The Buccaneers had several players step up after an anemic first half — notably Josh Freeman, who added another fourth-quarter victory and game-winning drive to his résumé — but the standout was Preston Parker.
The second-year receiver out of North Alabama sparked the offense to life, catching passes, returning kicks, and making key conversions to extend Tampa drives. At game’s end, Parker had touched the ball 11 times for 193 total yards, with second-half conversions on 3rd and 4, 3rd and 10, and 3rd and 12.
Parker’s best play came on a short reception; he turned upfield, burned down the right sideline, and set up an easy Connor Barth field goal that cut into the Minnesota lead.
Another week, another opposing quarterback standing comfortably in the pocket. The elusive, yet geriatric, Donovan McNabb was clean most of the day, sacked only twice in 36 pass attempts by rookie Mason Foster and strong safety Sean Jones. Tampa Bay has invested a lot of early picks in the defensive line and — young as they are — someone has to beat their man one-on-one. The fewer blitzes the Buccaneers have to employ, the better they’ll defend the pass. The flashes are there, and it’s still early in the season, but this unit needs to gel if the Buccaneers want any sustainable success.
The first-half offense. Something has to change; Tampa’s early-game scheme is laughably predictable, and the players seem uncomfortable in their assignments. Freeman misses throws, the offensive line whiffs blocks, the receivers drop passes, and the running backs look hesitant. Punting four times in the first half exhausts the defense which, in turn, aggravates the deficit. Luckily, Greg Olson‘s halftime adjustments proved effective — and hey, comeback victories are exciting — but it’s going to cost the Buccaneers a ton of games if they don’t improve in their early-game drives.
And as masterful as Freeman’s comebacks have been, they’re giving me hypertension. I don’t think a few first-quarter points is too much to ask.