Buccaneers vs. Vikings: Live Game Grades and Analysis
The game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings has concluded, with the Buccaneers coming out on top 36-17. It is the third straight game the Bucs have scored 28 or more points, and the fourth time overall in 2012.
With the win, the Bucs improve to 3-4, while the loss sets the Vikings back to 5-3 on the season.
The Bucs have nine days off before traveling to take on the Oakland Raiders on November 4th.
Josh Freeman Final Grade: B
Final analysis: Freeman was far from perfect on the evening, but was still effective enough to lead the Bucs to 36 points. He threw for 262 yards and three TDs on 19-of-36 passing. Although the last scoring drive of the game was perhaps his most impressive, as Freeman led the Bucs on a 16-play, 87-yard drive that ran more than nine minutes off the clock and culminated in a Doug Martin TD run. On the drive, Freeman completed four third down pass attempts for first downs.
Third quarter grade and analysis: Freeman hit Doug Martin on a screen pass and watched the rookie running back dart and weave his way to a 64-yard touchdown. Freeman has completed 15 of 31 passes for 191 yards, with three scoring strikes in the game. He is the first quarterback in Bucs history to throw three TDs in three consecutive games. Grade: B
Second quarter grade and analysis: Freeman struggled in the second quarter, completing just three of nine passes and finishing the half connecting on just 10 of 22 attempts for 85 yards and two TDs. Erik Lorig and Mike Williams were on the receiving end of Freeman's scoring strikes. Grade: B-
First quarter grade and analysis: Under constant assault by the Minnesota defense, Freeman was able to complete six of 11 attempts for 55 yards and a touchdown. His six completions were to six different receivers, led by Vincent Jackson who hauled in a 26-yard catch. Grade: B
Quarterback Josh Freeman enters the game on the hottest streak of his professional career, having thrown for 1,047 yards and seven touchdowns over the past three games.
Freeman will look to continue his torrid stretch against a tough, gritty Minnesota defense that has only allowed 14 plays of 20-plus yards through the air this season, which is the fourth-best mark in the NFL.
The key for Freeman will be to capitalize on opportunities as they arise, as based on the number above, they do not present themselves very often vs. Minnesota.
Offense Final Grade: A-
Final analysis: It is no small feat—especially for the traditionally punchless Bucs—that they have scored 28 or more points for the third consecutive game and fourth time this season. Led by rookie Doug Martin, who finished with 214 all-purpose yards and two TDs, the Bucs dominated time of possession by more than 15 minutes. Receiver Mike Williams continued his personal hot streak, hauling in six catches for 68 yards, including a score. Oh, and the Bucs gained 416 total yards.
Third quarter grade and analysis: The Bucs have scored 10 points in each of the first three quarters on their to 315 total yards, including 129 on the ground. Rookie running back Doug Martin has 202 all-purpose yards, including a 64-yard touchdown catch early in the quarter. Grade: B+
Second quarter grade and analysis: The offense turned two fumble recoveries into 10 points in the quarter. Though Freeman struggled through the air, running back Doug Martin had a great half, rushing for 106 yards on 14 carries. Six different receivers have caught passes for Tampa Bay. Grade: B+
First quarter grade and analysis: The offense started off showing signs of the short week, but quickly figured things out on their way to 122 total yards and 10 points. Running back Doug Martin led the team with 65 yards on the ground, while Vincent Jackson led with 26 yards receiving. Grade: B+
Led by their surging quarterback, the Bucs offense has seen its average per-game point total increase from 20 during the first three games of the season, to 29.3 over the last three weeks, led by receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, who have combined for nearly 650 receiving yards and five touchdowns during that stretch.
With the Vikings comes Adrian Peterson and the host of challenges the talented running back presents. If the Bucs want to give their defense a helping hand, scoring early and often against the Vikings could potentially limit the impact Peterson has—particularly on the ground.
Defense Final Grade: A-
Final analysis: Minus the 64-yard touchdown to Peterson, the Bucs allowed just 305 yards on the other 59 offensive snaps for the Vikings. The defense registered three sacks (Te'o Neshaim, Bennett and Foster), as well as forced three turnovers that the offense turned into 10 points. Safety Ronde Barber led the team with eight tackles and a forced fumble. It was the third time this season the defense held their opponent to 17 or fewer points. Not coincidentally, they've won all three games.
Third quarter grade and analysis: Although they surrendered the long touchdown run to Adrian Peterson, the defense as a whole has done a good job of pressuring Christian Ponder and limiting the Vikings offense to 17 points thus far. They have sacked Ponder twice and have forced two fumbles, recovering both. Grade: B+
Second quarter grade and analysis: Safety Ronde Barber forced a fumble from Adrian Peterson, the second forced fumble of the half for the defense. All told, the defense held Minnesota to 184 total yards and 10 points, including 60 yards to Peterson on the ground. Daniel Te'o Nesheim recorded the only Tampa Bay sack of the half. Grade: A-
First quarter grade and analysis: Helped by the hapless Christian Ponder, the Bucs defense limited the Minnesota offense to 43 total yards and zero points. Ponder completed just one of six pass attempts for four yards, while running back Adrian Peterson was held to 39 yards on the ground. Linebacker Mason Foster recovered a Jerome Simpson fumble late in the quarter. Grade: A+
While the offense has started to figure things out and carry the load, the defense is still trying to iron out their inefficiencies. The unit is loaded with a bevy of young, raw talent at numerous positions, which has contributed to its gaffes.
That said, the Bucs have the league's third-best rush defense (76 yards per game) and its best per-rush average (3.1 per carry). The problems lie in the secondary, where they have allowed 28 plays of 20-plus yards—fourth most in the NFL.
A lot of what ails them through the air, however, has been their lack of pass rush, as the Bucs have registered only eight sacks on the season, the fourth-fewest in the NFL.
Special Teams Final Grade: B
Final analysis: Nothing fancy, but highly efficient. Barth was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goal tries and punter Michael Koenen averaged nearly 47 yards per kick. The Bucs did very little in the way of kick or punt returns, though they did a great job of not allowing Vikings returner Percy Harvin to burn them either.
Third quarter grade and analysis: Barth
was once again success on a field goal try, making a 38-yarder—his third field goal of the game. Michael Koenen has averaged more than 50 yards per punt. Grade: B
Second quarter grade and analysis: Barth continued to be Mr. Reliable for Tampa Bay, connecting on a 40-yard attempt, improving to 2-for-2 for the half. Grade: B
First quarter grade and analysis:
Kicker Connor Barth connected on a 28-yard field goal. Returner Roscoe Parrish fumbled a punt return, though he eventually recovered it. Grade: B
Connor Barth, the Bucs' usually reliable placekicker, uncharacteristically missed a 42-yard attempt last weekend against New Orleans, although he has made 10-of-12 attempts on the season.
The Bucs' return game has been pretty dismal, averaging just 20.1 yards per kickoff return and 6.5 yards per punt return.
In what is expected to be another closely contested matchup vs. Minnesota, the play of the special teams becomes increasingly important to the success of the team.
Coaching Staff Final Grade: A-
Final analysis: At the end of the day, the Bucs coaching staff did a better job of preparing their team than the Vikings' staff did and the results are proof of that. Defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan focused on slowing down Peterson and Harvin and for the most part, the defense succeeded. Josh Freeman and the offense were able to capitalize on two turnovers and controlled the rock for nearly 38 minutes overall. All around, one of the better coaching performances of the season for this staff.
Third quarter grade and analysis: With the defense playing well, despite the long Peterson touchdown and the offense having already scored 30 points, the coaching staff has put their team in a position to play downhill on both sides of the ball in the fourth quarter. Grade: B-
Second quarter grade and analysis: The defense continued to pressure Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, knocking him down on numerous drop-backs, and sacking him once. Defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan has dialed up countless blitzes in an effort to confuse the second-year signal-caller. Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan has called a good game, but the ineffectiveness of Josh Freeman—and some ill-timed drops by his receivers—have limited the overall offensive output. Grade: B+
First quarter grade and analysis: Whenever you can gain 100-plus yards and limit the other team to less than half of that total for the quarter, the scheme that the coaching staff is deploying is clearly a success. Grade: A-
Greg Schiano and his staff have shown signs of figuring things out and putting their team in a position to succeed.
Defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan has yet to show that he can lead his unit to success against top-level quarterbacks, losing games to Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Robert Griffin III and Drew Brees this season.
Fortunately for them this week, Christian Ponder is not quite at the same level as the above-mentioned quarterbacks. Nonetheless, the defense will need a solid game plan to stop Adrian Peterson and to capitalize on the relative inexperience of Ponder—and on a short week, no less.