Buccaneers vs. Vikings Week 2 Preview: 5 Keys to a Minnesota Victory
One game into Minnesota’s 2011 campaign and the questions piled up:
Does quarterback Donovan McNabb have anything left in the tank? Can this offense do anything other than run with Adrian Peterson? Will we ever see a two tight end formation? Can anyone on the defense tackle?
For a team that was up 17-7 at halftime, the state-of-mind surrounding the team is pretty lousy.
In Week 2, the Vikings host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1, coming off a 27-20 loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 1) in the home opener—the first time the Vikings will play a regular season game at Mall of America Field since the roof collapse.
Here are five keys for the Vikings to be victorious in Week 2.
5. Get Percy Harvin More Involved with Passing Game
In the offseason the Vikings let their No. 1 receiver from the past two seasons leave for the Seattle Seahawks. This was, in part, because they felt that Percy Harvin was ready to be their No. 1 guy; they felt he was ready to take it to the next level.
Without Sidney Rice in Week 1, the passing game looked putrid (though Rice doesn't deserve all the credit for the putrid passing game).
Harvin finished the day with two catches and seven yards receiving on four passes thrown his way, which isn't going to cut it. He is the lone playmaker in this wide receiver corps.
He showed Minnesota why it was smart to believe he had the play-making capabilities to be a No. 1 receiver with his 102-yard kickoff return to start the scoring for Minnesota in 2011.
Find a way to get this man more involved.
4. Improved Tackling
The Vikings defense allowed a player like fullback Mike Tolbert—who has never had more than three touchdowns or 25 receptions in a season in his four-year career—to go off for two receiving touchdowns on 58 yards and nine receptions.
How did this happen?
Minnesota’s secondary didn’t let much behind it, but it allowed plenty of dump-down passes to go through. Many of those dump-down passes turned into big gains. How?
The defense played well in the first half, allowing only seven points. But in the second half, it was clear that the offense got tired and winded from the San Diego heat and large amount of time spent on the field.
In Week 2, the heat won’t be a factor, as Minnesota will return to its dome. But that doesn’t mean the tackling concerns aren’t still an issue.
3. Making the Predictable Offense Unpredictable
Minnesota showed signs of life offensively in the first half. It was an offense that wasn’t overly predictable and, while it didn’t result in an overwhelming amount of offensive production, at least San Diego was on its heels at times.
Minnesota turned, primarily, into a run, run, run team in the second half. There wasn’t anything else it did. First and second downs turned into Adrian Peterson time, and then third down would be the one pass of the series because the offense would need five or more yards due to the ineptness of the running game early on.
Where were the two tight end sets we were promised? Where were the tight ends in the passing game? Where was receiver Percy Harvin in the passing game? How about a few more screens for Peterson?
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's second-half offense felt a lot like former coach Brad Childress’ offense: predictable and inefficient—at least when the quarterback is not having an MVP caliber season.
Musgrave needs to step his game up in Week 2.
2. Offensive Line Improvement
While Bryant McKinnie played phenomenally in his debut as the Baltimore Ravens' left tackle, Minnesota’s new left tackle Charlie Johnson and the rest of the offensive line struggled its way through the 24-17 loss to San Diego.
The offensive line did only allow two sacks in the opener, which puts it on pace for 32 in 2011 (in 2010 it allowed 36). But sacks only account for the plays in which the quarterback physically goes down for a loss.
There were too many plays where McNabb did not have the necessary time to make plays with his arm due to poor O-line play. That has to change in Week 2 and beyond.
1. Donovan McNabb
McNabb’s stat line after Week 1: 7-of-15 for 39 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and a 47.9 quarterback rating.
To say it was a bad week for McNabb is an understatement.
The veteran quarterback threw for 37 yards in the first half and only two yards the rest of the game. Of McNabb’s 37 passing yards in the first half, 26 yards were accumulated by receiver Michael Jenkins, who scored the lone touchdown produced by the offense.
McNabb showed the ability to still get out and scramble, but his passing was putrid in Week 1. If there is room for improvement, it better be apparent against the Buccaneers.
Otherwise, if McNabb does more of the same against Tampa Bay, then the Christian Ponder era should be well underway by the time Week 3 rolls around.