Through the first seven weeks of the season, the Vikings were one of the NFL’s best stories: a 3-13 team in 2011 that saw its heart and soul – Adrian Peterson – severely injure his knee late in the year than shuffled its roster significantly during the offseason, leading to five wins in the first seven games of 2012.
But even a fast 5-2 start wasn’t enough to make everyone believers. A date with the 2-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the grand stage of NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football figured to change all of that, though. A win on Thursday night would’ve moved the Vikings to 6-2 through the first half of the season, and it would’ve placed them among the NFC’s elite teams.
But it wasn’t to be. The Buccaneers came into Mall of America Field and had their way with the young Vikings. There were flashes of excitement – Christian Ponder threw a perfect pass to Percy Harvin for an 18-yard TD and Adrian Peterson continued to destroy opposing defenses with a 64-yard TD run and another 123-yard outing – but it was mostly a disappointment.
“Hats off to them,” Vikings DE Jared Allen said. “They came in here and kicked our butts. Top to bottom, I don’t know if we overlooked them or not, but it’s an embarrassing game for us.”
The Vikings will quickly go from darlings of the NFL who were slowly earning the respect of outside observers to an inconsistent team that’s too young and not consistent enough on offense to make it through a rigorous second-half schedule that includes four games against Chicago and Green Bay and road games in four of the final six weeks of the season. But both of those descriptors are tags placed upon the team by outside observers.
What matters most is how people within the team respond to the Vikings 36-17 loss on Thursday night. And judging by what Allen – one of the team’s best players and clearly one of its leaders – was saying in the post-game locker room, the Vikings will end up being just fine.
“One thing I know for sure, we will come back and we will learn from this and we’ll be a better team for it. One thing about this game, it will humble you. Week-in and week-out. You can never read the clippings. You can never believe the hype. You can never believe the game is just a ‘gimmie.’
“Hats off to them. They came in here and took care of business. We have a tough part of our schedule ahead and we need to take care of some business.”
Tags: Jared Allen
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 226 Comments »
The Vikings didn’t play sound football in any phase, Tampa Bay rookie RB Doug Martin had his breakout performance and Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman remained on a roll. It all combined for a disappointing night at Mall of America Field, as the Buccaneers came away with a 36-17 victory over the Vikings on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football.
Martin and Freeman paced the Buccaneers offensive attack. Martin, selected 31st overall by Tampa Bay last April, racked up 214 yards of offense (135 rushing, 79 receiving) and 2 TDs against a Vikings defense that was coming off a dominant performance against Arizona a week ago. Freeman, who came into this contest on fire, turned up the heat in Minnesota by passing for 262 yards and 3 TDs. Over the last 3 games, Freeman has thrown for 1,010 yards with a 9-1 TD-INT ratio.
As if battling those two playmakers wasn’t enough, the Vikings defense was constantly forced back onto the field because the Vikings offense couldn’t stay on it. The Buccaneers claimed a 15:30 time of possession advantage over the Vikings, as QB Christian Ponder and Co. failed to get into a rhythm. Their first three drives ended in three-and-outs and then punts, and then they were forced to punt three more times in the second half while they also saw drives end in a fumble, INT and on downs.
Ponder was 19 of 35 for 251 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. He threw a beautifully thrown pass to WR Percy Harvin for the TD, striking from 18 yards out to make the score 13-7 in the middle of the 2nd quarter. The Vikings also scored a TD on the ground, with Adrian Peterson breaking two tackles and then out-sprinting the Buccaneers defense to the end zone for a 64-yard score that introduced thoughts of a late-game comeback.
The late-game comeback was not to be, however, as Freeman put together a cold-blooded drive to open the 4th quarter that put the game out of reach for the Vikings.
Following Peterson’s long TD jaunt, his 3rd rushing score of the season, the Vikings and Buccaneers exchanged two punts a piece. Tampa Bay had a tenuous 30-17 lead with just over a quarter to play, and off the long Peterson run and a rejuvenated Vikings defense the atmosphere at Mall of America Field was such that a comeback seemed to be in the offing. But Freeman dashed those dreams by putting together a 16-play, 87 yard drive that ended in a 1-yard Martin plunge for a TD. The drive included 5 conversions on 3rd down, three of which were for 9 yards or longer and the last of which was the 1-yard TD run.
That made the score 36-17 with just a little over 7 minutes to play. The Vikings drove the ball 66 yards on the ensuing drive, but they were unable to convert a 4th and 7 from the Tampa Bay 19 and ultimately turned the ball over to the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay took a few more minutes off the clock before punting it back to the Vikings. Ponder threw his only INT of the game 4 plays into the next drive, which allowed the Buccaneers to kneel on the ball and run out the rest of the clock.
The win improves Tampa Bay to 3-4 on the season and it’s the first road win since they won here in Minnesota early last season. The loss drops Minnesota to 5-3 on the season and is their first at home of the 2012 campaign. The Vikings will regroup on Friday and this weekend, and then will turn their attention to the Seattle Seahawks. The Vikings and Seahawks will play in Seattle a week from Sunday.
– Peterson had 15 carries for 123 yards and 1 TD. He now holds the Vikings career record for 100-yard rushing games (30) and is also the NFL’s leading rusher with 775 yards.
– Harvin had 7 receptions for 90 yards and 1 TD. He currently leads the NFL in receptions with 70.
– Chad Greenway and Harrison Smith were both credited with 13 tackles to lead the team.
– Jared Allen had the only Vikings sack of the game and now has a sack in six consecutive contests.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, Christian Ponder, Harrison Smith, Jared Allen, Percy Harvin
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 97 Comments »
Here are the Vikings and Buccaneers inactive players for tonight’s game:
Vikings: QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, WR Jarius Wright, CB Brandon Burton, S Mistral Raymond, LB Audie Cole, OL Mark Asper & TE John Carlson.
Buccaneers: CB Myron Lewis, RB Michael Smith, DB Keith Tandy, LB Najee Goode, G Cody Wallace, WR Chris Owusu & TE Danny Noble.
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