Week 2 Preview: Tampa at Minnesota

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 17, 2011



By Erik Sabol
Cold, Hard Football Facts Buccaneers beat writer


In their debut against the Lions, the Tampa offense seemed dispirited, hesitant, and out of sync; and under the pressure of the Detroit offensive, the defense wilted faster than a deflating bouncy castle.  The Tampa offensive line failed to open holes in the run game, the wide receivers couldn’t separate from Detroit’s defensive backs – Josh Freeman would’ve overthrown them if they did – and LeGarrette Blount should’ve been charged admission, because he watched most of the game from the sidelines.

The slow start and lack of precision are carryovers from the preseason, and Tampa fans – the three of them who still attend games – are growing frustrated.  The team is notoriously uninspired in the first quarter, the offensive line is full of chronic underachievers, and the defensive line still can’t force pressure.

And that’s a problem.  Donovan McNabb – one of the perpetual thorns in Tampa’s side – is certainly better than the 39 yards passing he produced in Week One, and if given time, is still a capable passer.  And the revamped Buccaneers run defense, despite a solid showing against Jahvid Best, has yet to be tested by an elite NFL running attack.  If the Vikings get up early, Adrian Peterson will feast on the Buccaneers defense.

But, as they say, they best rush defense is a three-touchdown lead.  If Tampa comes out with guns blazing, it'll go a long way toward stifling that Minnesota running game.

Easier said than done, obviously.  Minnesota posted a decent, if unspectacular, 84.98 Defensive Passer Rating against Philip Rivers in the opening contest – thanks to some uncharacteristically poor decisions by the San Diego quarterback – and allowed only 2.85 yards per rush.  Conversely, Tampa Bay's running backs averaged an abysmal 2.5 yards per attempt after falling behind Detroit early in the game.  The key is momentum; both squads are down after tough defeats, and – depending on the morale of the opposing team – it could be a contest decided after the first score.

It’s a difficult game to measure; both teams are better than what they showed in Week One – especially the hideous Passer Rating Differentials they produced – but the season’s still too young to pinpoint their place in the standings.  If the Buccaneers start quickly – not even fast, just any speed other than slow – and pressure McNabb with their front four, look for the Tampa victory regardless of Adrian Peterson.  If the Vikings take an early lead?  It could be a long day.

And a longer season.

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