Bucs Hand Vikings Their Collective Asses
October 29, 2012 at 12:41pm by Scott • 16 Comments »
If you were looking for some sign that the Bucs had taken a step forward in the Greg Schiano regime, Thursday night should have given you the encouragement you needed to stay with the team for at least a couple more weeks and not jump on the Falcon bandwagon just yet. The game was a complete victory — no one unit needed to be called on to save the day.
Of course, the first thing everyone is going to talk about is the Doug Martin and his 214 yard, two-touchdown night running and catching. And with good reason since he was the star of the night. Martin had 135 yards rushing on 29 attempts for a nice solid 4.7 YPC. He finally broke some of those runs that he couldn’t seem to break earlier this season. He showed more speed than he has before along with the same shiftiness and balance we’ve come to expect. And one thing he did that LeGarrette Blount hasn’t been able to do is punch the ball into the endzone on a short yardage run. I hadn’t realized it, but there was already talk going on that Martin was a disappointment as a first-round pick. These were obviously people who care more about fantasy points than their own team doing well, and hopefully Thursday night shut them up for a while. And if not, they deserve a Doug Martin stiffarm right in the windpipe.
But Martin couldn’t have done it without a great performance from the offensive line. Run blocking was incredible on Thursday, especially on the left side. Martin ran most of the time to the left and there were holes in the defense than hadn’t been there all season. Offensive linemen were even blocking 20 yards downfield sometimes, springing Martin for some incredible runs. Pass blocking started off a little shaky, but firmed up as the night went on. Josh Freeman was only sacked once and hit three times, nothing major. Donald Penn held Jared Allen in check most of the night except for that fight they got into and then Penn had to deal with a pissed off Allen, and no one wants that. Hell, there weren’t even any false starts or holding penalties on the line. If they can play like that every week, this offense will be hard to beat.
The best thing I saw in Thursday’s game about Freeman was his decision making. The Vikings had obviously chosen to take away Freeman’s deep throws, so he said fine and just took what was available. After a shaky first quarter, he was accurate and careful and just continued to chip away at the defense in some long, sustained drives. Freeman threw the ball up 36 times and had no picks. But most of all, he was clutch. When the team needed to convert a third and long, he found the right guy and made a good throw. His receivers bailed him out of a couple high or possibly inaccurate throws, but part of what receivers do is go get the ball when it’s anywhere around them. It was Freeman’s best game of the season.
Speaking of his receivers, Mike Williams is looking like a Lynn Swann clone, and I don’t mean that he’s turning into a huge douche like Swann. But his concentration and foot awareness and hands are in that category. Williams has no problem laying out and sacrificing his body for the ball and just about every week there’s a highlight reel catch by him for a big play. Vincent Jackson was relatively quiet on Thursday, but the two balls he did grab were important (not a euphemism). And as the weeks go on, Dallas Clark is looking more like the player we remember from the Colts.
The defensive line came alive on Thursday, especially the defensive ends. Daniel Te’o-Nesheim and Michael Bennett both had sacks on Christian Ponder, with Bennett picking up 2 tackles for loss and a forced fumble on top of it. Da’Quan Bowers made it off the PUP list and onto the field, and even though he didn’t make it on the stat sheet, he showed that he is ready for some game action and provide some much needed depth. Besides one breakaway run by Adrian Peterson, the line held the running game in check too. It was a complete turnaround from last week.
Maybe it was the line’s performance that made the secondary look a little rough by comparison. Besides Ronde Barber, who had an excellent game with 9 tackles (1 for loss) and a forced fumble, who really stood out in the secondary? Eric Wright tried to arm tackle Peterson and got embarrassed and let Percy Harvin get by him for a touchdown. E.J. Biggers had a few tackles but didn’t do anything spectacular (although I won’t hold Bigger’s responsible for Jerome Simpson‘s catch even though it was Biggers’s responsibility. They kept forcing the ball to Simpson and eventually one of those is going to hit.) The brightest spot I saw was Leonard Johnson getting in some real playing time and making the most of it with 3 passes defensed and an interception, the only one of the night. I’m not going to get too down on it because it was still a win and they didn’t look terrible, but it just seemed ordinary compared to everyone else.
You can tell this was a solid win by the comments by the Vikings afterwards. They said they got their butts kicked and the Bucs beat their brains in. It was a demoralizing loss for the Vikings and that’s the best kind of loss to pin on an opponent. Schiano is big on preaching the virtues of “Buc ball”. If this is what he means, I’m 100% on board with him.