Defensive Breakdown: Bucs vs. Vikings
The Buccaneers of last season appear to be back to their old tricks. By that I mean they are back to looking like the youngest team in the league for the first half, and making substantial adjustments for the second half, providing them with a victory. Freeman looked great in the second half, as usual, and for the first time we were given the opportunity to witness what Preston Parker is really capable of. I am aware that this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Parker, but it is, however, the first time he had such a remarkable game. With the lack of production from Mike Williams, Parker made the most of his opportunities and gave the offense good field position with the special teams and good yards with the offense. Mason Foster looked like a rabid pit bull unleashed from his chains on the field. This was very exciting for me to see because in my latest article, I explained that his performance was key in contributing towards a Buccaneer victory. Foster was easily the best player from the defense in his 2nd career start, which either says a lot of good things about him, or a lot of bad things about the rest of the defense.
The Foster Child
Mason Foster had an AMAZING game! He was found flying all over the field making tackles. Of course there were a few times we saw him get juked out of his boots by Adrian Peterson, but then again who hasn’t missed a tackle or two on the best running back in the league. In the first game against the Lions, Foster appeared more conservative as if he were afraid that a mistake could lead to big yards gained by the opposing team. As for the game against the Vikings, it seemed like Foster knew that the only way he could stop Peterson was to take some chances. Foster led the team with 10 recorded tackles, 1 sack on McNabb, and forced 1 fumble on Peterson. Unfortunately for the anxious rookie, the fumble was recovered by the Vikings. Foster also deserves credit for stopping Peterson twice from getting into the endzone. The outcome could have been very different without his aid. Hopefully, this past game could be one small footprint in a long, prosperous journey for Tampa’s 3rd round pick and replacement for their leading tackler, Barrett Ruud.
Not Quite There Yet
I can imagine that many of the fans are frustrated with the lack of sacks from the defensive line this season. Clayborn has had some harsh critics judging him as if he has been in the league for a couple of years now. Let’s not forget that there was no offseason, no OTA’s, and no time to gel together as a unit. We as fans need to stop comparing these young athletes to established veterans or freaks of nature (Ndamukong Suh). Traditionally, it takes 2 to 3 years for a defensive lineman to mature to his full potential. After that, it’s up to them to maintain or refine their skills.
Ok, back to the game. The defensive line didn’t get a sack, as you know. However, they did very well in my opinion. Brian Price earned a start this week and solidified Coach Morris’ decision with an intense effort and production. The linemen failed to plug the middle for the majority of the game, but when they did it was because Price was on the field. McCoy and Bowers were disruptive on several occasions. They may not have recorded a sack, but they still pressured McNabb to throw early or scramble. I don’t think I noticed Clayborn at all, but I won’t bash him quite yet. I do have a lot of patience for their growth, but he is a 1st round pick and a starter. He needs to start showing the fans and coaching staff that those decisions weren’t mistakes.
Second Half Hype
The first half of the game was discouraging. Freeman went 3 and out on all of his drives but one, and that drive ended with a punt. The first half ended and the Buccaneers were behind 17-0. I have no idea what Coach Morris said to the players in the locker room during halftime, but what ever it was, it obviously worked. What most football fans tend to do when watching a game is sit by the television during offense and get up and do something during defense. Sure, the Buccaneers scored on every drive but one in the second half, but who do you think kept the Vikings from scoring? Who turned the game around from having 17 points scored to only one field goal? Who stopped Adrian Peterson? Who allowed the offense to keep their momentum alive? Last but not least, who prevented the Vikings from scoring and winning in the final 31 seconds of the game? This defensive unit has a long way to go in terms of growth and chemistry, but how can you not be exited to see what they are capable of?
This coming Sunday, the Buccaneers face the Atlanta Falcons at home. This could be their first big test. The Lions were an honorable opponent for the Buccaneers, but they don’t have the public respect or production that the Falcons have. They also aren’t a division rival. The Falcons are 1-1 and will be coming toTampaexpecting to leave 2-1. Lets hope this team can get momentum early on in the game.