Testaverde lifts sagging offense
His season had been one, long err-show. But at least this Sunday, Vinny Testaverde showed he could still pump up a pretty good airshow. Playing for little more than pride on national TV, Testaverde proved he could still carry an offense on the strength of his talented right arm. But only so far, of course. Once again in 1991, Bucs fans were teased but ultimately displeased.

Thanks to a defense that gave until it hurt, Tampa Bay's second-highest point total of the season (24 points) wasn't good enough for victory. For the embattled Testaverde, the outcome, a 26-24 Minnesota victory, stole the spotlight he had worked to capture. "I wasn't worried about what I showed on national TV," said Testaverde, who had a season-best 330-yard passing game (23-of-41 passing, two touchdowns and no interceptions).

"I just wanted to come out and win the game and win it for these guys. The way the season has gone, you'd think these guys would have given up by now. But they're in there every day and we're practicing, putting in our minds what we're trying to accomplish. I think tonight shows we are a pretty good football team. We're just a young football team right now. In time, we will become a very good football team."

At times, Tampa Bay seemed to be gaining confidence with each drive. With Testaverde accounting for nearly all of the Bucs' season-high 373 yards, Tampa Bay stormed back from a 20-3 first-half deficit. A 1-yard pass to tight end Jesse Anderson on the first half's final play cut the Minnesota lead to 20-10. Tampa Bay inched within 20-17 on a 1-yard Reggie Cobb touchdown on its first third-quarter possession. "We felt good coming out at halftime, (after) scoring just before the half," Testaverde said.

Nothing told the story of the Bucs' just-short effort better than their final drive. Trailing by two with 4:02 left, Tampa Bay took over on its 28. But on third-and-4 from the 34, Testaverde's pass sailed over receiver Willie Drewrey, who had cut in. With more than three minutes remaining, Tampa Bay chose to punt, and never got another shot. "On the last drive, there was a little bit of commotion with the play coming in on the sideline and the 25-second clock winding down," Testaverde said. "I just decided to call a play and put Willie on a certain route, which he did run a correct route on. But with all the commotion, I forgot which route he was on. I thought he was on a go route and I overthrew him."

Like Testaverde, receiver Mark Carrier turned in his finest day of a frustrating season. Grabbing six passes for 110 yards, the fifth-year former Pro Bowl broke a year-long touchdown drought, scoring the Bucs' final points on a 21-yard fourth-quarter strike. "We had a lot of guys on offense play well," Testaverde said. "I think some guys made some big plays, which we needed. But, obviously, we didn't make enough big plays to win."

Don Banks, The St.Petersburg Times 1991