The Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave the Minnesota Vikings a beat-down on the first game of week eight. In perhaps the very “breakout” -type of game I was waiting to see, the Bucs got the early lead and began to slowly pull away.
Both QBs had surprisingly similar numbers. Ponder was 19/35 for 251 yards, a TD and an interception while Freeman was 19/36 for 262 yards.
The difference was that Freeman had 3 TDs and led an offense that didn’t turn the ball over the entire night. Minnesota had 2 lost fumbles including one from Adrian Peterson as he fought for yards at the end of a run. Wiley ole veteran Ronde Barber punched it out.
As for the running backs, both guys flew down the field it seemed like. Martin had 135 yards rushing with a TD while adding 79 receiving yards including a 64-yard TD catch and run in the third quarter. He had a nice 41-yard run in the first half that didn’t score.
Peterson answered with 123 yards rushing, including an electrifying 64-yard TD run to pull within two scores late in the third quarter, but the offense couldn’t get in good rhythm all night long.
Mike Mayock of NFL Network made an astute observation. He said Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman is starting to trust his receivers and throw that deep one-on-one pass to them to let them try to make a play this year whereas last season he wouldn’t make the attempt.
It wasn’t but a couple of plays later when Freeman did just that, throwing a perfectly placed jump ball for 6’5″ Vincent Jackson that the smaller cornerback couldn’t quite elevate to defend against for a big gain. Or maybe it was Mike Williams. They all kinda run together. The big plays were everywhere for the Tampa Bay offense. See exhibit A: Martin, Doug – 214 yards from scrimmage.
I guess exhibit B would have to be the beautiful catch and toe-tap on the end line Williams pulled off in the second quarter. C, D, and E? Any of those other catches I mentioned, plus some.
The Vikings’ offense moved the ball here and there but only scored ten points other than Peterson’s breakaway run. They had a few 20+ yard plays of their own but otherwise with the turnovers, Martin’s performance, and no momentum they struggled playing from behind all night.
For the Buccaneers, this could very well be their coming-of-age party. They’ve not been blown out in any contest despite their 2-4 record entering the game. It was the team’s first road win since the last time they visited Minnesota, which complicates the outlook a bit, but keep an eye out for them being on the rise in the weeks to come.