Bucs make night of it
Just when the Tampa Bay Bucs' only shot at national television this fall season figured to end with a quick cancellation, they leave you hoping for a miniseries.
At least it wasn't the same old re-runs from earlier this year. There was Tampa Bay playing ball-control offense, stingy pass defense and daring special teams.
And now the rest of the nation doesn't understand something in the Bucs' previews: How did these guys lose seven games? Vince Workman ran for a touchdown while combining for more than 100 yards rushing and receiving and rookie Michael Husted booted three field goals to lead the Bucs to a 23-10 upset win over the Minnesota Vikings before 40,848 at Tampa Stadium and a national television audience on ESPN.
The victory snapped a two-game losing streak for the Bucs (3-7) and hurt the Vikings' (5-5) chances of climbing back into the NFC Central race. Leave it to the Bucs defense to reach the end zone before the offense. Tampa Bay's secondary entered the game with burn marks, having been scorched for 10 TD passes against the NFL's premier receivers - San Francisco's Jerry Rice (4), Green Bay's Sterling Sharpe (4) and Atlanta's Andre Rison (2).
But the Bucs atoned for that against the Vikings. Safety Marty Carter batted down a pass by quarterback Sean Salisbury and intercepted his own deflection to set up Husted's first field goal. And on the second play after halftime, defensive back Milton Mack intercepted a pass intended for Chris Carter and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown to give the Bucs a 13-7 lead. Salisbury was not on the same page with Carter, who never turned around to see the pass hit Mack squarely between his numbers.
The Bucs missed a good chance to virtually put the game away when they drove the ball to the Vikings' 3-yard line. Craig Erickson's 27-yard completion to Courtney Hawkins on first down sparked a drive that stalled when Workman was thrown for a 6-yard loss and Erickson threw incomplete on third and goal. Husted came on to kick his third field goal - this one from 21 yards - to pad the Bucs' lead to 16-7.
Two long completions from Salisbury to Anthony Carter set up Fuad Reveiz's 43-yard field goal to leave Minnesota trailing 16-10. But credit the Bucs secondary for breaking up three straight passes inside the 25-yard line. There were bad vibes for the Bucs from the outset. Rookie defensive end Eric Curry, who had two sacks in Tampa Bay's first meeting with Minnesota, injured his left ankle early in the first quarter and was carted off the field.
But Curry had barely reached the sidelines before Carter made what was easily the best defensive play of the year for the Bucs. With Minnesota facing third and 2 from the Tampa Bay 31-yard line, Carter was turned loose on a safety blitz, batted a pass from quarterback Sean Salisbury and intercepted his own deflection to give the Bucs the ball at midfield.
A nifty 27-yard screen pass from Erickson to Workman gave Tampa Bay a first down at the 11-yard line and Mazio Royster carried it to the 3 on the next play.
But the Bucs stopped there. An illegal procedure penalty and two wild incompletions by Erickson forced the Bucs to settle for Husted's 26-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead with 4:45 left in the first quarter. Husted was just stretching. The rookie from Virginia launched a 54-yard field goal - tying the longest kick in Tampa Stadium history - to up the Bucs' lead to 6-0.
The wind-aided boot was set up by Lamar Thomas' acrobatic catch of a 23-yard third-down pass from Erickson to sustain the drive.
While the Bucs couldn't find the end zone, they did a good job of controlling the clock in the first quarter, holding the ball for 10:53. Despite the prolonged drives, perhaps the Bucs' best scoring chance went awry on a fleaflicker attempt late in the first half. On first down from the Bucs' 47, Erickson handed off to Workman, who faked right before pitching back to Erickson. Erickson spotted a wide-open Rudy Harris at the Vikings' 15. But Harris started backpedaling and fell down.
Rick Stroud, The St.Petersburg Times 1993