Bucs' Kiffin will pose challenge to Vikes' offense

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 13, 2008 - 6:59 AM

Monte Kiffin's defenses in Tampa Bay consistently have ranked among the NFL's best in his 13 years with the Bucs, and they'll be geared up to stop Adrian Peterson.

Former Bloomington Jefferson star Lane Kiffin was constantly in the headlines after taking the Oakland Raiders head coaching job in January 2007 before getting fired four games into this season.

Lane's father, Monte Kiffin, is one of the NFL's great defensive coordinators. He is in his 13th year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (and his 26th season in the NFL) after being hired by Tony Dungy in 1996. He stayed with the Bucs when Dungy was fired and Jon Gruden took over. The Vikings play at Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Kiffin was the Vikings linebackers coach from 1986-89 and the defensive coordinator in 1991, all under Jerry Burns. He served under Dennis Green as inside linebackers coach from 1992-94, when Dungy was the Vikings defensive coordinator.

Kiffin turned down the 49ers head coaching job in 2003, when Tampa Bay owner Malcolm Glazer made him one of the highest-paid defensive coordinators in the NFL.

He devised the Tampa "Cover-2" defense that many teams use today. Since 1996 under Kiffin, the Buccaneers defense has been the NFL's best, having allowed the fewest yards per game (285.2). Tampa Bay also has been ranked in the top five in total defense in eight of Kiffin's previous 12 seasons with the team.

I don't believe any defensive coordinator has had the success that Kiffin has enjoyed over such a long period of time. And that means Adrian Peterson and the Vikings offense will have their toughest test of the season when they face the Bucs.

Tampa Bay's defense has allowed only one back to rush for 100 yards this year (Kansas City's Jamaal Charles, with 106 yards in Week 9) and only one rushing touchdown (by the Chiefs' Kolby Smith).

Since Kiffin has been at Tampa Bay, the Bucs have beaten the Vikings six of seven times at home and eight of 14 overall.

Bad call for Packers?

Peter King, one of the top NFL writers, wrote this on the Sports Illustrated.com website Monday: "The officials screwed up an early safety call on the Packers that, obviously, could have been a huge difference in a one-point Green Bay loss. While being upended in the end zone, Aaron Rodgers threw an underhanded pass that landed about 3 yards from Packers tight end Tory Humphrey, and ref Alberto Riveron called it an illegal forward pass. Only it wasn't, because quarterbacks often make underhanded scoop passes, which this was. After the game Riveron called it intentional grounding, and it wasn't that either, because Humphrey was so close. So this was a gift two points for the Vikes."

King also wrote that Peterson "took over the NFL rushing lead from [Washington's] Clinton Portis on his final carry of Sunday, the 29-yard touchdown run that beat the Packers with 2:22 left in the game.

"Sunday was Peterson's 23rd NFL game, and he has 2,356 rushing yards, a tidy 102 yards per game. That's 14 yards more than [Chicago Bears Hall of Famer Walter] Payton averaged. Though Payton played long before Peterson's time, that's the back he reminds me of most."

Twins rank high

Twins General Manager Bill Smith was proud that six of his players were highly ranked by the Elias Sports Bureau in the ratings that determine what draft choices teams gets if they lose a free agent. Joe Nathan ranked first among relief pitchers and Joe Mauer finished first among catchers. Justin Morneau was fourth among first basemen, designated hitters and outfielders. Among pitchers, Scott Baker was 11th, Kevin Slowey 45th and Glen Perkins 46th.

Smith says he expects to announce a two-year extension for manager Ron Gardenhire in the next week or so. Gardenhire doesn't have an agent.

"Gardy has been out of town and so have I, so we haven't been able to get together," Smith said.

He said he gave the coaches a two-year contract in two previous years (2004 and 2006) and probably will do it again.

The Twins will not bring back free agent pitcher Eddie Guardado, but hope to sign lefthanded reliever Dennys Reyes, who is a free agent, and are counting on rookie Jose Mijares to be a big part of the bullpen next season after Mijares pitched so well at the end of the season. If the Twins lose Reyes to another club, they would get a second-round pick.

The Twins have decided to allow Francisco Liriano to pitch the second half of the Winter League.

Smith said he doesn't know where the rumors started that outfielder Delmon Young is on the trading block.

"He is a 22-year-old outfielder with a bright future, and if we were going to trade him, we would have to get equal value," Smith said.

Jottings

The Gophers baseball recruiting class includes signees T.J. Oakes (Jordan), David Bettenburg (Cretin-Derham Hall), Ryan Abrahamson (Tartan) and Kevin Kray (Osseo). Billy Soule Jr. (Wayzata) and Kyle O'Shea (Centennial) have signed acceptance of admission forms as recruited walk-ons. ... The Gophers baseball team will play 11 games at Siebert Field and 14 games at the Metrodome in 2009. The Gophers open their 2009 schedule Feb. 20 in St. Petersburg, Fla., against Seton Hall as part of the Big Ten/Big East Challenge.

Former Armstrong standout David Gilreath, who is a sophomore wide receiver at Wisconsin, was named the Big Ten's co-offensive player of the week. Gilreath rushed eight times for a career-high 168 yards and two touchdowns against Indiana and finished with 235 all-purpose yards. Gilreath has rushed the ball only 22 times this season but is averaging 13.2 yards per carry. He also has 16 punt returns for 111 yards and 33 kick returns for 707 yards.

Former Gopher Thomas Vanek is second in the NHL in goals scored with 12 and also leads the Sabres in scoring with 15 points in 15 games. ... Phil Kessel leads the Boston Bruins in goals scored with seven and is the second- leading scorer with nine points in 14 games. ... Boston's Blake Wheeler has six goals and two assists in 14 games and recently notched his first career hat trick last week against Toronto. ... Keith Ballard is leading the Florida Panthers in scoring with two goals and eight assists and also leads Panthers in penalty minutes with 35. ... Jordan Leopold is second among Colorado Avalanche defensemen in scoring with three goals and three assists in 14 games.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

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