Jerome Simpson (Brace Hemmelgarn/US Presswire)
The Vikings have struggled to stop smaller running backs two weeks in a row. Is it a trend yet? Plus, get 16 notes that help tell the story of the game.
The Vikings struggled for a second straight week against a compact, undersized running back in Buccaneers rookie Doug Martin. He finished the game with 29 carries for 135 yards and a touchdown, a week after LaRod Stephens-Howling of the Cardinals gained more than 100 yards against the Vikings defense. For a team that prides itself on stopping the run, this has become a disturbing trend.
“We’ve got to a better job, because these little backs are killing us,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “I don’t know if it’s that guys are trying to tackle high and getting stiff-armed, but the last two week is not where we want to be in the run game and where we’ve been this year. It’s not pretty football at all. The bottom line is the last two weeks they’ve outplayed us. There’s no other way to explain it.”
Frazier was waiting until he had a chance to review the tape to get into too many judgments on what went wrong in the run defense.
“I don’t know if there’s a pattern there; we’ll see as we go on,” he said. “But from my observation from not looking at the tape, we did not do a good job early on. We did a little bit better job maybe in the third quarter of getting where we needed to be and playing fast just early on. We were not as sharp as we needed to be.”
Of all the players who did his part to keep the Vikings in the game after the early deficit, it was Robison. He batted down three passes in the first half and was a highlight player in a game where there weren’t many things to be happy about.
Lost in the disappointment of the loss was the strong play of Adrian Peterson, who ran just 15 times but gained 123 yards and scored a touchdown. Head coach Leslie Frazier predicted that it would only be a matter of time before we saw Peterson break off a 60-yard touchdown run. All that was missing from that prediction was the distance – A.P. scored on a 64-yard TD run in the third quarter.
Peterson’s 64-yard touchdown was the 12th run of 50 or more yards in his career. That run tied the franchise record of 12 held by Robert Smith.
Another record of Smith is no longer his, as Peterson recorded the 30th 100-yard rushing game of his career, breaking the franchise record of 29 held by Smith.
Peterson also passed Chuck Foreman into third place in career yards from scrimmage with 8,975 yards – surpassing Foreman’s total of 8,936. The only two players in front of him are Cris Carter (12,407) and Randy Moss (9,301).
It was a tough night for the kick returners. Blair Walsh came into the night leading the league with 27 touchbacks and Tampa’s Michael Koenen had 24 (in one less game). Between the two of them, they kicked off 12 times. Walsh had touchbacks on all four of his kickoffs and Koenen had touchbacks on seven of his eight. Percy Harvin was so frustrated that he took a kickoff back from seven yards deep, picking up 43 yards on the only kick he had the chance to return.
Jared Allen and Buccaneers offensive tackle Donald Penn went at it late in the third quarter with Penn driving Allen to ground, knocking his helmet off and bloodying his nose. Allen went ballistic when the officials called penalties on both he and Penn. Clearly angered, on the next play Allen recorded a sack. Following the game, Allen had a significant cut on the bridge of his nose that may end up requiring stitches.
Thursday was the sixth consecutive game in which Allen has recorded a sack.
The Vikings lost cornerback Chris Cook early in the third quarter with a broken right wrist. Clearly in pain, Cook left the field grasping his wrist and was taken almost immediately to the locker room and didn’t return. Following the game, head coach Leslie Frazier made the announcement that Cook had broken his wrist
Harvin provided the Vikings with the offensive spark they needed after falling behind 13-0 early in the second quarter. He caught two passes on the drive – starting the drive with a 32-yard bubble screen and closing it out with an 18-yard touchdown pass.
On the 32-yard catch to start the drive, Matt Kalil showed his athleticism, making a block downfield
Despite taking the opening kickoff, the Vikings were dominated in the first quarter. Aside from Peterson, the Vikings did nothing offensively. A.P. ran five times for 39 yards in the first quarter, while the rest of the team accounted for just 4 yards.
Tampa Bay outgained the Vikings 122-43 in the first quarter and held the ball for 9:34 of the quarter, setting the tone for the rest of the game.
Things couldn’t have started much worse for the Vikings. Their first drive was a three-and-out that took one minute off the game clock and their second drive was a three-and out that lasted just 50 seconds.
Vikings great Matt Blair, who was inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor at halftime, sounded the Gjallarhorn prior to the game to signal the introduction of the Vikings.
Since leaving the NFC Central as part of the league’s realignment with 32 teams following the 2001 season, the Vikings have never beaten Tampa Bay in five meetings.
The paid attendance was 60,860 – the fifth straight non-sellout at the Metrodome.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.