Just how good has the Bucs' protection of QB Shaun King been this year?
Each week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' communications department prepares a lengthy release for distribution to local and national members of the media. The release previews the team's upcoming game and keeps an eye on team notes, stats and trends.
This comprehensive document is now available to the team's fans on Buccaneers.com. Each week, Buccaneers.com will post this release as a front-page story, sharing directly with the fans what used to be filtered through the media covering the team. The release for the Bucs' trip to Atlanta this Sunday (November 5) follows below.
TAMPA BAY (4-4) EYES THIRD ROAD WIN AS IT TRAVELS TO ATLANTA (3-6)
GAME INFORMATION Date: Sunday, November 5, 2000 Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. ET Site: Georgia Dome Records: Tampa Bay 4-4, Atlanta 3-6 Television: Fox. Play-By-Play: Kenny Albert, Color: Tim Green Bucs Radio: WQYK, Flagship station (99.5 FM, 1010 AM) Play-by-Play: Gene Deckerhoff; Color: Scot Brantley; Sideline: Tom Korun Spanish Radio: Mega 96.1 FM Play-by-Play: Neil Fernandez; Color: Mike Chavez
LAST GAME Bucs Spoil Minnesota's Perfect Season and Snap Four-Game Skid with 41-13 Win
The Bucs offense scored on each of its first four possessions as it snapped a four-game skid and ended Minnesota's 7-0 start before 65,589 fans at Raymond James Stadium. WR Keyshawn Johnson gave Tampa Bay a 7-0 lead on a nine-yard TD play following a Vikings fumble forced by DT Warren Sapp. Following a Minnesota FG, RB Warrick Dunn scored on a 23-yard pass from QB Shaun King, but Minnesota cut the lead to 14-10. The Bucs responded with 17 consecutive points, including LB Derrick Brooks' 34-yard interception return for a TD, for a 31-10 halftime lead. The Bucs defense forced three turnovers, leading to 21 points, and Tampa Bay did not attempt a punt for the first time since 1998. Tampa Bay gained 413 yards in total offense, including 152 on the ground. King set a career-high with four TDs and K Martin Gramatica extended his field goal streak to eight straight with two three-pointers. RB Warrick Dunn led the ground attack with 89 yards on 11 carries, while Johnson eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the first time in a Buccaneer uniform with six receptions for 121 yards. For the first time in club history, Tampa Bay scored 40-plus points in a game twice in the same season.
BUCCANEERS IN DOMED STADIUMS Tampa Bay travels to a domed stadium for the third time this season, owning a 1-1 mark thus far indoors. The Bucs downed Detroit 31-10 at the Silverdome on Sept. 17, but lost to Minnesota 30-23 at the Metrodome on Monday Night Football on Oct. 9. Tampa Bay is 7-8 in the regular season in domes over the last five seasons under head coach Tony Dungy.
DID YOU KNOW? The Bucs' 8.43 yards per play on Sunday against Minnesota was the best in team history, barely edging the 8.35 they recorded against Miami on 10/20/85.
SACK DIFFERENTIAL TOPS IN THE LEAGUE
Tampa Bay's defense has been racking up quarterback sacks at an alarming rate, but the offense has also done an excellent job of protecting QB Shaun King. The Bucs defense has notched an NFL-best 37 sacks, while the offensive line has allowed just 12 sacks. On the other hand, Atlanta has allowed the third-most sacks in the league (32) and its defense has notched just 19 on opposing quarterbacks. Tampa Bay's sack differential of plus-25 ranks tops in the league. A look at the top five teams in the league:
|Team||Sacks By||Sacks Allowed||Differential|
BUCS IN THE RANKINGS
Here is a look at where the Buccaneers rank in the team and individual rankings:
|Team Statistic||NFC Ranking||NFL Ranking|
|Total Offense (308.1 ypg)||9th||17th|
|Rushing Offense (116.4 ypg)||9th||17th|
|Passing Offense (191.8 ypg)||8th||18th|
|Total Defense (289.0 ypg)||3rd||7th|
|Rushing Defense (106.0 ypg)||6th||12th|
|Passing Defense (183.0 ypg)||5th||8th|
|Turnover Margin (+3)||4th||t10th|
|Third Downs (39.0%)||8th||13th|
|Third Down Defense (29.2%)||1st||2nd|
|Red Zone Scoring Pct. (100%)||1st||1st|
|Red Zone TD Pct. (63.6%)||4th||5th|
|Opponent Red Zone TD Pct. (30.4%)||2nd||4th|
|First Downs (145)||t10th||t20th|
|Opponent First Downs (129)||2nd||5th|
|Individual Statistic||NFC Ranking||NFL Ranking|
|Scoring - Alstott (30 points)||t10th||----|
|Kicking - Gramatica (65 points)||3rd||5th|
|Passing - King (80.2 rating)||6th||----|
|Punting - Royals (44.4 avg.)||3rd||----|
|Punt Returns - Williams (7.8 avg.)||8th||----|
|Interceptions - Abraham (4)||t3rd||t4th|
|Sacks – Sapp (10.5)||3rd||4th|
|Sacks – Jones (10.0)||4th||5th|
|Sacks - Barber (5.5)||t10th||----|
|Sacks - McFarland (5.5)||t10th||----|
BUCCANEERS-FALCONS SERIES NOTES
HEAD-TO-HEAD (Regular Season): The series is tied 8-8, but Tampa Bay has won each of the last two meetings, including a 19-10 victory in Tampa last season. Neither club has won more than two games in a row in the series. Tampa Bay captured the last meeting in Atlanta, 31-10 at the Georgia Dome (11/9/97). The two teams first met in 1977, with Atlanta notching a 17-0 win at Tampa Stadium (11/27/77). The Bucs picked up their first win the next season, a 14-9 win that evened Tampa Bay's record at 2-2, marking the first time the club hit the .500 mark. The Bucs' biggest win in the series - a 48-10 home victory to open the 1987 season - represents the most points ever scored by a Buccaneer squad. Tampa Bay's first of two road wins was a 31-24 win in 1993. Overall, Tampa Bay is 21-42 versus the NFC West, including only 8-26 on the road. The Bucs own a modest one-game winning streak over each of the other four NFC West teams.
- Bucs' longest winning streak: 2, (twice), last 11/9/97-current - Falcons' longest winning streak: 2 (twice),last 10/9/94-10/22/95 - Bucs' home record: 6-4 - Falcons' home record: 4-2
LAST MEETING: Tampa Bay 19, Atlanta 10 (11/21/99) - Tampa Bay, thanks to a 4-1 mark at Raymond James Stadium, moved into a tie for first place in the NFC Central after a 19-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons before a delirious crowd of 65,158. The Bucs rallied to score 10 points in the final 58 seconds, overcoming their first fourth-quarter deficit of the season. Tampa Bay was sluggish at the outset. The offense netted zero yards in the first quarter, while the defense allowed the Falcons to march down the field on their first two possessions. WR Tim Dwight took a handoff and scampered eight yards for a TD, then K Morten Andersen booted a 28-yard FG to give Atlanta a 10-0 first-quarter lead. But the Bucs' defense clamped down, while the offense started chipping away. Martin Gramatica booted FGs of 24 and 26 yards to cut the lead to 10-6 at the half. Tampa Bay wouldn't cross midfield again until the fourth quarter, but Gramatica hit a 50-yarder to slice the deficit to one. The Bucs got the ball back with 3:45 left and marched to the Falcons 34. Gramatica calmly drilled his fourth FG -- a career-long 53-yarder - with 58 seconds left. Dwight returned the ensuing kickoff to the Falcons 36. But three plays later, CB Donnie Abraham intercepted Chris Chandler and ran 47 yards for his first career TD. The win was the Bucs' second at home that season without an offensive TD.
SERIES HIGHLIGHTS: RB Haskel Stanback runs for two TDs, leading the Falcons to 17-0 win at Tampa Stadium (11/27/77)…QB Doug Williams hits TE Jim Obradovich on a 15-yard TD toss, lifting Tampa Bay to a 14-9 win (9/24/78)…Williams connects with WR Kevin House on a 71-yard scoring strike, rallying the Bucs to a 24-23 win (12/6/81)...The win vaults them into first place in the NFC Central race…RB James Wilder runs for 125 yards and one score, leading Tampa Bay to 23-6 win in John McKay's second-to-last game as Bucs head coach (12/9/84)…QB Steve DeBerg sets a club record with five TD passes, igniting a season-opening 48-10 win (9/13/87)…DeBerg throws for 333 yards, connecting with eight different receivers…Falcons rack up 33 points in the second quarter en route to a 43-7 win (11/17/91), the Bucs' last game at Fulton County Stadium…Tampa Bay jumps out to 31-3 lead and holds on for 31-24 win in its initial appearance at Georgia Dome (10/31/93)…WR Horace Copeland catches two TD passes for 104 yards…Morten Andersen boots a 30-yard FG with 7:18 left, giving Atlanta a 24-21 victory (10/22/95).
CAREER STATISTICS VERSUS ATLANTA: FB Mike Alstott - 26 carries, 125 yards RB Warrick Dunn - 25 carries, 120 yards, 1TD WR Jacquez Green - 5 catches, 75 yards WR Keyshawn Johnson - 2 catches, 20 yards, 1 TD DE Chidi Ahanotu - 17 tackles, 2 sacks LB Derrick Brooks - 29 tackles, 1 sack S John Lynch - 28 tackles DT Warren Sapp - 7 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 interception return for a touchdown
Falcons QB coach Steve DeBerg played QB for the Bucs from 1984-87 and 1992-93...Atlanta QB Chris Chandler played for the Bucs in 1990 and 1991…Falcons DL coach Bill Kollar played for the Bucs from 1977-81 and was an assistant DL coach with the team in 1984...Bucs assistant head coach/defensive backs coach Herman Edwards played in three games for Atlanta in 1986…S John Lynch played at Stanford with Falcons T Bob Whitfield…C/LS Morris Unutoa played at BYU with Falcons DT Travis Hall and G Evan Pilgrim…QB Eric Zeier played at Georgia and is from Marietta, Ga...Atlanta secondary coach Greg Brown was an assistant coach with the Bucs from 1984-87...Bucs WRs Reidel Anthony and Jacquez Green (who hails from Fort Valley, Ga.) played at Florida with Falcons QB Doug Johnson and CB Elijah Williams...Atlanta S Marty Carter was drafted by the Bucs in 1991 and played with the club from 1991-94...CB Ronde Barber played at Virginia with Falcons DE Patrick Kerney...Atlanta P Dan Stryzinski was a member of the Bucs from 1992-94…Falcons LB Henri Crockett and QB Danny Kanell went to Florida State…LB Don Davis went to Kansas with Falcons S Gerald McBurrows...Bucs QB Joe Hamilton played at Georgia Tech from 1996-99 and finished second in last year's Heisman Trophy balloting.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Here are a few things to keep an eye on this Sunday:
- The Bucs defense has an-NFL best 37 sacks while the Falcons have allowed 32 sacks, third-worst in the league.
- Atlanta's defense has 19 sacks, while Tampa Bay's offense has yielded just 12 quarterback sacks, including only three in the last three games.
- The Falcons defense (13 INTs), led by Ray Buchanan (5 INTs) and Ashley Ambrose (4 INTs), faces Bucs QB Shaun King, who has thrown an NFC-low six interceptions this season.
- Tampa Bay has already blocked two punts and three field goals this season, while Atlanta has yet to have a kick blocked.
- The winner of the last seven Bucs-Falcons games has averaged 31 points. In addition, the winning team in seven of the last eight meetings has scored 23 or more points.
OFFENSE BACK ON TRACK
After a blazing start in September, Tampa Bay's offense attack struggled in the month of October until rebounding in last Sunday's 41-13 win over the NFC Central-leading Minnesota Vikings. Here is a comparison of Tampa Bay's offense in its four wins and its four losses:
|Category||Four Wins||Four Losses|
|Total Yards Per Game||342.0||275.0|
|Rushing Yards Per Game||142.0||91.0|
|Passing Yards Per Game||208.0||195.0|
|Third Down Conversions||24/51 - 47%||15/49 - 33%|
|Points off Turnovers||52||21|
In Tampa Bay's last visit to the Georgia Dome and the artificial turf, Tampa Bay's running attack, featuring RB Warrick Dunn (76 yards) and FB Mike Alstott (77 yards), sliced through the Falcons defense to combine for 153 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the Buccaneers' 31-10 win over the Falcons in 1997. Both Alstott (47-yard TD run) and Dunn (24-yard TD run) posted big first-half scores to pace the attack.
Tampa Bay is hopeful for similar results this Sunday after Dunn and Alstott combined for 145 rushing yards in the win over the Vikings. Dunn, who had a team-high 89 rushing yards on just 11 carries (8.1 avg.), posted the team's longest run from scrimmage this season with a 36-yard run that set up a Dave Moore 20-yard TD reception. Alstott grinded out 56 rushing yards on just 10 carries, keeping the potent Vikings' offense off the field in the second half. Under Bucs head coach Tony Dungy, Tampa Bay is 33-10 when rushing for more than 100 yards.
A KING'S RANSOM
Poise, character and leadership: Second-year QB Shaun King defined all those adjectives en route to leading the Buccaneers to a dominating 41-13 rout over the previously undefeated Minnesota Vikings last Sunday. King, instrumental in snapping the Bucs' four-game losing skid, recorded the finest outing of his pro career. He rebounded from a career-worst three interceptions in an October 19 loss to the Detroit Lions by completing 16-of-23 passes for 267 yards and a career-high four touchdown passes with no interceptions, finishing with a quarterback rating of 148.0. The four touchdown passes tied for the second-best single-game effort in franchise history (Steve DeBerg, 5 TD passes vs. Atlanta, 9/13/87). It also marked the most touchdown passes thrown by a Buccaneer signal-caller since QB Craig Erickson threw four touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons (10/31/93). Three of the touchdown passes came on the Bucs' first three possessions and King marched Tampa Bay to scores on seven of his nine possessions. The Bucs scored on seven of 10 drives overall. Of the three possessions the Bucs did not convert, one ended when King took a knee at the end of the first half and another on the final drive of game when QB Eric Zeier took over the reins at quarterback. The lone other drive that was not converted was a failed fourth down conversion in the fourth quarter. Tampa Bay also received stellar contributions from RB Warrick Dunn (89 rushing yards, 23-yard TD reception) and WR Keyshawn Johnson (six catches, 121 yards and one TD), but it was King who energized a Tampa Bay offensive attack that racked up 413 yards in total offense en route to tying a club-record with 31 first-half points. King capitalized early, escorting the Bucs to the end zone on their opening drive of the game for the first time this season. He also became the club's first signal-caller to lead the Bucs to a pair of 40-plus point games in the same season.
How important is it for King to thrive in the Tampa Bay's offensive attack? Well in the Bucs case, it's a tale of two different seasons. In the Bucs' four wins, King has completed 57.1% of his passes and recorded a stellar passer rating of 111.4. In the team's four losses, King has completed only 52.6% of his throws and rang up a passer rating of 56.8. Eight of his 10 touchdown passes have occurred in Buccaneer victories, and none of his six interceptions.
FEARSOME FRONT FOUR
Bolstered by a deep rotation that features a plethora of talented pass rushers, Tampa Bay's defensive line is on a torrid sack pace this season. Tampa Bay can boast an NFL-best 37 sacks, well on its way to breaking the record of 44 set in 1997. The Buccaneers, on pace for an astounding 74 sacks, have a chance to break the all-time NFL mark of 72 sacks by the 1984 Chicago Bears.
Spearheaded by a defensive front four featuring LDE Chidi Ahanotu, DT Warren Sapp, NT Anthony McFarland and RDE Marcus Jones, Tampa Bay's defensive line can boast 30.5 of the club's 37 sacks. The Bucs defense, which continues to be one of the league's most dangerous units, ranks seventh overall (eighth in passing, 12th in rushing). The defensive line is anchored by Sapp, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, who has racked up 10.5 sacks in his first eight games. Sapp, who also leads the defensive line with 38 tackles and three stops for losses, had one of the finest outings of the season, racking up nine tackles and two sacks against the Lions. In addition, Sapp recorded two blocked field goals in consecutive weeks (at Washington and at Minnesota), one which resulted in CB Donnie Abraham's return for a touchdown at Minnesota.
Jones, who was inserted into the starting lineup prior to the season opener, set a club record with a four-sack performance against the Lions. Prior to the 1999 season, Jones had just one sack during his first three injury-plagued NFL seasons. Injury-free for the first time in his career, coupled with a position change from tackle to end, Jones had the fresh outlook he needed by notching a then-career-high seven sacks last season. The other new starter on the defensive line is McFarland, who in his first season as a starter has registered 5.5 sacks along side Sapp. He racked up a career-high 2.5 sacks at Detroit and followed three weeks later with a personal-best seven-tackle effort at Minnesota. Ahanotu, the veteran leader of the defensive front, has nicely solidified the left side, posting 33 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
Quarterbacks Second-year pro Shaun King is in his first full season as the starter after starting seven games last season, including two playoff contests. He is 8-5 as a starter in the regular season. Under a new offensive scheme, King has completed 125-of-229 passes for 1,593 yards with 10 touchdowns and an NFC-low six interceptions. King has also rushed for three scores. Eric Zeier is the backup QB and the Bucs also have Georgia Tech All-America QB Joe Hamilton.
Running Backs The tandem of FB Mike Alstott and RB Warrick Dunn combined for more than 1,500 yards on the ground last season. Alstott, who leads the Bucs with 395 rushing yards, already has a team-best five rushing scores and is tied for 10th in the NFC in scoring with 30 points. Dunn, who found the end zone on the ground for the first time since 1998 in Week Three at Detroit, ranks second with 366 yards. Dunn rushed for a team-high 89 yards and added a 23-yard TD catch against Minnesota. NFL Europe Offensive MVP Aaron Stecker has been Dunn's primary backup, while also serving as Tampa Bay's top kickoff returner. RB Rabih Abdullah has seen action on special teams in each of the last three games.
Wide Receivers Tampa Bay signed two-time Pro Bowl WR Keyshawn Johnson to an eight-year deal just before the draft and he has not disappointed. Johnson has caught a team-best 38 passes, including 25 for first downs, with two touchdowns. Johnson notched his first 100-yard receiving game as a Buccaneer last week against Minnesota, hauling in six passes for 121 yards and a TD. In four seasons with the Jets, Johnson corralled 305 passes, 31 for TDs. Jacquez Green has emerged as Tampa Bay's big-play receiver and leads the Bucs with 512 yards receiving on 29 catches. Green, who set a career-high with 11 catches (for 131 yards) at Minnesota, is on pace to become the club's first 1,000-yard receiver since Mark Carrier in 1989. Reidel Anthony (89 receptions over the last two-plus seasons), who leads the squad with three touchdown catches, Karl Williams (99 career catches) and veteran Andre Hastings (226 career receptions with Pittsburgh and New Orleans) round out the receiving corps.
Tight Ends In his eighth season with the club, Dave Moore is the starter at tight end. His 19 career TD catches rank fifth on the Bucs' all-time list. Patrick Hape is in his fourth season with the club as a back-up TE and also sees action in the backfield as Alstott's backup. The Bucs also added Todd Yoder, who made the team as a rookie free agent out of Vanderbilt.
Offensive Line The Bucs have a new left side of the line in T Pete Pierson and 11-time Pro Bowler Randall McDaniel, who spent his previous 12 seasons with Minnesota, at LG. Fellow Viking Jeff Christy, a two-time Pro Bowler, is the new C. The right side remains intact with Frank Middleton at RG and Jerry Wunsch at RT. DeMarcus Curry also returns as a back-up tackle on the right side. T George Hegamin has alternated with Pierson on the left side. Todd Washington backs up Christy. Kevin Dogins and second-round pick Cosey Coleman are reserve guards. The line opened the 2000 season with a strong showing at New England, springing the running game to 140 yards and allowing just one quarterback sack. The unit followed that performance with another outstanding game versus Chicago, aiding a ground attack that gained 156 yards with two touchdowns. In Week Three at Detroit, the unit allowed no sacks and helped the offense gain 331 yards in total offense. Last week against Minnesota, the line paved the way for 413 yards in total offense, including 152 rushing, and gave up just one sack. The Bucs have allowed just 12 sacks after allowing 24 in the first eight games last season.
Defensive Line The defensive line is anchored by DT Warren Sapp, who earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors from the Associated Press last year. Sapp, who is third in the NFC and fourth in the NFL with 10.5 sacks this season, is closing in on the team record of 13 sacks by Lee Roy Selmon in 1977. DE Chidi Ahanotu has notched 33 tackles and 2.5 sacks thus far, while DE Steve White has one sack on the year. DE Marcus Jones, who ranks second on the squad with 10 sacks this year (fourth in the NFC), has moved into a starting spot opposite Ahanotu and established a club record with four sacks versus Detroit in Week 7. DT Anthony McFarland, who replaced veteran Brad Culpepper, starts alongside Sapp and has totaled 5.5 sacks, tied for 10th in the NFC. DT James Cannida, DE/DT Tyoka Jackson and DE John McLaughlin all provide solid depth on the line.
Linebackers Weak-side LB Derrick Brooks has paced the club with 91 tackles, leading or tying for the team lead in five of the first eight contests. The three-time Pro Bowler earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors after a 16-tackle performance at New England in Week One and scored his first career touchdown last week on a 34-yard interception return for a score against Minnesota. Starting SLB Shelton Quarles is sixth on the team with 39 tackles and third-year pro Jamie Duncan has moved into the starting MLB slot, vacated by Hardy Nickerson. Third-round pick Nate Webster, who impressed the coaching staff in the preseason, backs up Duncan. Tampa Bay re-signed Al Singleton, who blocked a punt in the win over Detroit. Special teams standout Jeff Gooch, who leads the team with 13 special teams stops, also serves in a back-up capacity.
Secondary All-Pro SS John Lynch, in his fifth year as a starter, ranks second on the squad with 56 tackles on the year. FS Damien Robinson has notched 45 tackles, third-best on the squad, and his two interceptions are second-best on the defense. LCB Donnie Abraham ranks tied for third in the NFC and tied for fourth in the NFL with a team-high four interceptions. Abraham also returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown at Minnesota. RCB Ronde Barber has made several big plays, including a fumble return for a score against Chicago and an interception return for a TD versus the Jets. Barber has added 5.5 quarterback sacks, tied for 10th in the NFC. Brian Kelly joins the unit in the nickel set. CB Floyd Young backs up Abraham. Second-year S Dexter Jackson saw his first action of the year versus the Jets after suffering a left ankle sprain against Miami in the preseason. Sixth-round draft pick David Gibson serves as a backup at safety and is a solid special teams player.
Special Teams K Martin Gramatica, who set club records for single-season points (106) and FGs (27) a year ago, has made all 23 of his PATs and is 14-18 on field goals in 2000. He has nailed eight straight three-pointers, including a game-tying 42-yarder on the final play of regulation at Washington and three at Minnesota. He also booted a career-long 55-yarder (tops in the NFL this season) against Detroit and his 65 points ranks third in the NFC and fifth in the NFL. P Mark Royals, who has averaged 44.4 yards per punt this year (third-best in the NFC), ranked third in the NFC in gross average (43.1 to set a Bucs' single-season mark) last season. WRs Hastings and Williams return punts, while RB Stecker is the Bucs' top kickoff returner with a 23.4 kickoff return average.
The Buccaneers are relatively healthy entering this week's game against the Falcons. LB Don Davis (left shoulder sprain) and RB Aaron Stecker (right quadriceps contusion) suffered injuries in Sunday's win over the Vikings, but did not miss any action. LB Shelton Quarles, who missed the Detroit Lions contest, re-aggravated his right groin in the second quarter and did not return. CB Donnie Abraham suffered a minor hip injury, but returned and recorded a second half interception. Davis and Quarles may miss some practice time in the early part of the week.
Tampa Bay head coach Tony Dungy is in his fifth season with the Bucs, boasting a franchise-best 39-33 regular-season mark (2-2 postseason). Last year the Bucs captured their first NFC Central Division title in 18 years with a franchise-best 11-5 mark. Tampa Bay won eight of its last nine games to secure the crown, aided by a club-record 7-1 home mark. The Bucs also advanced to their second-ever NFC Championship Game. Prior to an 8-8 campaign in 1998, Dungy guided Tampa Bay to a 10-6 record in 1997 and first playoff win since 1979. For his efforts, he was named Professional Coach of the Year by the Maxwell Football Club. Dungy also won the Horrigan Award, given annually by the Pro Football Writers' Association to the NFL's most cooperative head coach. Dungy arrived in Tampa following 15 years as an NFL assistant, the last four as defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings. He was the Chiefs' DBs coach from 1989-91 and spent the previous eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the last five as defensive coordinator. Dungy played two seasons for the Steelers as a DB before concluding his playing career with the San Francisco 49ers. He paced Pittsburgh with six interceptions in 1978 as the Steelers captured Super Bowl XIII, a 35-31 win over Dallas. Dungy, 45, is a 1976 graduate of the University of Minnesota, where he played QB and earned a degree in business administration.
Dan Reeves, the NFL's winningest active coach with 180 victories, is in his fourth year as Falcons head coach after previous stints as head coach of the Broncos and Giants. Reeves led Atlanta to its first-ever Super Bowl appearance in 1998. He boasts a 29-28 record as Falcons head coach and an overall record of 180-142-1, spanning nearly 20 seasons. Reeves led Denver to three Super Bowls, five AFC West titles and six playoff appearances. He led the Giants to the postseason in his initial year at the helm. Reeves launched his coaching career as an assistant with Dallas. He played for the Cowboys for seven years (1965-71), participating in Super Bowls V and VI.
Offensive Explosion: The Bucs scored 41 points on Sunday against Minnesota, giving Tampa Bay 40-plus points in a game twice in the same season for the first time in club history (also 41 points vs. Chicago on Sept. 10). In fact, over the first 24 seasons in franchise history, the Bucs scored 40 or more points just three times. With its 31-point outburst in the first half Sunday, Tampa Bay also tied the club record for most points in a half. The Bucs also scored 31 points in the first half of a 34-19 victory over Chicago on December 22, 1996 in Tampa.
More Offensive Fireworks: Tampa Bay has scored 205 points in the first eight games, the best total to open a season in club history. In fact, the 205 points has already eclipsed the totals for an entire season of four previous Buccaneer teams (including the 1982 strike season). In addition, the Bucs put 72 points on the board versus Chicago and Detroit, the best back-to-back performance in team history. The Bucs are on pace to score 410 points, which would shatter the team record of 335 points set by the 1984 team.
Defense Leads to Offense: The Bucs defense was largely responsible for 21 of Tampa Bay's points Sunday against Minnesota, thanks to several big plays. DT Warren Sapp sacked QB Daunte Culpepper, forcing a fumble which was recovered by DE Marcus Jones. The play led to Shaun King's first touchdown pass. LB Derrick Brooks then found the end zone for the first time in his career when he returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. CB Donnie Abraham then grabbed his team-high fourth interception of the year in the fourth quarter and the offense followed with King's fourth touchdown pass of the game. For the season, the Bucs have forced 17 turnovers leading to 73 points, an average of 9.1 points per game, a pace that would better last year's impressive numbers. A year ago the Bucs defense forced 31 turnovers, which led to 90 points for an average of 5.6 points per game. Over the previous three games, against Washington, Minnesota and Detroit; Tampa Bay's defense had forced just three turnovers, leading to 14 points.
Good Start: With a touchdown on its opening drive Sunday versus Minnesota, Tampa Bay scored seven points on its initial possession for the first time in eight games this season. It marked the second straight game that the Bucs put points on the board on their first offensive series after converting a field goal on their first drive against Detroit. The Bucs scored on each of their first four possessions against the Vikings before taking a knee on their final drive before halftime.
Brooks Hits Paydirt: For the first time in his career, LB Derrick Brooks found himself in the end zone when he returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter against Minnesota. The score was the third by the Bucs defense this season, including the second interception return (also CB Ronde Barber versus the New York Jets) for a touchdown.
Key to the Offense: WR Keyshawn Johnson made a big impact on the Bucs offense, reeling in six catches for 121 yards and one TD. The 121 yards marks Johnson's first 100-yard game as a Buccaneer and his teams are now 14-4 over the last three seasons when he scores a touchdown. With his catch on Tampa Bay's first offensive play, Johnson continued his streak of at least one catch in every game (72 games, including two playoff contests) of his NFL career.
Déjà Vu: For the second time in the last three seasons, a 7-0 Vikings team traveled to Tampa, only to leave with their first loss of the season. The 1998 Bucs spoiled Minnesota's perfect season with a 27-24 victory on November 1. That game also marked the last time that Tampa Bay played an entire game without punting. The Bucs did not attempt a punt Sunday versus Minnesota.
Sack Attack: DE Marcus Jones and DT Warren Sapp have been terrorizing opposing quarterbacks all season, and the first series of the Minnesota game was no different. Sapp sacked Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Jones. The Bucs offense capitalized two plays later as QB Shaun King found WR Keyshawn Johnson for a nine-yard score.
You Say Red, I Say Green: The Bucs continued their outstanding success inside the red zone under new offensive coordinator Les Steckel (who calls it the Green Zone). In eight games, the Buccaneers are a perfect 22-22 inside the 20, including 14 touchdowns for a scoring percentage of 100% and a touchdown rate of 63.6%. Tampa Bay was 3-3 with two touchdowns and a field goal inside the Green Zone against Minnesota and remains the only team in the NFL to have scored on every possession inside the 20 this season.
Last season Tampa Bay scored points on 34 of its 45 trips inside the red zone (75.6%), but only scored a touchdown on 15 of the 45 times (33.3%). In fact, Tampa Bay's 14 touchdowns have been scored by seven different players (Alstott - 4, King - 3, Anthony - 2, Johnson - 2, Dunn, McDaniel and Moore).
Block Party: Tampa Bay has shown a propensity for blocking kicks, especially over the last few games. The Bucs blocked two kicks in the second Detroit game, thanks to LB Nate Webster's second quarter punt block and DE Marcus Jones' block of Jason Hanson's 40-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter. LB Al Singleton blocked a punt in the first matchup versus Detroit and CB Ronde Barber tipped a punt in the same game. In addition, DT Warren Sapp blocked field goal attempts at Washington and at Minnesota. Sapp had a key block of a Michael Husted attempt late in the game at Washington and a block in the third quarter at Minnesota that CB Donnie Abraham returned for a touchdown. The return for a touchdown marked the first blocked FG return for a touchdown since Sept. 24, 1978, when Mike Washington returned one 79 yards versus Atlanta in overtime. Sapp became the first Buccaneer since Hardy Nickerson in 1997 to block two field goal attempts in the same season. For the season, Tampa Bay has blocked three field goals and two punts, as well as tipping one punt.
More Notes from the Minnesota Game: The Bucs gained 413 yards in total offense, their first time over 400 yards since they gained 428 yards vs. Detroit (11/22/98)…Tampa Bay allowed just one quarterback sack and has given up only three sacks in the last three games…RB Warrick Dunn's 36-yard run in the second quarter was the longest by a Buccaneer this year…Dunn rushed for 89 yards, the most on the ground for a Buc this season…The only punt of the game, by the Vikings, occurred with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter…The Bucs and Vikings have now split the season series in each of the last eight seasons (1993-2000)…Tampa Bay has now won three straight at home against Minnesota…The Bucs have now won seven of their last nine NFC Central games…Tampa Bay has also won seven of its last eight home divisional games...Minnesota QB Daunte Culpepper's 302 yards passing marked the first time in the last 18 games that the Bucs defense has allowed more than 300 yards via the air (last by Brett Favre on 10/10/99)...Culpepper was held to just 5.5 yards per attempt as he was forced to throw a season-high 53 times.
Jones Sets Club Single-Game Mark: DE Marcus Jones established a team single-game record and surpassed his career-high for a season with four sacks against the Lions. Jones, who had a then career-best seven sacks in 16 games last season and entered this season with only eight quarterback sacks in 53 career games, now has notched 10 sacks in just eight games in 2000. A Buccaneer player had registered three sacks in a game on 15 occasions prior to the Detroit game. Jones currently ranks fourth in the NFC with the 10 sacks.
Automatica Gramatica: K Martin Gramatica is following a record-setting rookie season with an excellent sophomore campaign. Gramatica, a third-round selection out of Kansas State prior to last season, has converted on his last eight field goal attempts, including two from 50-plus yards against Detroit two weeks ago. Gramatica nailed a career-long 55-yarder in the fourth quarter, tying K Donald Igwebuike (55-yarder at Minnesota, 11/30/86) for the second-longest in club history (Michael Husted holds Bucs record with 57-yard FG at L.A. Raiders, 12/19/93). The kick was the longest FG in the NFL this season. Gramatica is also one of just two kickers to nail two 50-yard FGs in a game this season, joining Cary Blanchard of Arizona. Gramatica became the lone kicker in the league to connect on two attempts of more than 50 yards in the same game twice over the past two seasons.
Green Means Go: WR Jacquez Green, a third-year pro from Florida, has become the big play receiver for Tampa Bay. Green leads the club with 512 receiving yards (on 29 receptions) and an impressive 17.7 yards per catch average. He is on pace to become the club's first 1,000-yard receiver since Mark Carrier in 1989. Green set a career-high with 11 catches (for 131 yards) at Minnesota. The 11 catches in the Monday night contest are the most ever for a Buccaneer wide receiver and were just two shy of the franchise single-game mark of 13 by James Wilder against Minnesota (9/15/85). Green, who had 12 catches in Tampa Bay's first five games, nearly equaled that with his outstanding performance on Monday Night Football.
Special Teams Sets Tone: The Bucs produced some big plays on kickoff coverage against Minnesota, keeping the Vikings inside the 28-yard line on all eight of their kickoffs. Minnesota's average drive following a Tampa Bay kickoff was the 21.5 yard line. Entering the game, the Vikings had begun their drives following kickoffs at the 28.7 yard line. LB Jeff Gooch paced the Bucs with two tackles and now has a team-leading 13 special teams stops on the year.
FB Mike Alstott "We believed in ourselves with the leadership and confidence we had as a team. It was going to take a little time, but once we started clicking, we got it done. We have to work with what the defense gives us. We took the challenge and ran with it. We had no self-doubt in the past, we only hurt ourselves and turned the ball over. We have started to click now and that is what we needed."
C Jeff Christy "It is one of those games where everything went right. We only had to make a couple of corrections to get out of those bad situations. It was basically our season. 3 and 5 in the NFC would have been a very hard road. We are playing together as a team now. It was everybody. It all seemed to click."
S John Lynch "The only way to get your confidence back is to win one. We did that. The mindset was to play fundamental football. We paid attention to detail this week. You could see that. We needed a win badly, it just feels real good."
DT Warren Sapp "The key to the game was stopping the run. What came back to haunt us the last four games was people running the ball. Someone told me the offense had 19 snaps and I looked at the scoreboard and we had 31 points. I'll take that."