Defense shot for the Moon
The Bucs' defensive line has been a collection of long faces this season, but it was downright sack-happy against Minnesota Sunday.
Tampa Bay sacked Vikings quarterback Warren Moon five times in a 20-17 overtime win at the Metrodome - a remarkable feat considering the Bucs entered the game with just nine sacks.
The inspired pass rush led to better coverage of the Vikings' receivers and accounted for the first-quarter interception by Tony Covington that set up the Bucs' first touchdown.
Even bullyragged former No. 1 pick Eric Curry got into the act, recording his first solo sack since the fifth game of his rookie season.
"Our defensive line was just phenomenal today," Covington said. "We told them at halftime, let's finish what we started. We told them we can cover these guys, you just keep bringing the wood."
The Bucs were boosted by the play of tackle Mark Wheeler, who helped shut down the run and limit tailback Terry Allen to just 54 yards. He added a sack. Defensive coordinator Floyd Peters used a variety of stunts and blitzes to confuse the Vikings' blocking schemes.
"Those guys made the plays when I sent them," Peters said. "There was a little bit of pressure. We had nine defensive linemen and we said enough is enough. All of a sudden they responded."
Wheeler, who had been hobbled by injuries and lost his starting nose tackle job to Brad Culpepper, split time at the under tackle position with Santana Dotson.
"Everybody came off the ball," Wheeler said. "We just refused to be stopped. The deal was we just let our guards down. We talked all during the week and decided just to come off the ball and not to worry about nothing. We're already down. The only place to go was up. If you get (Moon) to start rattling his feet and looking back, that's when he's vulnerable to throwing interceptions and making mistakes."
Peters credited the Bucs' offense for giving his defense a rest in the second half with a 14-play drive that took nearly eight minutes off the clock.
"There were a lot of differences out there today," Peters said. "The offensive line played great and allowed no sacks. That eight-minute drive helped keep us fresh in the second half. The coverage was great, even though they hit the long one (for a touchdown). We were trying to take away (Carter) and making it look like we're double covering the outside and they figured it out. I'm swinging the coverage one way and then I'd swing it the other. It was a hard read and he finally figured it out. It was a great catch in the end zone."
Rick Stroud, The St.Petersburg Times 1994