Vikings 31, Buccaneers 17
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Trent Dilfer found another defense he couldn’t beat Sunday. This time he tried beating up a defender, and that didn’t work, either.
With Cris Carter and Amp Lee providing the offense, Minnesota’s defense had eight sacks as the Vikings breezed to a 31-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Dilfer, sacked six times and frustrated all day, was ejected in the third quarter for fighting with All-Pro tackle John Randle. The loss of Dilfer wouldn’t have mattered as the Vikings (7-6) led 28-7 when the quarterback left in favor of Casey Weldon.
The Vikings got a 66-yard touchdown run from Lee, the longest of his career, and Warren Moon had touchdown passes of 27 and 60 yards to Carter.
Broderick Thomas, playing against his former team, matched his season sack total with 2 1/2 as Minnesota had its highest sack total since getting eight against Detroit on Dec. 5, 1993. Moon finished 20 of 32 for 272 yards.
The Bucs (6-7) lost for the fifth time in six games.
The Vikings also snapped their two-game losing streak to the Bucs by topping 30 points for the fourth consecutive game, matching a team record set in 1962 and equaled in 1965.
The victory was the fourth in five games for the Vikings, who might have to win their remaining three games to qualify for the playoffs because of their 3-5 record in the NFC Central. After a 5-2 start, the Bucs are in danger of missing the playoffs for the 12th straight year, and they need at least one win in their last three games to avoid their 12th straight season with double-digit losses.
Lee’s TD run capped a 99-yard drive on Minnesota’s second possession. He got an excellent block in the middle from tackle Korey Stringer, and another in the secondary from receiver Jake Reed. Lee stiff-armed safety Thomas Everett at the 35, and trotted untouched for a 7-0 lead.
Carter set a team record on the Vikings’ next possession with his 27-yard TD catch, giving him at least one in each of the last five games. His 60-yard TD, two plays after rookie Orlando Thomas intercepted Dilfer, made it 21-7 with 9:41 left in the second quarter.
Carter finished with six catches for 136 yards.
Scottie Graham’s 23-yard run made it 28-7 at halftime as the Vikings outgained Tampa Bay 351-83 in the first half.
Dilfer, who hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since the fourth quarter at Washington on Sept. 24, moved Tampa Bay to the Minnesota 13 on the first possession of the third quarter. A penalty and a 10-yard sack by James Harris moved the Bucs back to the 28.
Dilfer was pressured out of the pocket by Randle on the next play, and Randle dove at Dilfer’s legs just as he threw an incompletion.
Apparently irate that Randle dove at his legs, Dilfer stood over Randle screaming. He was pushed away by an official, but shook free and jumped on top of the prone lineman. The two were enveloped in a crowd of players, and it didn’t appear any punches were thrown.
Coming off his first 300-yard game in last week’s 35-13 loss at Green Bay, Dilfer was 9 of 18 for 148 yards.
Weldon finally broke Tampa Bay’s drought without a touchdown pass. Weldon threw 38 yards to Alvin Harper to make it 31-17 early in the fourth quarter, snapping a string of 281 passes over nine games without a TD catch for the Bucs.