Steve Christie made Tampa Bay Coach Ray Perkins look like a genius when he kicked a 36-yard field goal 9:11 into sudden-death overtime to give the Buccaneers a 23-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
Perkins was criticized for selecting Christie, a free-agent kicker, over Donald Igwebuike, an established NFL veteran, during training camp.
"I had an idea that, with Iggy and myself in this game, it might come down to field goals," said Christie.
It did. Christie was perfect on three field goals and two extra points while Igwebuike had two of each. But Igwebuike missed one that could have won it for the Vikings from 48 yards just 3:53 before Christie won the game.
"I feel for him," said Christie. "He could have made it as easily as he missed it. I thought he'd make it because I know how good he is."
The trajectory on Igwebuike's attempt was low and tipped by Tampa Bay's Paul Gruber.
"I didn't think he'd make it," said Perkins. "I told our guys that he wouldn't make it. It was too far out for him. He missed one last year against the Vikings from that same distance."
Tampa Bay (3-1) is off to its best start since going 4-0 in 1979, when it won the NFC Central title. Minnesota is 1-3 for the first time since 1972 and saw a 13-game home winning streak snapped. The Vikings hadn't lost at home since Oct. 16, 1988, to Green Bay.
Igwebuike blamed himself for the loss.
"I wasn't trying to get back at anybody," he said. "I'm not worried about Tampa. I lost the game. All the guys busted their (behinds) for 60-something minutes, then I come in for a few seconds and couldn't get it done."
Christie's winning kick was set up by Wayne Haddix, who intercepted Rich Gannon's pass at Minnesota's 26. Gannon, making his first start at quarterback after three years as a third stringer, played well in place of injured Wade Wilson. He completed 19 of 36 passes for 253 yards.
The Bucs trailed 20-13 before Vinny Testaverde passed for all 74 yards on the tying drive, capped by his 11-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Hill with 24 seconds left. Testaverde, who had only 88 yards passing before the drive, said the huddle was unusually quiet.
"I didn't say anything. I looked at them and they looked at me like, 'We're ready,' " he said.
Gannon threw two touchdown passes in a 3:06 span late in the fourth quarter, rallying the Vikings to a 20-13 lead.
The Bucs controlled the first 3 1/2 quarters and led 13-6 midway through the fourth when Reggie Cobb broke loose for a 17-yard run into Minnesota territory. But he fumbled when hit by Joey Browner, and Mike Merriweather recovered.
Gannon's seven-yard touchdown pass to Carter tied the score at 13 with 4:35 to go. After the Vikings' defense forced a punt, Gannon threw a 41-yard scoring pass to Hassan Jones.