Sunday, November 16, 2008

Red Zone, Schmed Zone - Bucs Outslug Vikes

By JC De La Torre

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continued to struggle in the Red Zone, scoring only 1 touchdown in 5 trips inside the Minnesota 20. Despite their continued struggles, the Bucs outslugged the rugged Vikings 19-13 to keep pace in the NFC South and improve to 7-3. The Buccaneers defense got off to a slow start against Vikings superstar running back Adrian Peterson, giving up 51 yds on his first six carries - but the Bucs D shut down Peterson the remainder of the game, stopping his streak of 100 yd games as they held him to 85 yds on 19 carries.

The Bucs opened the game forcing a 3 and out by the Vikings, and then drove all the way to the Minnesota 37 yd line - but failed to convert on a 4th and 1. The Vikings would take possession and thanks to the running of Peterson, they drove 36 yds on 8 plays to set up Ryan Longwell's 43 yd FG to put Minnesota up 3-0. Tampa Bay answered right back, driving all the way to the Minnesota 17 before Jeremy Trueblood's personal foul back the Bucs up and essentially killed the drive, forcing the Bucs to settle for a 39 yd Matt Bryant field goal to tie it up at 3.

In the 2nd quarter, the Vikings answered right back, driving 76 yds in 8 plays, assisted by a roughing the passer penalty on Bucs defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson and a defensive holding penalty on defensive back Ronde Barber. The penalty set up a 4 yd touchdown pass from QB Gus Frerotte to WR Bobby Wade, giving Minnesota a 10-3 advantage.

The Bucs again would march down the field driving 64 yds in 10 plays. During the drive, the Buccaneers Quarterback Jeff Garcia took a vicious late hit by Minnesota D-lineman Ray Edwards, setting up the Bucs first and goal at the three yard line. Unfortunately, the Bucs would stall again, as Warrick Dunn would be hit in the backfield on first down losing four yards. Garcia then rolled out and just missed hitting Michael Clayton in the endzone. Jon Gruden then inexplicably called a center screen which was easily foiled by the Vikings defense, forcing the Bucs to settle for a 26 yd Field Goal by Matt Bryant. Once again the Vikings would answer, driving 51 yds in 6 plays and matching the Bucs scoring drive with a 37 yd field goal by Longwell. At the half, the Bucs trailed 13-6.

The Bucs opened the second half driving the length of the field, all the way to the 17 yard line. Warrick Dunn rushed for 10 yds to the Minnesota 7 but Tight End Jeramy Stevens was called for holding. Garcia dropped back to pass and found Antonio Bryant, who danced 27 yds for a touchdown - but Davin Jospeh got called for holding, eliminating the score and setting the Bucs up on 2nd and 30. After Minnesota was called for offside, Garcia found Tight End Jeramy Stevens 31 yds to the Viking 1 yard line. 1st and goal from the 1 yard line, Fullback BJ Askew dove into the endzone, scoring the first touchdown of his 6 yr NFL career, tying the game at 13.

Minnesota drove to the 49 yd line but failed on 4th and 1, allowing the Bucs to take over and drive all the way to the to the Viking 30 yd line.This time, they self destructed before they got to the endzone as for the third straight game, Bucs rookie running back Clifton Smith coughed up the football. After 3 quarters of play, the game remained tied at 13.

After forcing a Minnesota punt, the Bucs drove 63 yds on 13 plays, eating up 8:52 off the clock, driving all the way to the Minnesota 10 yd line. Unfortunately, on 3rd down and 1, Warrick Dunn was stopped cold, and Tampa Bay again would settle for 3 points, this time a 29 yd field goal by Matt Bryant to give the Bucs their first lead of the game at 16-13. Minnesota fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Bucs would drive 18 yds in 7 plays, but Jeff Garcia's two incomplete passes would end the drive and Tampa Bay for the fourth time settled for the field goal. Matt Bryant was true on a 26 yd field goal to put the Bucs up by six points, 19-13.

The Vikings would start from their own 20 yd line but failed to get a first down. On 4th down and 3, Frerotte's short pass intended for Sidney Rice fell short. It appeared the ball game was over. After three dive plays took it to the 2 minute warning, Matt Bryant attempted a 46 yd field goal that would just about put the game out of reach. Bryant, though hooked it slightly right and missed the field goal, giving the Vikings one last gasp. It wouldn't matter as Jimmy Wilkerson would sack Frerotte, then on the next play strip running back Chester Taylor of the football, Ronde Barber would recover and the Bucs would run out the clock for the win.

Tampa Bay outgained the Vikings 363-210, held the 5th best rushing offense to only 99 yds on the ground. The Bucs have now beaten Minnesota 4 straight times and have won eight of the last 9 meetings against the Vikings in Tampa. The victory improves the Buccaneers to 7-3, 2nd in the NFC South. Minnesota falls to 5-5, entering a 3 way tie for first in the NFC North.

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