This entire game can be summed up in one simple sentence: Minnesota failed to take advantage of a late momentum swing and Tampa drove a dagger through their heart.
Midway through the 3rd quarter, Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen and Tampa Bay Buccaneers left tackle Donald Penn had gotten into a fight after Penn, having already beaten Allen on the play, decided to continue hitting him while he was down. Allen responded on the next play by blowing up Penn and sacking quarterback Josh Freeman. All the energy was on the Viking’s side. They had just caught the Buccaneers with a hard right hook and they were reeling. Tampa Bay was forced to punt.
But on the next series, the Vikings offense laid a foul-smelling egg. Center John Sullivan snapped the ball early and low on a 3rd-down attempt, and they were forced to p forced the Vikings to punt. Upon riding the wave of emotion Tampa took over with a 9 play 87 yard drive that took up 9 minutes and resulted in the final six points Tampa would need to seal the game.
Game Balls — offense
Despite his lost fumble, running back Adrian Peterson gets the game ball. He came out angry in the second half and ran with a purpose on his 64-yard touchdown to bring the Vikings within 13. Wide receiver Percy Harvin gets honorable mention for his first-half performance.
Rookie running back Doug Martin looked like anything but a first-year player this game, taking it to the Vikings with the patience of a veteran. Multiple times on his way to 135 yards rushing he used the Vikings’ overpursuit against them to make back door cuts and gain good yardage.
Game Balls — defense
This is a hard one. I am going to split it between defensive ends Brian Robison and Jared Allen. Robison was the lone bright spot on defense in the first half, breaking up three passes. Allen gave this team a spark in the second half, filling the fans with fresh hope, even if it was for but a few fleeting seconds before our dreams were dashed upon the rocks.
For Tampa it is hard not to give it to defensive back Ronde Barber, the veteran who played like he had found the fountain of youth, forcing two key turnovers that directly led to 10 of Tampa’s 36 points.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is the winner of the enviable goat award. At no point last night did he even attempt to give quarterback Christian Ponder a winning situation. Instead he stubbornly blazed ahead with a game plan that was flat-out not working. He repeatedly called play action, even though three of Tampa Bay’s sacks and two of their quarterback pressures were the direct result of this passing attack. He failed to recognize that Ponder feeds off rhythm and up-tempo play, instead calling slow, meticulous plays that would have kept even the best quarterback out of rhythm.
We might as well throw in the rest of the offense as well. Let’s make it a giant Goat-herding party while we’re at it.
Minnesota (5-3) travels to Seattle (3-3) in what can only be described as a must-win game if they want to keep any hopes of a playoff appearance alive.
Tampa Bay (3-4) travels to Oakland to face the Raiders (2-4) in a game they need to win to claw back into the playoff scene. I like Tampa’s chances if they continue to play like they have been and use their favorable schedule and the weak AFC to keep their chances alive.