The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have to stage a serious comeback to escape Mall of America Field with a victory on Sunday and avoid an 0-2 start. At halftime, they trail the Minnesota Vikings, 17-0, and have yet to find an answer for either Adrian Peterson or the home team's pass rush.
Peterson scored on runs of one and nine yards amid an 83-yard first half, and Ryan Longwell added a 22-yard field goal for the Vikings. Reserve RB Toby Gerhart provided big plays on both touchdown drives, a 31-yard run in the first quarter and a 42-yard reception in the second quarter. QB Donovan McNabb completed 11 of 17 passes for 153 yards and was sacked only once, late in half by rookie LB Mason Foster.
Gerhart's long reception on a screen pass converted a third-and-16 and took the ball down to the Buccaneers' four-yard line shortly before halftime. That underscored a significant problem for the Bucs' defense on Sunday – Minnesota converted five of seven third-down tries, including two that were longer than 10 yards. Those conversions kept the Bucs' defense on the field for 19 minutes and allowed the Vikings to forge a 284-62 edge in total offense.
Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman was sacked twice and pressured often, though he was able to complete seven of 11 passes for 52 yards and add a 12-yard scramble that converted a third down. The Bucs running game was marginalized by the growing deficit, gaining 23 yards on just seven carries.
The Buccaneers won the toss and elected to receive. With a rare chance to return a kickoff, Micheal Spurlock got it out to the 26. However, on a play-action pass attempt on first down, Allen sacked Freeman for a loss of six on the first offensive snap. LeGarrette Blount's first carry was stopped for no gain and a dumpoff over the middle to Graham was well short of a first down. Michael Koenen came in to punt for the first time and a 47-yard boot plus a penalty on the return team pushed the ball back to the Minnesota 20. McNabb threw on first down after rolling right and found WR Michael Jenkins on the sideline for a gain of 16. Peterson's first two runs were big ones, too, good for 11 and 10 yards to the Bucs' 43. An incomplete attempted slant to WR Bernard Berrian and great coverage by CB Aqib Talib on a deep attempt to Berrian left Minnesota in a third-and-10. Tampa Bay's defense brought a huge blitz on third down and McNabb's downfield attempt to TE Visanthe Shiancoe was well-covered and overthrown.
WR Preston Parker fair caught the ensuing punt at the Bucs' eight. Blount bashed his way over left tackle on firstt down for a seven-yard gain but his second carry was stopped for no gain. Freeman dropped back on third down and scrambled around right end, slipping past several tacklers at the end to pick up 12 yards to the Bucs' 27. A play-action rollout pass to TE Kellen Winslow worked to perfection and Winslow lowered his head to get 18. However, S Jamarca Sanford blitzed into the backfield to catch Blount for a loss of three on the ensuing first down and Freeman wa hit as he threw on second down, forcing an incompletion. A square-in to WR Dezmon Briscoe worked well, but not well enough to move the chains as he was stopped at the Minnesota 49. Koenen lofted one that CB Marcus Sherels fair caught at the 10.
Peterson ran left on first down but ran into a wall and got just two. However, on third-and-five McNabb got a quick shot off to Harvin on the left side for a gain of 11 and a first down at the 26. Barber wrapped up Peterson for a loss of one on the next play, but a stunning series of cuts by the Vikings back on the next play got him into the open field for a gain of 12. Two plays later, Gerhart followed a convoy around left end and rambled 31 yards to the Bucs' 25. Two more quick-hitting McNabb completions produced a first-and-goal at the Bucs' seven. Peterson's first-down carry up the middle was bottled up at the five but he got to the one with his next carry. A run over right guard finished the 90-yard drive as Minnesota took a 7-0 lead with two seconds left in the quarter.
After switching sides, the Bucs started over at their own 20 and Blount's first carry was stopped for no gain. A false start cost the Bucs another five yards but the Vikings gave it back by jumping offside. Freeman put the ball right on the money on a deep square-in to WR Arrelious Benn, but Benn couldn't hold on, making it third-and-10. Winslow's catch over the middle got only half of it and the Bucs had to punt again. Koenen blasted an extremely high 52-yarder that Sherels had to fair catch at the Minnesota 24.
The Bucs defense forced Peterson to fumble on first down but Vikings G Anthony Herrera recovered for a loss of three. Unfortunately, Peterson broke two or three tackles on the next run to get 12 yards and make it third-and-one. Gerhart slammed it over right guard for a first down at the Minnesota 38. A holding penalty on another Gerhart run pushed the Vikings back 10 yards, but three plays later McNabb somehow scrambled for just enough yards around left end to move the sticks. After another first down put the ball at the Bucs' 40, McNabb ran a play-action and fired over the middle to Harvin for 19 more. Barber blitzed on first down but McNabb threw right down the seam he came from to hit Shiancoe at the Bucs' six-yard line. Gerald McCoy nearly sacked McNabb two plays later and the Viking QB had to scramble down to the four. On third-and-goal, McNabb looked for Schiancoe in the end zone but the pass was too low and the Vikings had to settle for Ryan Longwell's 22-yard field goal.
Parker found a seam on the kickoff return that followed, dashing 30 yards out to the Bucs' 32. On first down, a shallow slant to Williams was incomplete, but a draw play to Graham picked up seven to make it third-and-three. The Vikings blitzed and Freeman went down in the arms of DE Everson Griffin for a loss of seven.
Minnesota started again at their own 25 and got 15 quick yards on a rollout pass to TE Kyle Rudolph. Two plays later, Peterson broke another tackle and nearly broke free, gaining 19 yards up the middle before LB Mason Foster got him by the ankle. As the two-minute warning arrived, the Vikings had the ball at the Bucs' 40. After the break, Foster blitzed on first down and got the Bucs' first sack for a loss of six. Another big blitz forced McNabb to heave an incompletion down the left sideline. Unfortunately, the Vikings were able to convert another long third down as, on third-and-16, Gerhart took a screen pass and ran all the way to the Bucs' four for a 42-yard gain. Two plays later, Peterson scored on a nine-yard run.
The Bucs got the ball back one more time and got one first down but eventually had to run the clock out without getting into Viking territory.