The 1998 Season
Note: 1998 was the second season that I wrote down thoughts the entire year. Therefore, the 1998 season summary will come in multiple additions to my blog. Today's 1998 entry will be Week 1, Tampa Bay thoughts.
Week One: Tampa Bay; Vikes 31, Bucs 7
Brad Johnson is just fine after offseason neck surgery and it appears rookie Randy Moss is the real deal. Johnson matched a career high with 4 touchdown passes and Moss made an immediate impact with scoring catches of 48 and 31 yards in his NFL debut as the Minnesota Vikings rolled to a surprising 31-7 rout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Both NFC Central teams are hoping to dethrone the Green Bay Packers as division champion, but it was the Vikings who took immediate control in the first half against a Bucs team that allowed an NFC-low 263 points last season.
There were questions concerning Johnson's ability to throw the deep ball after he underwent surgery last December for a herniated cervical disc in his neck. But he did not shy away from throwing the bomb today and finished 15-of-25 for 189 yards with an interception.
"Hopefully, this performance will silence the critics," Johnson said. "I'm 100 percent and I think I proved I was ready to run this offense. We have a lot of weapons and this was a great start to the season."
Having a new weapon like the 6-foot-4 Moss, who was regarded as one of the top five players available in the 1998 draft, will only help Johnson. Moss was considered by most NFL scouts to be among the top five players available in the 1998 draft, but most general managers were scared away by his off-the-field problems. As a result, he slipped in the draft until the Vikings grabbed him with the 21st overall pick and he paid immediate dividends today.
Moss displayed his marvelous athletic ability when he caught a 48-yard touchdown bomb down the left sideline with 1:44 left in the quarter to give Minnesota a 14-0 lead. He faked second-year cornerback Floyd Young to the inside, sprinted down the sideline and made a juggling catch in the end zone after Young managed to get his hand on the ball.
Moss then endeared himself to the Metrodome fans with a flying leap into the end zone stands, a touchdown celebration that was made famous by the Packers at Lambeau Field.
"I was not nervous, just somewhat anxious," said Moss. "Cris (Carter) was more nervous than I was."
Moss cut toward the middle and caught a perfect 31-yard scoring pass from Johnson with 6:14 left in the second quarter to increase Minnesota's lead to 21-0. He beat cornerback Donnie Abraham to the inside and had a clear path in the middle of the field since safety John Lynch moved up to play the run.
"They just threw the ball up there and he (Moss) went and got it," said Abraham. "Their offense just added another dimension. Moss is doing a great job."
After finishing with 4 catches for 95 yards in the first half, the Vikings played more conservatively in the second half. Johnson was 8-of-12 for 131 yards in the first half and 7-of-13 for just 58 yards in the second half.
Carter also had a pair of touchdown catches for the Vikings, giving him 91 for his career. He had a 1-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter and an 18-yard scoring reception in the fourth quarter. Carter finished with 5 catches for 31 yards and needs 4 receptions to pass James Lofton (764) for sixth-place on the all-time list.
Robert Smith rushed for 90 yards on 18 carries and Gary Anderson kicked a 43-yard field goal in the fourth quarter for Minnesota.
"It was a great weekend," said Vikings coach Dennis Green, who signed a three-year contract extension on Saturday. "We were explosive on offense. Randy played well, but it's not surprising. We ran the football well too."
Tampa Bay's Trent Dilfer completed 12 of 15 passes for 139 yards in the first half, but failed to engineer a scoring drive until the third quarter.
Tampa Bay scored its only points when Dilfer hit fullback Lorenzo Neal with a 3-yard touchdown pass with 5:14 left in the third quarter. But Dilfer sustained a thigh bruise in the scoring drive and was forced to leave the game. He did not return and finished 17-of-25 for 207 yards.
"Nothing I hate more than coming out of a game," said Dilfer. "You always think you can do it. But I couldn't bend my knee."
Steve Walsh replaced Dilfer and was 6-of-12 for 53 yards with an interception.
Tampa Bay also lost receiver Bert Emanuel, who suffered a left ankle injury while attempting to catch a pass early in the third quarter. After being helped to the sideline, he was carted off the field and did not return. Emanuel had 7 catches for 98 yards.
"This was a disappointing start, but they're a fine team," said Bucs coach Tony Dungy, who is 5-12 against NFC Central teams. "They made plays and outplayed us."Posted by maasx003 at November 13, 2004 7:31 AM