Buccaneers vs. Vikings Week 2: 5 Things Minnesota Can Feel Good About

Mike Nelson@Mike_E_NelsonCorrespondent ISeptember 19, 2011

Buccaneers vs. Vikings Week 2: 5 Things Minnesota Can Feel Good About

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    The Minnesota Vikings put it all together for one half Sunday afternoon. They were up 17-0 on a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that went 10-6 in 2010, and returned many of the same pieces.

    Minnesota showed that it has the talent to get the job done. It showed that it could compete with the better teams in the NFL—as was the case in the first half of the San Diego Chargers game in Week 1. The feelings were positive.

    But then Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman and running back LeGarrette Blount (two second half rushing touchdowns) crushed that idea in one half of football.

    At 0-2, the Vikings have buried themselves into a nice little hole in the competitive NFC North (two undefeated teams and the Chicago Bears who dismantled the Atlanta Falcons 30-12 in Week 1 at home, but were dismantled on the road against the New Orleans Saints 30-13).

    Here are five things the Vikings can feel good about entering a Week 3 home matchup with the powerful Detroit Lions:

The Running Game Is Alive and Well

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    At times in 2010 the running game looked TERRIBLE even with Adrian Peterson, the league’s best running back, in the backfield.

    So far through two games Peterson’s posted 218 yards on 41 carries (5.3 yards per carry) and two rushing touchdowns. Peterson is every bit the stud running back everyone has come to expect again in 2011—even with an offensive line that is still finding itself.

    Peterson’s backup, second-year back Toby Gerhart, was overly impressive in Week 2. He busted off a long 31 yard rush in which he jumped into another gear once he hit the open field. He appears much quicker, faster and in better shape than he was in 2010. He also was impressive on a nice 41-yard screen play in the first half.

    The Vikings will be able to run the ball with the best in the league in 2011. They can hang their hat on that. But that was what this team proclaimed all offseason. If Minnesota couldn’t run the ball then this would be a REALLY long season.

Donvan McNabb Can Command the Offense

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    He's still alive.

    Week 1 was a week quarterback Donovan McNabb will definitely want to forget. He had 39 yards passing in the game and only two yards passing in the second half in Minnesota’s 24-17 loss to the Chargers.

    In Week 2 he looked much more comfortable. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave called rollout plays for McNabb in which he looked right at home. He even showed, on a few plays, that he still can leg off a nice run when needed.

    He finished Week 2 with 228 yards on 18-of-30 passing (60 percent completion percentage) and a passer rating of 83.8.

    He got receiver Percy Harvin more involved with the offense (seven catches for 76 yards) and got his tight ends, Visanthe Shiancoe (three catches for 28 yards) and Kyle Rudolph (one catch for 15 yards), more involved.

    He still has work to do. But many people were left scratching their heads after Week 1. In Week 2 McNabb showed he still has some left in the tank. He led the Vikings offense up and down the field in the first half. Now he needs to do that for a full two halves of football.

    There was improvement, which has to make Minnesotans feel better about their team than they would have had the team gotten destroyed by the Buccaneers in Week 2.

The Offensive Line Can Continue Improve

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    The San Diego Chargers had the same number of sacks that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had in Week 2, but the Chargers disrupted Donovan McNabb’s flow by forcing him to move around moreso than the Buccaneers did in Week 2.

    In Week 2 the Vikings gave McNabb more time to sit in the pocket and do his thing without disruption. It helped the Vikings score 17 first half points.

    The second half wasn’t as well played by this offensive line as was the first, but it was still improved.

    There’s only one newcomer to the line from the starting lineup in Week 1 of 2010. But that’s at the left tackle position, which is the most important position of the offensive line.

    The line opened up more holes for running back Adrian Peterson in Week 2 and served as a catalyst to his 120 yards rushing.

    There’s still room for improvement. But Week 2 was better than Week 1 for this group.

Kevin Williams Returns

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    The defensive line showed an ability to get to the quarterback and disrupt his regular activities in the pocket through the first two weeks of the season.

    It has also shown an overall ability to stop the run—something the Minnesota defensive unit has hung its hat on the past five seasons—as the Chargers rushed for 77 yards in Week 1 and the Buccaneers rushed for 105 yards in Week 2 (91 yards rushing per game allowed).

    Those numbers were posted by a unit that didn’t have Pro-Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams. Williams should return to Minnesota’s front four for the home game against the Detroit Lions this Sunday.

    Williams has been one of the best defensive linemen of the past decade and will be a big help for Minnesota—especially considering that offsides calls against defensive tackles in Week 1 eliminated any hope the Vikings had of tying the Chargers in regulation.

    Williams brings another veteran presence and a chip on his shoulder—he had a career low one sack in 2010 and many feel his best years are behind him—which can’t hurt.

Jared Allen Looks Good

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    To say that Jared Allen struggled through the first seven games of 2010 is an understatement. The Pro-Bowl defensive end had one sack over that stretch and was of little service to stopping to the run too.

    Through two games in 2011 he has 1.5 sacks (this pace projects him for 24 in 2011, which would be a new single-season NFL record) and an interception.

    Don’t expect that pace to keep up. But it appears that a 14-to-15.5 sack season he had between  2007 and 2009 isn’t out of the question—he had 11 sacks in 2010.  

    He went through stretches in 2010 where he was seized to be heard from. In 2011 he’s made sure people know his name. He’s made sure he’s put himself in a position where he can drop to one knee and lasso up that stray cattle.

    And Minnesota needs him more in 2011 than it has in his previous two seasons as a Viking, given the departure of defensive end Ray Edwards.