October 26, 2012
Had it not been for two costly Vikings turnovers in their own territory, however, this could have been a completely different contest. Still, with the game only at 30-17 heading into the final quarter, everyone watching Thursday Night Football this week still got a fairly solid game that wasn’t decided until the Buccaneers used a decisive scoring drive to finish Minnesota off.
But there’s more to this game than just the final score. Tampa Bay stays alive in the race for a wild card spot with a 3-4 record, while the Vikings dropped to 5-3 but are still looking much better than anyone thought they would be.
With all that said, let’s take a look at some key notes coming out of this week 8 matchup:
1. Josh Freeman’s Run Isn’t a Fluke
Freeman and the Buccaneer’s offense was fairly stagnant to start the year, but entering this week 8 contest, Freeman had been on a roll with six touchdowns and nearly 800 yards passing in his past two games. What did he do for an encore? Simply shred the vaunted Minnesota defense for over 260 yards, while producing his third straight three-score game.
2. Adrian Peterson Can Still Go All Day
He didn’t get that “All Day” nickname for nothing. Still, before last week, some were a bit skeptical about Peterson’s recovery from acl surgery, and weren’t sure when we’d see the old Peterson. He showed up a week ago against the Arizona Cardinals, and proceeded to tear up Tampa Bay on Thursday night, which happened to be the league’s third best run defense.
Peterson ultimately wasn’t enough, but he busted off his first long run of the year (for a score, mind you), and has now put up big-time numbers against two good defense, two weeks in a row. Needless to say, Peterson is fully back and can still go all day against even the toughest of matchups.
3. Doug Martin is the Real Deal
As good as Peterson was on Thursday night the rookie Martin was actually more impressive. He had over 100 rushing yards at half-time, and added on a 60+ yard receiving touchdown to his totals. Not only did he do it against a supposedly staunch run defense, but he did it on the road and he did it with style.
The “Muscle Hamster” lived up to his nickname this week, and those Ray Rice comparisons suddenly are starting to make a lot of sense, as well. If Martin can play anywhere close to this on a consistent basis, it will make life a lot easier on Tampa Bay’s passing game, and suddenly a formerly inconsistent offense could quickly turn into one of the league’s best.
4. Minnesota’s Defense Isn’t Elite
The Minnesota Vikings have a pretty good defense. Jared Allen helps put the pressure on the quarterback, Kevin Williams plays a huge hand in stuffing the run, and rookie safety Harrison Smith makes wide receivers pay over the middle of the field. But as good as they are, I’m thinking now that they’re not quite an elite bunch.
I say that because they got absolutely worked on Thursday night, and it happened at home. Not only did rookie running back Doug Martin run all over them, but they got shredded in the passing game, as well, and the Buccaneers’ top receiving threat, Vincent Jackson, had very little to do with it.
Add in the injury/loss to starting corner Chris Cook, and Minnesota’s defense could start to suffer a bit more as the weeks go on.
5. The Vikings Need Another Wide Receiver
Maybe we can blame Christian Ponder a bit for this loss. He wasn’t accurate to start or end this game, and wasn’t very decisive or effective when Minnesota needed him to be at his best. On the other hand, it was pretty evident all game that the Vikings only have two game-breakers on their offense, and one of them happens to be a running back.
Needless to say, star wide receiver Percy Harvin can’t do it all on his own, and Jerome Simpson and Michael Jenkins didn’t even strike fear into one of the league’s worst pass defenses. Keep in mind that Tampa Bay was even playing without their top corner – Aqib Talib. Ponder and co. should have found more success, but instead they made it pretty obvious that they have a lot of work to do in the passing department.
But instead of coming down on Ponder, I think the Vikings should simply be in the market for a wide receiver upgrade. I don’t know if that means a trade for contract year guys like Wes Welker, Steve Smith or Dwayne Bowe, or plucking a Terrell Owens or Chad Johnson out of free agency. But as they stand, they’re a run-first team with only one real threat in the passing game.
Those are the main things I learned coming out of Thursday night’s contest. Leave a comment about what you learned about the Vikings or Buccaneers this week.