Buccaneers01707 -- 24Vikings7033 -- 13

Tampa Bay figured out how to finish a game, an instinct the team has been lacking the past two seasons. That ball-hawking defense was back in familiar form, too, as Daunte Culpepper and Minnesota found out.

The Buccaneers forced five turnovers -- including two interceptions by Brian Kelly -- and pulled out a scrappy season-opening victory over the Vikings in Minneapolis.

"That's the type of thing we can do on defense," Tampa Bay DE Simeon Rice said. "We want to do something special."

Culpepper lost two fumbles and threw three interceptions, the second one glancing off Moe Williams's hands and into Kelly's arms at the Tampa Bay 6-yard line with 1 minute 45 seconds left and Minnesota trailing by four.

TE Alex Smith caught two touchdown passes and fellow rookie Carnell Williams finished with 148 yards on 27 carries, including a 71-yard touchdown run with 1:23 remaining that sealed it.

"I kept telling guys, 'I'm going to break 'em,' " Williams said.

After winning the Super Bowl on Jan. 26, 2003, the Bucs went 12-20 over the last two seasons -- losing 15 of those by one touchdown or less. But finally, the tide turned their way in the fourth quarter.

"If that's an evaluation of what we're capable of doing," Coach Jon Gruden said, "that's a good sign."

Coming off a career-best season, Culpepper looked more like a rookie than a three-time Pro Bowl pick. He finished 22 for 33 for 233 yards, failing to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in 22 games.

The Vikings' only touchdown came from new FS Darren Sharper on an 88-yard interception return in the first quarter.

"When things could go bad, it went bad," Culpepper said. "It was almost like a bad episode of 'The Twilight Zone.' "


Minnesota: Sharper 88 interception return (Edinger kick), 2:44.


Tampa Bay: A. Smith 23 pass from Griese (Bryant kick), 14:55.

Tampa Bay: A. Smith 2 pass from Griese (Bryant kick), 4:38.

Tampa Bay: FG Bryant 41, :17.


Minnesota: FG Edinger 53, 3:52.


Minnesota: FG Edinger 22, 6:13.

Tampa Bay: C. Williams 71 run (Bryant kick), 1:23.

Attendance: 63,939.

BucsVikingsFirst Downs 1215Total Net Yards 345248Rushes-Yards 31-14616-26Passing 199222Punt Returns 3-275-54Kickoff Returns 4-835-89Interceptions Ret. 3-162-88Comp-Att-Int 18-29-222-33-3Sacked-Yards Lost 2-142-11Punts 6-46.84-54.3Fumbles-Lost 1-04-2Penalties-Yards 13-999-70Time Of Possession 30:3429:26 RUSHING

Tampa Bay: C. Williams 27-148, Alstott 1-0, Galloway 1-0, Griese 2-(minus 2).

Minnesota: M. Williams 6-15, Culpepper 4-12, Bennett 6-(minus 1).


Tampa Bay: B. Griese 18-29-2-213.

Minnesota: Culpepper 22-33-3-233.


Tampa Bay: Galloway 5-97, Clayton 4-57, A. Smith 4-34, Cook 2-7, Becht 1-7, Alstott 1-7, Hillard 1-4.

Minnesota: Kleinsasser 4-42, Wiggins 4-33, Burleson 3-45, Taylor 3-38, Robinson 3-22, Bennett 3-21, M. Williams 2-32.