Rookie DT Chris Hovan, here trying to get around Jeff Christy, is one reason that Viking star John Randle is seeing more time at end than tackle
Two years ago, as has been repeated ad nauseam, the 3-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers knocked a 7-0 Minnesota Vikings squad from the ranks of the unbeatens. The scenario is the same this coming Sunday, but the Bucs won't be able to knock off the Vikings simply because they've done it before.
The Bucs, rest assured, will come into the showdown with a detailed game plan, and the first step in formulating that plan is to do some advanced scouting on the opposition. The Bucs had a man on the scene in Minnesota last Sunday as the Vikings rallied against Buffalo to stay unbeaten. Here are some of his thoughts, shared as always with Stadium Club members only.
· Defensive lineman John Randle remains one of the Vikings' most recognizable names, even if the team is considered, first and foremost, an offensive powerhouse. We chose that title for Randle because, as has been reported in some sports magazines, the defensive tackle by trade has been playing some snaps at end recently. Our scout, however, indicates that Randle is playing most of his snaps at end as the Vikings make an effort to give rookie DT Chris Hovan significant playing time. · The single most amazing thing about the Vikings' surprisingly strong season, to our scout, is the confidence and poise that second-year quarterback (and first-year starter) Daunte Culpepper has shown at all times. · In a related note, our scout had this to say about the Vikings as a whole: "The thing about Minnesota, what has allowed them to have so much success, is that they don't panic under pressure. They have learned that they can overcome problems, and that is what has made them so successful in the fourth quarter. They're confident they can make the plays at the end of the game when they need them." · The Vikings have adjusted fairly well to the loss of interior offensive linemen Jeff Christy and Randall McDaniel, even if they haven't yet found replacements that are quite as good as those two former Vikings. At center, the Vikings have handled the loss of Christy because new starter Matt Birk, while not as talented, has been solid and has played very consistently. Birk, a Harvard grad, is smart, knows his calls and makes adjustments well at the line of scrimmage. Minnesota has had to try a little harder to overcome the loss of Randall McDaniel, trying three different players out at left guard. Corbin Lacina, Chris Liewinski and Brad Badger have all tried their hand at that spot, but our scout believes the Vikings have settled on Lacina for the time being. · While in Minnesota, the Bucs' advance man also did some work on Buffalo, a Buccaneer opponent in late November. One thing to watch out for with the Bills, he reports, is that they do a good job of confusing defenses by constantly adjusting their personnel. Part of that is related to the fact that Buffalo has not settled on a specific running back for full-time duty. · On that subject, our scout believes Sammy Morris is the Bills' best running back option over Antowain Smith, Shawn Bryson or Jonathan Linton because Morris isn't one-dimensional. A good runner, Morris also has excellent hands as a receiving option.