The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended a three game home losing with a hard fought 26-14 triumph over the Minnesota Vikings on a sweltering Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium. The Pewter Pirates moved to 8-5 while the Purple People Eaters fell to 6-7.
After a scoreless initial 15 minutes, the Vikings dented the scoreboard first. RB Dalvin Cook (22 carries for 102 yards) swept left end for a one yard gallop at 14:22 of the second quarter. That finished off an impressive 14 play drive that went 79 yards eating up 8:15 of game time. K Dan Bailey was wide left on the PAT and that was an omen of things to come for the Minnesota placekicker.
Tampa Bay posted its first points of the contest at 7:41 of the second period. QB Tom Brady (15-of-23 for 196 yards and 2 TD’s plus 0 INTs) found WR Scotty Miller on a deep post route. That ended a short 1:49 drive that took four plays to traverse 74 yards. K Ryan Succop split the uprights to give the Pewter Pirates a 7-6 advantage.
The Buccaneers added to their lead with just 44 seconds left in the opening half. RB Ronald Jones (18 rushes for 80 yards) plowed up the middle from a yard away for the touchdown culminating a 10 play drive that went 41 yards in 3:53. Succop converted the extra point and it looked like Tampa Bay would head into halftime leading 14-6.
But, as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend”
because the Bucs weren’t done. After a pass interference call against the Purple People Eaters in the end zone on a Hail Mary, Succop padded the lead with an 18 yard three pointer as time expired in the first half. It only took Tampa Bay 21 seconds and four plays to go 25 yards to extend their margin to 17-6.
The Pewter Pirates extended the lead at the 10:09 mark of the third quarter on their opening drive of the second half. After receiving the kickoff for the final 30 minutes of regulation, it took the Bucs nine plays to go 75 yards in 4:51 with Brady finding the ever reliable TE Rob Gronkowski with a two yard strike in the back right of the end zone. The usually dependable Succop missed wide right on the conversion but it still gave the Buccaneers what looked like an insurmountable 23-6 lead.
The only problem was that no one told the Vikes that the game was over. On their ensuing possession, Minnesota cut into the Bucs advantage at 1:36 of the third period. QB Kirk Cousins (24-of-37 for 225 yards and 1 TD along with 0 INTs) found TE Irv Smith with a 14 yard catch-and-run to end a long 15 play drive that took 8:33 to travel 75 yards. Cousins found WR Justin Jefferson for a successful two point play that cut the Buccaneers lead to 23-14.
The Pewter Pirates finished out the scoring at 5:16 of the final period.
Succup was true with a 48 yard field goal that capped an eight play drive that ate up 3:44 while covering 34 yards. That gave Tampa Bay a 26-14 advantage and the Bucs defense took it from there to make that the final arithmetic.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that some of the Vikings fans feel they were the victims of some “home cooking” when it came to the officiating. Frankly, I believe there were a few calls that went against Minnesota that were at crucial parts of the tilt. I felt a flag was unwarranted but sometimes that happens in the National football League.
The bigger problem was that Bailey not only missed an extra point. He also misfired on three field goals costing the Vikes 10 possible points.
Now, the Bucs pack their bags for a quick flight to Georgia to take on the Atlanta Falcons at 1:00 pm Sunday. Don’t miss Rob Kriete’s Buc Up column Saturday for all the facts and figures you’ll need to get ready for the contest.