson's 42-yard field goal. Minnesota 20, Tampa Bay 10.

Tampa Bay's First Drive

RB Aaron Stecker gave the Bucs good field position for their first drive with a 25-yard return to the Bucs' 31.

The drive kept up the momentum when QB Shaun King hit WR Jacquez Green for 13 yards (Green's seventh catch of the game) and a personal foul penalty tacked on 15 more. With a first down at the Vikings' 41, King went to Green again, picking up another 18 yards.

The all-Green drive continued on the next snap when King rolled right and threw a comebacker to the speedy receiver for 10 more yards to the Vikings' 13. The Bucs went away from the formula on the next snap, throwing to Keyshawn Johnson, but the pass went over his head.

After a false start penalty, the Bucs, were backed into a second-and-15 and a draw play to Warrick Dunn lost two yards. Another pass to Green picked up six yards but not another set of downs. The Bucs settled for Gramatica's 33-yard field goal. Minnesota 20, Tampa Bay 13.

Minnesota's Second Drive

The Vikings tried to go to the air on first down, but DE Marcus Jones got a one-yard sack when QB Duante Culpepper tried to scramble. Jones got another sack on the next play in a more conventional manner, enveloping Culpepper in the pocket for a loss of three. On third down, more solid coverage led Culpepper to take off again, but he picked up only two yards, forcing the Vikings' first punt of the day.

Mitch Berger, presumably well rested, hit a long, high kick, 53-yards downfield, but WR Andre Hastings made the most of his first punt return as a Buccaneer, bringing it back 16 yards to the 39.

Tampa Bay's Second Drive

The Bucs stuck to what was successful to start their next drive, throwing a quick slant to Green, who picked up 17 yards to the Minnesota 44. With good coverage downfield on the next play, King dumped the ball off to TE Patrick Hape, who picked up three yards. The Bucs then picked up a first down with a screen pass to Alstott, who picked up 15 yards to the Vikings' 26.

On first down, Dunn took a delayed handoff up the middle for four yards. King escaped what seemed like a certain sack on the next snap and scrambled left for a one-yard gain. On third-and-five, the Bucs came up to the line of scrimmage with the clock nearing zero and had to call a timeout.

The next play was rife with controversy. King lofted a touch pass towards Johnson, who was near the goal line. Though the ball fell incomplete in the end zone, the Bucs netted a first down on a pass interference penalty that infuriated the Viking crowd. At the same time, Tampa Bay was upset that a roughing-the-passer penalty wasn't called after a hard hit on King. King was hurt for a few seconds but got up and stayed in the game.

Alstott lost three yards on a first-carry when he found no opening in the middle and tried to spin to the outside. Dunn got those yards back on a delayed handoff on second down, but the Bucs still faced a third-and-goal from the two.

That play then blew up in the Bucs' face. A false start penalty threw the play into disarray, and King ended up spiking the ball near a Minnesota defender after he was taken to the ground. The resulting 15-yard penalty, pushed the Bucs back to the 17, and a pass to Dunn was just incomplete in the end zone. Gramatica salvaged some points with a 35-yard field goal.

Minnesota 20, Tampa Bay 16.

Minnesota's Third Drive

Carter returned Gramatica's resulting kickoff to the Vikings' 30.

Smith started the next drive with a four-yard run up the middle, and that ended the third quarter.

Fourth Quarter

For the third straight week, the Bucs came up just short in the final minutes. The Buccaneers actually took the lead early in the final period on a wild special teams play, but a Randy Moss touchdown turned the tide for Minnesota in a 30-23 Viking win.

Minnesota's First Drive

Starting with a second-and-six at their own 34, the Vikings first committed a false start to lose five yards. After RB Robert Smith picked up just one yard on a run up the middle, an all-out blitz by the Buccaneers resulted in Warren Sapp's 12-yard sack.

However, disaster followed for Tampa Bay. WR Andre Hastings fumbled on his second punt return of the day and the Vikings recovered at the Bucs' 39.

Minnesota's Second Drive

Smith tried the middle again on first down and lost a yard. However, a pass over the middle to Smith did pick up six yards. On third-and-five, Duante Culpepper's pass to WR Randy Moss was a little behind the receiver and he couldn't haul it in.

That brought K Gary Anderson in for a 51-yard field goal and it also brought a complete reversal of fortune for the Buccaneers. Sapp, who had nearly blocked a field goal earlier in the game, got this one and the ball bounced backwards just behind the kicker. CB Donnie Abraham recovered the ball on one bounce at a dead run and returned it 66 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Tampa Bay 23, Minnesota 20.

Minnesota's Third Drive

Carter, who had returned kicks strongly up the middle all night, did it again to get the Vikings out to their own 27.

The Bucs' defensive surge continued on the Vikings' first down. The Bucs showed blitz, causing Culpepper to audible. The Bucs' defense then shifted back and Culpepper couldn't find an open man. As he rolled left towards the line of scrimmage, CB Ronde Barber came up and trapped him for a five-yard sack.

The next pass, to Matthew Hatchette, netted just five yards, but a quick slant to WR Randy Moss on third-and-10 picked up 12 yards and a first down for the Vikings. Smith tried to sweep right on the next snap but lost one yard after fumbling and recovering the ball himself.

The Bucs came hard on the pass rush on the next snap but Culpepper had enough time to complete a 20-yard pass to WR Cris Carter. That put Minnesota at the Bucs' 42. It took one more play to get the ball in the end zone and it was to, of course, Moss.

Culpepper was nearly sacked but he got off the throw in time and Moss was sandwiched by two Bucs but he came down with the ball. Minnesota 27, Tampa Bay 23.

Tampa Bay's First Drive

RB Aaron Stecker was stopped at the Bucs' 18 on the resulting kickoff return. The Bucs got going right away, however, with a nine-yard swing pass to Alstott. Dunn eluded just enough tacklers on his own screen pass for four yards and a first down.

Dunn took a handoff on the next play and found a seam for 13 yards on the right side. WR Keyshawn Johnson nearly made an acrobatic reception over CB Cris Dishman on the left sideline on the next snap, but the ball fell incomplete. On second-and-ten, Johnson made a diving catch and held on for nine yards to the Vikings' 47.

On third and less than a yard, Alstott tried to pound it over left tackle but gained nothing. The Bucs elected to go for it on fourth down and nearly turned the game around.

Alstott took a pitch and swept right, then stopped and threw a halfback pass across the field to rookie TE Todd Yoder. Wide open, Yoder tripped trying to make the catch and the pass fell incomplete.

Minnesota's Fourth Drive

Picking up at their own 48 after the unsuccessful fourth down, the Vikings handed off to Smith, who got five yards up the middle. Culpepper then threw a sideline out to Cris Carter for 11 yards and a first down at the Bucs' 36.

After another Smith run for one yard, Culpepper tossed one in Moss' direction, and the receiver picked up 12 yards. On first down, Smith ran again for six yards, followed by a cutback run by the elusive back for eight yards and a first down at the Bucs' nine.

After the two-minute warning, Smith ran up the middle for a gain of three and the Bucs called a timeout. Culpepper tried to take it himself on a keeper around right end on the next snap but he was tackled from behind by Anthony McFarland at the two-yard line.

After another Buccaneer timeout, the Vikings tried Smith up the middle but he was stopped short, leading to a Viking field goal try from 19 yards. Anderson hit it for a seven-point Minnesota lead. Minnesota 30, Tampa Bay 23.

Tampa Bay's Second Drive

After Stecker's return to the Bucs' 23, the Bucs had less than a minute to work with. The first pass from King fell incomplete, but a fancy hook-and-lateral on second down picked up 30 yards. A pass to TE Dave Moore was good for four, but Moore pitched it to Dunn, who ran around the defense all the way to the Vikings' 47.

After a false start penalty, King completed a 16-yard pass to Johnson over the middle, then ran the offense up for a spike. The next pass nearly found Johnson inside the five, but S Orlando Thomas knocked the ball loose at the last instant.

King was sacked on third down, but the Bucs' offense got back quickly enough to get off one more snap. King eluded a quick rush and threw a high 'Hail Mary' pass to the front of the end zone. A horde of players fell down in a pile, but the pass was ruled incomplete, ending the game.

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