Bucs Central
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COLTS:  Club has won 9 of past 10 games on Monday Night Football…Colts are 6-2 vs. NFC under head coach Jim CaldwellQB Kerry Collins (40,922) needs 78 passing yards to become 10th player in NFL history to reach 41,000. Since ’08, is 5-0 as starter vs. NFC…RB Joseph Addai gained season-best 86 rushing yards last week on 17 carries (5.1 avg.) with 1 TD. In past 2 vs. NFC, Addai averages 110 rush yards per game (220 total)…WR Reggie Wayne (10,944) needs 56 receiving yards to reach 11,000 career. In past 4 vs. NFC, Wayne is averaging 112.5 receiving yards per game (450 total)…DE Dwight Freeney had 2 sacks & 1 FF last week. Freeney (97) needs 3 sacks to reach 100 career. Aims for 3rd straight game with FF. DE Robert Mathis registered sack, FF & FR last game…Rookie S Joe Lefeged (undrafted free agent) posted 1st career INT last week.

BUCCANEERS: Host 1st Monday Night Football game since 11/24/03 (TB 19, NYG 13). Have won 5 of past 7 at home on Monday Night…QB Josh Freeman has won 4 of past 5 starts. In career, when Freeman starts & has 100+ rating, Bucs are 7-1. Had 1st career rushing TD last week…RB LeGarrette Blount had 24 carries for 81 yards vs. Atlanta. Bucs have won 6 of 7 games when Blount has 18+ attempts. RB Earnest Graham has team-best 20 catches & ties for 3rd in NFL among RBs…WR Mike Williams has 5 TDs in past 6. Has 5+ catches in 3 of 4 career games vs. AFC & has 2 receiving TDs. WR Preston Parker leads team with 153 receiving yards. TE Kellen Winslow has catch in 79 games in row…CB Ronde Barber has started 186 consecutive games, most by CB in NFL history. Had INT last week. Only player in NFL history with 25+ sacks (26) & 40+ INTs (41). In last Monday Night Football game vs. Ind. (10/6/03), had 29-yard INT-TD. Aims for 3rd Monday Night Football game in row with INT. Rookie DE Adrian Clayborn had sack & FF in Week 3.

Buc Central’s POW-R’-ANKINGS; The power rankings are the product of a simple mathematical formula, using points for and points against. The rankings have predicted 10 of the last 21 Super Bowl winners. Further, 15 of the last 21 Super Bowl winners finished the regular season No. 1 or No. 2 in the POW-R’-ANKINGS system. Unlike with other, lesser rating systems, which are based on the authors opinion or some sort of biased towards a team they have a rooting interest in, no opinion is involved what so ever in formulating these rankings. None. Teams are ranked on a percentile scale, with 1.000 representing the NFL’s strongest team and 0.000 its weakest. If you don’t like where your perspective team is ranked, blame the evolution of mathematical science. (Key: WK 3 = This week’s rankings, based on combined stats from week 1 through week 3 performances. WK 2 = last week rankings)..

Through three weeks of the 2011 NFL season the two biggest surprise teams have been the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions. The Bills held the top spot for a week while the Lions have been on top of the world, for the past two weeks. The Bucs who started out as the 22nd ranked team. Have been climbing over the past two weeks and are this weeks 18th ranked team.


Monday, October 6, 2003.

It’s a day that has been etched into football history as the day the Tampa Bay Buccaneers squandered a 21-point late 4th quarter lead to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. But for me, it’s a day of few football memories.

I was in high school at the time. There were papers and tests to worry about—not to mention— 7:30 a.m. classes. So when Ronde Barber’s 29-yard interception return for a touchdown extended the Bucs lead to 35-14 with 5:09 remaining, I fell into a classic blunder. Not the “Princess Bride” kind, but a devastating one none the less. I assumed Tampa Bay was going to win and went to bed. Maybe Bucs players did the same thing.

The Classic Blunder

One thing’s for sure, I didn’t expect to see a giant “L” next to the box score when I looked at the morning’s newspaper. I felt ill; and not just because Tampa lost, but because I had missed out on watching something extraordinary. Amazing feats like that rarely happen, although most Tampa Bay area fans can say they witnessed a comeback of equal proportions Wednesday night with the Tampa Bay Rays. It’s games like these that transform sports into something more – into a religious activity, perhaps. Think about it. Fans congregate to a sporting event to praise and glorify their favorite teams. We pray our team makes a fourth-down stand and we put faith in players to step up and play to their potential. And yes, at times, we even see some lukewarm fans converting from one religion (team) to another.

I pray this Monday night will be different. Indianapolis is without its field general, but that doesn’t mean this team is a cupcake. Defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have consistently been among the lead leaders in sacks and forced fumbles since 2004. They may be the best defensive end combo in the NFL today. Additionally, Peyton Manning may not be under center, but the offense line that did such a tremendous job protecting him all these years is healthy. Expect the Colts coaching staff to be safe with whomever they decide to start at quarterback – presumably Curtis Painter – but don’t assume Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, and Austin Collie won’t be heavily involved in the offense. We all know what happens when someone assumes. Here are some more matchups to watch in Monday’s game.

Tampa Bay’s first half scoring: Is it too much to ask for a first quarter touchdown? In three games, they have one, and that one occurred on an Aqib Talib interception return for a touchdown. They have looked sluggish early in the game and still haven’t produced a sustained drive in the first quarter. It is also disconcerting that Josh Freeman has looked disconnected from his wide receivers early and often. There have been too many over-thrown or under-thrown passes, and well as a lack of zip on the balls he’s thrown.

How will the loss of safety Cody Grimm impact the Bucs secondary? Grimm was placed on injured reserve after tearing ligaments in his knee during Sunday’s game versus the Falcons. Matt Ryan took full advantage of his absence, throwing for 149 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter alone. Granted, Tampa Bay’s secondary won’t be tested as much this week with Painter under center, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Indianapolis runs a couple deep routes early to test the awareness of free safety plug-in Corey Lynch.

Count on a low-scoring affair in this one. Tampa Bay hasn’t shown the ability on offense to start out strong and I expect a heavy dose of running backs Joseph Addai and rookie Delone Carter from Indianapolis early on. I expect the offensive line to have their hands full all night as they deal with constant pressure from Freeney, Mathis, and timely blitzing from the Colts secondary. Tampa Bay should plan on running screens and draws to counter-act the heavy pass rush. Defensively, forcing Painter into turnovers and hurried throws will be a key to winning the game. Overall, my prediction is a 17-13 Tampa Bay victory. Be sure not a fall asleep until the final whistle blows with this game.

It was sloppy.  It was ugly.  And it was about time.

With a 16-13 victory, the Bucs snapped a five-game losing streak to Matt Ryan and the Dirty Birds, and — per usual — it took every inch of Tampa’s 295 yards to put away their division rival.

Josh Freeman and Mike Williams (Cliff McBride)

The Good

Of all the good — and there was a lot of it — I was most pleased to see the improvements to Greg Olson‘s first-quarter play calling.  The points weren’t there (despite great field position for much of the first half), and the red zone offense was dreadful, but I was ecstatic to Olson working the ball toward our playmakers.  Mike Williams, thrown to only twice against Minnesota, was targeted six times in the first half (4 receptions, 40 yards); LeGarrette Blount was right on schedule, carrying the ball 10 times; and Luke Stocker, Arrelious Benn, and Preston Parker joined in on the action, spreading the Atlanta defense and keeping the Falcons off balance for the opening two quarters.  13 first-half points won’t beat elite teams, but it’s a sound start for a team struggling to find an offensive identity outside of the hurry-up.  If Josh Freeman works on his fundamentals and starts consistently hitting receivers mid-route, look for the offense to return to its late-2010 form.

The Bad

January 3rd, 2010: the last time Freeman had a passer rating lower than the 56.8 he posted on Sunday afternoon.  The Franchise has been underwhelming this season — outside of the two-minute drill — and hasn’t yet awakened from the sleepy offseason.  He’s been missing receivers since the preseason, overthrowing short routes and underthrowing deep balls, and appears timid in the pocket.  Freeman’s a notoriously slow starter and probably won’t ever be the 300-yard, four-touchdown fantasy passer every week, but he’s always been dependable.  He wasn’t even that against the Falcons, throwing a soul-crushing interception inside the Atlanta ten-yard line, and missing several wide open receivers over the course of the game.  Regression was inevitable, coming off a legendary 2010.  But if he doesn’t bounce back, it won’t be long until the Bucs’ franchise quarterback becomes a liability to the team.

The Ugly

Adrian Clayborn's first NFL sack (Cliff McBride)

The ugliest part of the game, by far, was Mason Foster, Adrian Clayborn, Brian Price, Gerald McCoy, and Dekoda Watson‘s complete and utter destruction of the Atlanta Falcons.  The five of them combined for 10 tackles, four sacks, and two forced fumbles; they held Michael Turner to 20 yards on 11 carries — blowing through their blocks and swarming the stout Falcon running back — and had Matt Ryan running for his life for much of the afternoon. Watson, Clayborn, and Price, all recorded the first sack of their careers: Watson stripping the ball from Ryan’s grasp, Clayborn delivering a hit-stick and firing shockwaves through the Atlanta passer, and Price sending Ryan sprawling to the turf without laying a hand on him.  It was a throwback performance, reminiscent of the Super Bowl Bucs, and if it’s a sign of things to come, it’s only gonna get uglier for opposing passers.

FALCONS: QB Matt Ryan has won past 5 starts vs. TB. Has won 7 of past 8 starts vs. division. In his career, has posted 100+ rating 16 times & Falcons are 16-0. Had career-high 4 TD passes last week…In past 4 meetings, RB Michael Turner has rushed for 380 yards (95 per game) & 4 TDs. Since joining Atlanta in 2008, has rushed for 40 TDs, 2nd most in NFL. FB Ovie Mughelli had 17-yard TD catch in last meeting…WR Roddy White aims for 3rd division game in row with TD catch. Since start of 2007, has 382 receptions, 2nd most in NFC. TE Tony Gonzalez had 7 catches (2 TDs) last week & moved into 5th place all-time (1,081). WR Julio Jones leads NFC rookies with 7 catches & 100 yards. WR-KR Eric Weems had 102-yard KR-TD in last meeting. Team is 2nd in NFC with 71.4 TD pct. inside 20 (5 TDs, 7 poss.) … DE John Abraham has 8 sacks in 11 meetings. Has 104.5 career sacks, 2nd most among active players. CB Brent Grimes has INT in 3 games in row vs. TB. Defense has 5 INTs in past 3 vs. TB.

BUCCANEERS: In past 3 division starts, QB Josh Freeman has completed 58 of 88 (65.9 pct.) for 677 yards with 5 TDs vs. 1 INT for 103.3 rating. Has 130+ rating in 2 of past 3 vs. NFC South. In career, when Freeman starts & has 100+ rating, Bucs are 7-1…RB LeGarrette Blount tied career-high with 2 rush TDs last week, including game-winner with 31 seconds left. Rushed for 103 yards & TD in last meeting. In past 3 vs. Atl. with 15+ att., RB Earnest Graham has rushed for 297 yards (99 per game) & 3 TDs…WR Mike Williams aims for 3rd in row vs. Atlanta with TD catch. Has 5 TDs in past 5. WR-KR Micheal Spurlock has 2 career KR-TDs vs. Atl. (90 & 89 yards). WR Arrelious Benn had 25-yard rec. TD last week. Scored 1st career TD vs. Atlanta (11/7/10). WR Preston Parker had career-high 6 catches & 98 yards last week. TE Kellen Winslow has catch in 78 games in row…CB Ronde Barber has started 185 consecutive games, most by CB in NFL history. Only player in NFL history with 25+ sacks (26) & 40+ INTs (40). Rookie LB Mason Foster had 10 tackles, sack & FF in Week 2. S Sean Jones had INT in last meeting & has INT in 3 of 4 vs. Atlanta.

Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp (Chris Livingston)

The streak started on Sunday, October 10, 1999 at Lambeau Field.

The Buccaneers lost that game in the waning seconds on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Brett Favre to Antonio Freeman — the 26 points the second-highest total they would surrender all year — but the Tampa defense battered the Green Bay quarterback for four brutal quarters.  Chidi Ahanotu recorded a sack early in the contest, and Warren Sapp and Marcus Jones combined for four more over the course of the evening.

It’d be four seasons — a record 69 games — before Rod Marinelli‘s men would be held without a quarterback takedown, and fittingly, it was Brett Favre who denied them.  His fourth-quarter march and game-winning touchdown in late 2003 ended an era of dominance in Tampa Bay.  Warren Sapp left the following season, Rod Marinelli the year after, and the defense never quite recovered.

I could easily fill this list with players from that era of Buccaneer football: Brad Culpepper, Chidi Ahanotu, Marcus Jones… hell, even Greg Spires — the best run-stopping end in team history — has a place on this list.  But I feel like that period — the time of the legendary Marinelli pass-rushers — is best represented by one or two big names, and not necessarily the supporting cast around them.

That being said, we start in an unlikely place:

5. Ron Holmes (19 sacks; 1985 – 1988)

A back injury ended Lee Roy Selmon‘s career prematurely in 1984, and in 1985, the Buccaneers drafted his replacement with the eighth overall pick.  Unfortunately, Ron Holmes was no Lee Roy Selmon, and the pass rusher from Washington never panned out.  He held out of his inaugural preseason for a bigger contract and struggled to adjust to NFL speeds, which made him many enemies in the Bay area media.

He did, however, showcase flashes of that top-ten talent; in 1987 he led the team in sacks, recording 8 in spite of the player’s strike.  His 1988 season was derailed by injuries, and a frigid relationship with the organization and its fans caused him to demand a trade.  Tampa happily obliged, shipping the 1985 first-round pick to Denver, after four seasons, for a fourth-round pick.

4. Stylez G. White (24 sacks; 2007 – 2010)

Formerly “Greg,” Stylez G. White was a seventh-round washout from the University of Minnesota.  After failing to make an NFL roster in 2002 — and being cut by six teams in the following seasons — Stylez took on odd jobs up north: delivering pizza, working the assembly line, and greeting customers at Best Buy.  In 2006, he signed a contract with the Orlando Predators of the AFL, and in 2007, White set the record for sacks in an AFL season and took home the AFL Defensive Player of the Year award.

His performance landed him a camp invite with the Buccaneers.  Just weeks after the close of the Arena Football season, White managed to make the Tampa roster and — sixteen games later, as a rotational player — finish with the Buccaneer lead in quarterback sacks and pressures.

Stylez played four seasons in Tampa and led the Buccaneers in sacks three times.  His 24 career quarterback takedowns rank him ninth in Tampa Bay history, and his meager 63 games played are the lowest of anyone in the top ten.

3. Warren Sapp (77 sacks; 1995 – 2003)

He was the face of the Buccaneer pass rush — shaped like a wrecking ball and equally as devastating — and he spearheaded some of the great defenses in the history of the league.  He set the standard for pass-rushing defensive tackles, recording a 96.5 sacks from the interior defensive line.  Regan Upshaw, Marcus Jones, Anthony McFarland, Brad Culpepper, Steve White, and Chidi Ahanotu thrived in his presence as he collapsed offensive lines and chewed up the pocket, creating nightmares for quarterbacks.

He was elected to seven Pro Bowls and was a six-time All-Pro selection.  The NFL awarded him 1999’s Defensive Player of the Year award, and in January 2010, Sapp became the only defensive player named to the 1990s and 2000s All-Decade teams.

2. Simeon Rice (41.5 sacks; 2001 – 2006)

Simeon Rice recorded 51.5 sacks as an Arizona Cardinal — over 10 sacks per season — and in 2001, the Buccaneers purchased his services to help put their defense over the top.  Just a season later, the Buccaneers fielded one of the greatest defenses in league history, and signing Simeon Rice became the best move the Bucs’ front office ever made.

Together, Rice and Sapp combined for a ridiculous 60 sacks in three seasons.  Both were among the quickest players at their positions and each demanded a double team on every play.  Offensive tackles bowed and eventually broke against Simeon’s furious swims, rips, and spins; he pounced on passers — even the most fleet-footed of them — like a cheetah tackling its prey.

In an early October game in 2002, opposing quarterback Michael Vick trudged dejectedly to the bench after a failed offensive series.  When asked what the problem was, Vick said, “They’re too fast.  I can’t set up.  I can’t even throw the damn ball.”

And I couldn’t’ve said it any better.

1. Lee Roy Selmon (78.5 sacks, unofficially; 1976 – 1984)

When Selmon passed away in early September, Simeon Rice — usually never short on words — wrote a brief statement regarding Selmon and his legacy.  Rice called him a “man, legend, and champion,” and a “dynamic force.” He said that it had been a privilege to live in Selmon’s shadow, and concluded the note with four simple words: “Long live the King.”

Selmon’s 78.5 quarterback sacks is the best mark in Buccaneer history.  The man wasn’t short on accolades; he was the franchise’s first draft pick, and in nine seasons, made six Pro Bowls, five All-Pro teams, earned a Defensive Player of the Year award, found a place (alongside Reggie White and Bruce Smith) on the 1980s All-Decade team, and was voted the 98th best player of all-time by the NFL.

Barry Switzer — Selmon’s college coach, who later coached the Cowboys to a Super Bowl victory — said Lee Roy was the best player he’d ever coached.  Selmon was revered by his fans and universally feared by his foes.  In “The New Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football” Chicago lineman Ted Albrecht said, “At halftime I told the coach my deepest secrets. I said I never wanted to be buried at sea. I never wanted to get hit in the mouth with a hockey puck, and I didn’t want to go out and play that second half against Lee Roy Selmon.” Anthony Muñoz, maybe the greatest offensive tackle ever, claimed that Selmon was the best defensive lineman he’d ever faced.

Scarier still is the idea that Selmon might’ve been even better.  He was the best player on the league’s worst team for most of his career, playing as a 3-4 defensive end (a position not known for producing elite pass rushers), with little help down the defensive line.  He earned six of the line’s seven Pro Bowl appearances in his career, and despite being double- and triple-teamed on most plays, he still holds the unofficial mark for sacks in Tampa Bay history, and the distinction as the best Buccaneer pass rusher of all-time.

Long live the King.

Freeman Mr. Third Down, needs to become Mr. First Down

In 2010 Josh Freeman was 84-of-139 for 1,015 yards, 5 touchdowns, 1 interception and a completion percentage of 60.4 for an average of 7.30 yards per pass and a QB rating of 91.9.

Through two games this season Freeman thus far has improved on those numbers completing 17-of-18 for 210 yards, a completion percentage of 94.4, averaging 11.67 yards per pass with a quarterback rating of 115.3, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions.

His improvement however, has come at a price. That price is his play on first down. Through just two games he’s 17-of-33 for 186-yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, 2 sacks, a completion percentage of 51.5 for an average of 5.64 yards per pass and a QB rating of 53.3.

Just like the team struggles to produce in the first half of games, Freeman has been struggling on first down. It’s not as if the ground game is not working on first down either. The duo of LeGarrette Blount and Earnest Graham have combined to gain 90-yards on 15 carries and average of 6-yards per carry and scored 2 touchdowns on first down.

While the ebb and flow of a football game dictates the play calling there needs to be a better balance of run to pass. Currently the Bucs run the football 31% on first down compared to passing 69% of the time on first down. If the Bucs want to jump out of the gate in the first half. A better balance between the two should help Freeman become more consistent on first down enabling the team to get in a better rhythm and produce more early.

The Good
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.

The Bad
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 Ugly
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.

The Buccaneers have won seven of the last ten and four consecutive meetings with Minnesota, but the Vikings lead the all-time series 31-20. Tampa Bay also owns an 8-1 record over the last nine games played in Tampa. The series started in 1977, when Tampa Bay joined the NFC Central Division. Minnesota won, 9-3, at Tampa Stadium in 1977 before the Bucs upset the Vikings, 16-10, at Metropolitan Stadium in 1978. That win was just the third in franchise history and the first against a divisional opponent. Tampa Bay also won, 12-10, at the Met the following year en route to its first division title, breaking Minnesota’s six-year run as NFC Central champs. The Vikings won 10 of 12 contests from 1984-1989, but the series has tightened up in recent years. Tampa Bay and Minnesota split the season series in the final nine years (1993-2001) the two teams were in the NFC Central. The Bucs’ 41-13 decision in 2000 was the most lopsided victory for Tampa Bay in the long series; Minnesota’s most dominant win came in a 45-13 win in 1986. Tampa Bay posted 41 points in consecutive home wins against the Vikings in 2000 and 2001 and scored 38 points in the 2002 meeting, a 38-24 win. Tampa’s 24-13 victory at Minnesota in 2005 and 19-13 victory at Tampa in 2008 made it four-in-a-row over the Vikings.

Date: Sunday, September 18, 2011
Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. ET (12:00 C.T.)
Site: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (64,111)
2011 Records: Tampa Bay 0-1, Minnesota 0-1
Network Television: FOX
Play-by-Play: Dick Stockton, Analyst: John Lynch
Bucs Radio: US 103.5, flagship station (103.5 FM, 620 AM)
Play-by-Play: Gene Deckerhoff, Color: Dave Moore, Sideline: T.J. Rives
Last Game: Tampa Bay lost to Detroit, 27-20; Minnesota lost at San Diego, 24-17

Series By The Numbers
Overall Regular Season Series:…………….. Minnesota leads series, 20-31
Home Record vs. Minnesota Vikings:………………………………….. 13-13
Road Record vs. Minnesota Vikings:……………………………………..7-18
Current Streak:…………………………….Buccaneers, four games (2001-08)
Buccaneers Longest Streak:…………………………. Four games (2001-08)
Vikings Longest Streak:……………Five games, three times (last 1991-93)
Regular Season Point Total:……………….Buccaneers 910 – Vikings 1,093
Most Points, Buccaneers:……….. 41, twice, last Buccaneers 41-13 (2000)
Most Points, Vikings:……………………………….. 49, Vikings 49-20 (1988)
Most Points, both teams:………………………….. 69, Vikings 49-20 (1988)
Fewest Points, Buccaneers:…………………………..0, Vikings 15-0 (1993)
Fewest Points, Vikings:………………………………….9, Vikings 9-3 (1977)
Fewest Points, both teams:…………………………..12, Vikings 9-3 (1977)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
CB Myron Lewis (ankle) Out
WR Sammie Stroughter (foot) Out
T James Lee (knee) Questionable
DE Da’Quan Bowers (shoulder) Probable

Minnesota Vikings
DE Adrian Awasom (knee) Questionable
LB EJ Henderson (knee) Questionable
CB Asher Allen (toe) Probable
WR Michael Jenkins (groin) Probable

Vikings Head Coach: Leslie Frazier
Vikings Offensive Coordinator: Fred Pagac
Vikings Defensive Coordinator: Bill Musgrave
Vikings Special Teams Coach: Mike Priefer

Overall: 20th (315.0 ypg)
Rushing: 29th (56.0 ypg)
Passing: 14th (259.0 ypg)
Sacks Allowed: 8th (2)
Points Scored: 20th (20.0 ppg)
Overall: 17th (431.0 ypg)
Rushing: 23rd (126.0 ypg)
Passing: 25th (305 ypg)
Sacks: 32nd (0)
Points Allowed: 19th (27.0 ppg)

Overall: 32nd (187.0 ypg)
Rushing: 7th (159.0 ypg)
Passing: 32nd (28.0 ypg)
Sacks Allowed: 8th (2)
Points Scored: 22nd (17.0 ppg)
Overall: 27th (407.0 ypg)
Rushing: 12th (77.0 ypg)
Passing: 28th (330.0 ypg)
Sacks: 28th (2)
Points Allowed: 16th (24.0 ppg)

Buc Central’s Prognostication:
As always we are not advocating gambling based on our views of the game, especially considering we typically are inclined to make such educated guesses using are heart rather the any rational thought applied to picking. We are merely giving an opinion of who we think has the best chance at securing a victory.


Last Sunday’s game against Detroit was disappointing. Not because I predicted the Lions to win and they did, but disappointing that Tampa Bay wasn’t able to put up much of a fight. The 27-20 Lions victory was not as close as the score would indicate. Tampa was bullied up front and quarterback Matthew Stafford was allowed to stand unfazed in the pocket far too much. That can’t happen this week against Minnesota, even with veteran Donovan McNabb under center. Here are a few matchups the Bucs need to focus on if they want to come home with a victory this week.

Containing Adrian Peterson: You don’t need to be a savvy analyst to know that Peterson IS the Vikings offense. He has ranked in the top 10 in rushing attempts for the last three years and has recently developed into a nice pass-catcher, totaling 79 receptions over the past two seasons. Last week versus San Diego, McNabb struggled mightily. He completed just seven passes for 39 yards and looked flustered most of the game. San Diego loaded the box early and often, and dared McNabb to beat their secondary. He showed over and over that he couldn’t. With eight or more players up front, Peterson struggled to find running room and it forced Minnesota into many long third-downs.

The Bucs will need to contain Adrian Peterson Sunday. (Associated Press)

The Bucs defense needs to follow this example. Their main focus should be containing Peterson, forcing him to run side-to-side rather than straight up the middle. Look for Tampa Bay to stack the box and blitz McNabb. If they can hold Peterson to fewer than 100 yards and bait McNabb into throwing often, expect Tampa Bay to force turnovers and more than likely be on the winning side.

Conversely, LeGarrette Blount needs to get the ball. It is inexcusable for a number one running back to get the ball only five times. Earnest Graham is a good change of pace back, but he shouldn’t handle the ball twice as much as Blount. Count on OC Greg Olson to call several plays for LeGarrette going forward.

Donald Penn vs. Jared Allen: The second-most vital player to contain on Minnesota is Pro-Bowl defensive end Jared Allen. He has made a habit of harassing quarterbacks all game and has accumulated at least 11 sacks each of the last four seasons. Left tackle Donald Penn will definitely have his hands full, but Penn does have something on his side.

Donald Penn will have his hands full guarding Pro Bowl DE Jared Allen. (Associated Press)

After graduating from Utah State, he began his career as an undrafted free agent on the Vikings practice squad. This will be his first game back in Minnesota. Earlier in the week, Penn said he still has a chip on his shoulder. Expect his emotions to be riding high as he returns to the team that didn’t give him a chance five years ago.

Overall, count on this one being a close game throughout. I expect both teams to run often, while mixing in play-action passes sparingly. The Vikings secondary allowed Philip Rivers to throw for 335 yards, so perhaps Josh Freeman won’t be afraid to take a few stabs downfield to Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn. In his lone game versus Tampa Bay in 2008, Adrian Peterson ran for 85 yards and zero touchdowns. I would be thrilled if the Bucs held him to that Sunday. Look for Blount to carry a bigger load – 80 yards and a touchdown would be nice. Again, this one will be close, but I predict Tampa Bay winning on a late field goal 23-20.

Raheem Morris announced that Jeremy Zuttah has cracked the starting lineup for Sunday’s game.  It’ll mark the fourth time in four seasons that Zuttah’s been called upon to either fill in for an injured teammate or pick up the slack for an under-performer.

The move sends second-year left guard Ted Larsen to the bench in an effort to revitalize the stagnate Tampa ground game. “Larsen didn’t play terrible last week,” said Morris, “but coming off the (ankle) injury, I didn’t think he played as aggressive as he normally could and give me the power that he normally gave me last year. So we’ll try a little change up this week.”

Let’s hope it works.  Tampa Bay running backs averaged only 2.5 yards per carry against Detroit.

While pursuing the internet this morning. I came across an interesting cumulative measure of an offensive line’s ability to protect the passer called “Protection Index”. The index, which uses a proprietary formula, was created by sports information leader STATS to provide a composite gauge for an offensive line’s ability to protect the quarterback. The fundamentals are comprised of the length of a team’s pass attempts combined with penalties by offensive linemen, sacks allowed and quarterback hurries and knockdowns.

The Bucs who looked out of sync in the opener ranked 4th, with a combined score of 89, 13.1 points behind the Detroit Lions, the rankings week 1 leader.

After an atrocious offensive game plan against the Detroit Lions, in which offensive coordinator Greg Olson used just four different personnel groupings on offense. Here is the breakdown of the personnel groupings used on the 64 plays run by the Bucs offense.

11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE & 3 WR) 52 (5 runs, 2 scrambles, 3 spikes & 42 passes)
12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE & 2 WR) 6 (2 runs, 3 passes & 1 scramble)
21 personnel (2 RB, 1 TE & 2 WR) 5 (2 runs & 3 passes)
22 personnel (2 RB, 2 TE & 1 WR) 1 (1 pass)

Looking at the snap count for the receiver’s, second year WR Preston Parker logged the second most snaps 45…WR Mike Williams led all receivers with 63 snaps…WR Arrelious Benn had 38…WR Dezmon Briscoe had 25…WR Micheal Spurlock had 7 and Sammie Stroughter had 1 before leaving the game with an injury.

After witnessing what Spurlock contributed in clutch situations last season, one has to wonder why the Bucs decided to feature Parker over Briscoe and Spurlock. Presumably Stroughter would have had a load of snaps if it weren’t for the injury. But everything being reported by both the local and national media touting Briscoe as the team third receiver looks to be inaccurate after the first game.

Says head coach Raheem Morris:

“We’ll still use our normal rotation because I want to keep those guys fresh, and I want those guys to have the ability to be strong and be tough and fight as a unit. But [Price has] certainly earned the ability to go out there and play first.”

Rick Stroud reports that defensive tackle Brian Price will replace Roy Miller as the starting nose tackle in Sunday’s contest against the Vikings.  Morris was impressed with Price’s game against Detroit — in limited action, he recorded two tackles, one for a loss — and plans to increase his workload.

Don’t look for a complete revitalization on defense; Morris employs a rotating defensive line, so despite the promotion, Price probably won’t be seeing a significant boost in playing time.  But considering his injury history in Tampa Bay and his offseason struggles to get back to football, any progress is cause for optimism.

BUCCANEERS: Aim for 5th consecutive win vs. Vikings…In 5 career starts indoors, QB Josh Freeman has completed 91 of 133 (68.4 pct.) for 1,243 yards with 7 TDs vs. 4 INTs for 103.1 rating. In career, when Freeman starts & has 100+ rating, Bucs are 7-1. Since start of 2009, Freeman is 1 of 4 QBs in NFL with 500+ rush yards (551)…When RB LeGarrette Blount has 15+ att., Bucs are 6-2. RB Earnest Graham had team-high 8 catches (58 yards) last week…WR Mike Williams aims for 5th game in row with TD catch (5 TDs in past 4). Has 12 rec. TDs in 17 career games. TE Kellen Winslow has a catch in 77 consecutive games. Led club with 66 rec. yards in Week 1. WR Preston Parker had career-high 4 catches & 44 yards last week…CB Ronde Barber has 7 sacks & 1 INT in career vs. Min. He has started 184 consecutive games, most by CB in NFL history. Only player in NFL history with 25+ sacks (26) & 40+ INTs (40). CB Aqib Talib had 28-yard INT-TD last week, 2nd career INT-TD. LB Quincy Black & S Sean Jones each had FF in Week 1

VIKINGS: In past 2 vs. TB, QB Donovan McNabb has completed 38 of 56 (67.9 pct.) for 492 yards with 5 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 125 rating. Aims for 3rd win in a row vs. TB with 100+ rating. Incl. playoffs, when McNabb has 100+ rating (min. 10 att.), his teams are 46-3 (.939)…RB Adrian Peterson rushed for 98 yards last week. In his career, averages 110 rush yards per game in Sept. (1,650 yards, 15 games), 2nd best mark in NFL history (min. 10 games; HOFer Jim Brown, 110.8). Has 52 career rush TDs, tied for most in franchise history. In 30 career games at home, has rushed for 3,189 yards (106.3 per game) & 26 TDs. His 106.3 rush yards per game avg. is best in NFL among active players (min. 25 games)…WR-KR Percy Harvin had 103-yard KR-TD last week & holds franchise record with 4 career KR-TDs. Has 16 career TDs (11 rec., 4 KR, 1 rush). WR Michael Jenkins had TD in Min. debut last week. Had TD in last game vs. TB (12/5/10 with Atl.)…DE Jared Allen had INT (14 yards) & 0.5 sack last week, 3rd career game with 0.5+ sack & INT. Since entering NFL in 2004, has 83.5 sacks, most in NFL. Has 5.5 sacks in past 5 at home.