Originally created 09/07/98

Vikings whip Buccaneers



MINNEAPOLIS -- Randy Moss and the Minnesota Vikings won't be overlooked anymore.

Moss, the first-round pick passed over by 19 teams in last spring's draft, caught two long touchdown passes to spark the Vikings to a surprisingly easy 31-7 victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Doing exactly what the Vikings drafted him to do -- go deep -- Moss became the first rookie in team history with two TDs in his first game. Brad Johnson also matched a career high with four TD passes to help give the Vikings the early edge over the Buccaneers in the pursuit of Green Bay in the NFC Central.

Tampa Bay, regarded by many as the Packers' main challenger entering the season, played nothing like the team it was expected to be after ending its 15-year playoff drought in 1997.

The defense was off-balance all afternoon, and the running game generated only 68 yards with Pro Bowl backs Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott.

Surprisingly, quarterback Trent Dilfer was Tampa Bay's lone bright spot until he was forced out of the game late in the third quarter with a deep thigh bruise.

Dilfer's last play was a 3-yard TD pass to fullback Lorenzo Neal to make it 21-7. He hit his first 11 passes and finished 17-for-24 for 207 yards.

The Bucs also lost receiver Bert Emanuel with a sprained left ankle early in the third quarter. Emanuel, who signed as a free agent for $16.4 million in the offseason, caught seven passes for 98 yards.

Johnson was 15-for-25 for 189 yards, four TDs -- Cris Carter also had two -- and one interception in his first game since a neck injury ended his season last December.

Buoyed by a 4-0 preseason and the excitement Red McCombs has generated since buying the team for $250 million this summer, the Vikings got an added boost Saturday when McCombs announced he had given coach Dennis Green a three-year contract extension, reportedly worth $4.65 million.

And the Vikings played like a fired-up team on the way to a 21-0 halftime lead.

Johnson hit Carter from 1 yard out to make it 7-0 after a 40-yard pass interference penalty against Charles Mincy, one of 12 penalties that cost the Bucs 124 yards.

Then it was Moss' turn.

First, he beat nickel back Floyd Young in man-to-man coverage. Moss had to slow down for Johnson's pass at about the 2-yard line, then tipped the ball twice before gathering it in for the score.

He jumped into the stands to celebrate, then added a 31-yard score on Minnesota's next possession. Moss celebrated like a seasoned veteran after that one, trotting the width of the field to coolly slap hands with fans in the stands.

That punctuated exactly the kind of performance Minnesota expects out of its offense, and it was especially impressive against Tampa Bay's defense, which finished third in the NFL last season.

Meanwhile, most of Tampa's first-half possessions ended in disaster.

Alstott fumbled on the second drive, leading to Moss' first TD. Michael Husted missed badly on a 41-yard field goal attempt on Tampa's next drive, and Minnesota responded with Moss' second TD as he sprinted past Donnie Abraham, the Bucs' best cornerback.

Tampa then drove to a third-and-1 at the Minnesota 12. Tony Williams and Dixon Edwards stopped Alstott for a 2-yard loss and Dilfer's fourth-down pass went through Emanuel's hands.