DE Simeon Rice, the only Buc to record a sack on Sunday, says the Bucs will bounce back fast from their loss
RB Warrick Dunn touched the ball on 16 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first 40 plays in Minnesota on Sunday, so it's a good bet he would have played a role in the Bucs' crucial final two drives of the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately for Dunn and the Bucs, the explosive running back watched those last two marches from the sideline, his helmet under his left arm.
Actually, Dunn was in the locker room during the Bucs' penultimate drive, getting an X-ray examination on his right foot. Those were somewhat tense moments for the Buccaneers, who expect their diminutive scatback to be a major part of their offense this season.
It was good news, then, that Dunn was back on the sideline to watch the last drive, after X-rays were negative for a break of any kind. He has been diagnosed with a foot contusion and will be re-evaluated Monday morning in regard to his availability next week. Prevailing opinion seems to be that Dunn will not miss much time.
Dunn actually sustained the injury several minutes before going out of the game, early in the same drive on which he eventually scored the Bucs' only touchdown of the afternoon. After sitting out three plays in the middle of the march, Dunn came back in despite the pain and made two nice cuts on his six-yard touchdown run.
The contusion is on the top of Dunn's foot, near the big toe. He was not on crutches or wearing any kind of brace after the game.
The following thoughts were gathered in the Buccaneers' locker room minutes after Sunday's game ended.
S John Lynch on TE Byron Chamberlain's game-breaking, 35-yard catch late in the fourth quarter: "They ran a bootleg and Derrick (Brooks) did a great job of picking it up. Daunte kind of threw it out there and Donnie (Abraham) came over, but Daunte threw it over our heads. It tipped away from Donnie and Chamberlain was there and he made the play.
"We had opportunities to get off the field, but we didn't do it. Then it came down to that play with Chamberlain – they made a play that really hurt us. That's football. You don't like teams to go 96 (yards) on you. We talked a lot about that in the offseason. We have done that a couple of times, giving up leads in the fourth quarter. That is not something we feel is a characteristic of our defense. So we are going to go back and continue to work."
Head Coach Tony Dungy on the game's big plays, particularly those turned in by opposing QB Daunte Culpepper: "We had some chances. We got ahead and could not get them stopped. We couldn't make the big plays to win the game. We had the ball with a chance to go up by 10 and we didn't do it. Defensively, we just had a tough time. Culpepper made a lot of big plays throughout the day, getting away from the pressure and moving around. We just didn't quite play well enough.
"He moved away, he audibled, he got them into the right plays. He was patient. Every time they needed a big play, he would get it. He was the difference in the game."
DE Simeon Rice on whether the Bucs' defense was worn down by being on the field for almost 37 minutes: "They were on the field, too. We were prepared for this, we had planned for this situation since the preseason, the two-minute situation. I don't think (fatigue) was too much of a factor. I think what it was was that they were able to execute and help themselves out by making the big play. In the end, that's what won it for them. We're resolved to bounce back from this."
Dungy on the same issue: ""No. It was a long game and everybody expended a lot of energy on both sides of the field. It comes down to two or three plays that swing the thing, and they seemed to make them. We couldn't make the big third-down catch to keep a drive going. They made them, and that was the difference."
Lynch on the Vikings' patience with the short pass, given their usual preference to go vertical: "They had it in Daunte's mind to take what we were giving them. And he did a great job with that. He didn't go downfield much, but when they did they had the one big play to Moss and Chamberlain made that big play. And we had a couple of picks. Derrick and Ronde came up with some big picks, and we need some more of those."
Abraham on the same issue: "We anticipated that. They played two teams that played similar schemes to what we play. We knew they were going to be patient with this game. They were going to have to be patient if they were going to win, and they were."
Dungy on whether the Bucs considered kicking a field goal from the 36-yard line in the fourth quarter, after a holding penalty pushed the Bucs back 10 yards: "Had we just missed the third-and-one there, we would have kicked a field goal from there. We were trying to come up with a pass (on third-and-11) to get half of it back and get a field goal, but we were not able to do that."
Rice on whether the Bucs' 21-day layoff before Sunday's game hurt the team: "We don't use that as an excuse. We use it as a given. You're not in a game rhythm, but it's all relative to where you're at. You've got to play with what you have, and we were right there. We had a minute to go and we were leading in the game. We'll bounce back from this and we'll bounce back fast. It's a trial for us, a challenge. This game is all about challenges."
During the league's training camp period in July and August, the NFL sent teams of officials to every camp site in order to familiarize players with the league's new rules and initiatives.
No part of the officials' presentation was emphasized more heavily than the league's plan to crack down on taunting and unsportsmanlike behavior. While the league did not want to quash spontaneous celebrations or expressions of happiness, it did wish to remove the spectacle of players rubbing each others' noses in their failures.
The Bucs got a first-hand look at that new emphasis – reaped the benefits of it, in fact – on Sunday in the Metrodome. Minnesota CB Kenny Wright's taunting of Keyshawn Johnson after an incompletion near the Vikings' end zone drew a flag and gave the Bucs a first down at the six. Tampa Bay scored on the next play.
Later, Wright explained that his actions were motivated by supposed slights by Johnson during the week leading up to the game.
"You know, coming into the week, Keyshawn (Johnson) had been calling Robert Tate things in the paper," Wright explained. "He was out there talking the whole game, but he dropped the ball and I let him know about it a little bit. I didn't touch him, I didn't do anything – they just threw the flag. It was my mistake, though."
Dungy will address Dunn's injury, other issues from the Vikings game and where his team goes from here on Monday at an early-afternoon press conference. That press conference will be carried live on Buccaneers.com, beginning at 12:30 p.m. EDT. Look for the links to the video in the Broadcast Network tomorrow morning. A recording of the press conference will also be available on the home page later in the afternoon.