Despite an injured foot, RB Warrick Dunn clawed his way to 99 combined yards in the Bucs' narrow loss
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Warrick Dunn picked an opportune time to do something he hadn't done since 1997. Unfortunately, Daunte Culpepper of the Minnesota Vikings then did something he has been doing ever since he entered the league last year.
Nearly the league's MVP as a rookie in 2000, Culpepper drove the Vikings 96 yards for the winning touchdown in the game's final five minutes. After a stunning 37-yard catch by TE Byron Chamberlain in the final 90 seconds, Culpepper finished the drive himself with a designed scramble up the middle, diving in for the eight-yard score that gave Minnesota a 20-16 victory.
That dropped Tampa Bay to 1-1 and gave the 1-2 Vikings their first win of 2001.
Dunn's heroics had come just minutes earlier. After apparently injuring his right foot on the previous play, the fifth-year running back sliced off right guard for a six-yard touchdown. He went to the locker room immediately afterwards for an X-ray on the foot (results unavailable by the end of the game).
It was Dunn's first road touchdown since his rookie year of 1997. He had netted 10 touchdowns at home in the interim. The play was set up when the Bucs were the benefactors of a taunting penalty on a failed third down. CB Kenny Wright was flagged for taunting WR Keyshawn Johnson, as the officials held true to their preseason threat to invoke that rule more often.
Actually, the Bucs nearly used the game's last 59 seconds for their own rally, but QB Brad Johnson's pass from the Minnesota 18 in the final 20 seconds was batted into the air and intercepted by CB Eric Kelly. That was the Bucs' first turnover of the day and the first real blemish on Johnson's 20-of-34, 224-yard passing performance. Johnson also scrambled twice for 19 yards and avoided all but one Minnesota sack.
Culpepper, however, carried the day. Completing a career-high 30 passes for 322 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, the second-year passer converted Viking third downs again and again. The Vikings, in fact, were successful on nine of 12 third-down tries, while the Bucs' offense could convert only one of eight on the afternoon.
That statistic, as well as any, defined the Bucs' troubles on the day.
For instance, the Vikings' second-quarter field goal drive, which put the home team up, 10-3, faced five third downs and continued on past the first four. On three of those plays, Culpepper appeared to be engulfed by the Bucs' pass rush, only to get his throwing arm free for a saving dumpoff throw. The drive eventually took 10:27 off the clock, the longest Vikings drive in 16 years, in terms of time of possession.
By game's end, the Bucs had put continuous pressure on Culpepper but netted only one sack.
The Bucs actually scored first, as their first drive covered 47 yards but stalled at the Vikings' six. Johnson kept the drive alive with an 18-yard completion to Keyshawn Johnson on third-and-eight from the Vikings' 22, but the Minnesota defense then stiffened. Martin Gramatica converted with a 25-yard field goal, the first of three successful kicks on the day (also 49 and 25 yards).
Johnson, who caught a 21-yard pass on the Bucs' final, doomed drive, finished the game with 96 yards on seven receptions. Through two games, he has 14 catches for 167 yards.
Dunn was elusive before leaving with his injury, running 11 times for 65 yards and adding 34 yards on five receptions. He wasn't around for the Bucs' last two drives, however.
The Vikings' offensive stars were, however. On the drive before the 96-yard game-winner, after Simeon Rice had sacked Culpepper at the Vikings' 22, WR Cris Carter made a scintillating one-handed catch for 24 yards on a ball that was clearly overthrown. Tampa Bay ended that threat with CB Ronde Barber's interception, but were unable to turn the takeaway into any points. After stalling at the Vikings' 36, the Bucs punted deep into Minnesota territory, pinning the home team at its four. As it turns out, that wasn't deep enough.
The final Viking drive included another third-down conversion, a 14-yard catch by Randy Moss on third-and-one, and Chamberlain's key play. On Culpepper's last completion, his pass was lobbed towards Chamberlain on the right sideline. Three Buc defenders went up with Chamberlain, but only the tight end came down, and he turned to run with the ball to the Bucs' three.
Quarter One Highlights