Breaking down the tape from the Vikings' loss to the Buccaneers
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Here's the tale of the tape from the Minnesota Vikings' 24-20 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with grades on a scale of 0 to 5 in parentheses:
There wasn't one big mistake that ruined Donovan McNabb's day. It was just another series of little errors, coupled with the harsh reality of his own limitations. McNabb completed of 18 of 30 passes (60%) for 228 yards and an 83.8 rating, but only 7 of 13 for 75 yards as things crumbled in the second half. He was 7-of-8 passing off nine bootlegs (87.5%) and 11-of-22 (50%) on everything else, missing the mark six times -- none more costly than his dirtball for open TE Visanthe Shiancoe in the end zone. At times, McNabb just looks antsy and off-balance when he has to pat the ball in the pocket. Protection breakdowns led to both sacks. A 13-yard scramble on third-and-12 showed great awareness on one of 14 pass plays McNabb faced pressure. His only completion longer than 19 yards was a screen. Throwing the backside slant on a first-down running play in the fourth quarter stopped the clock, disrupted the offense's rhythm and almost yielded a turnover for the second time in as many games. McNabb has to be smarter than that to cover for tools so obviously in decline.
Running backs (3½)
The Bucs dropped a safety into the box 19 times in 56 first- and second-down snaps (33.9%) and still couldn't stop HB Adrian Peterson (57 snaps) from racking up 120 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries (4.8 average). Jump cuts turned three minus plays into double-digit gains. A 19-yard run might have gone the distance if not for MLB Mason Foster's ankle tackle. A 9-yard touchdown went right through CB Ronde Barber. Peterson let the ball get loose once in traffic and Foster ripped it out. He took a questionable holding penalty but held up well in protection. HB Toby Gerhart (nine) barely saw the field but cashed in when he did, gaining 31 yards on a seal-the-edge run and breaking a tackle on a screen for 42. He's a handful running downhill. He got his second NFL start, too, playing the first snap at fullback. HB Lorenzo Booker (one) couldn't beat DE Tim Crowder's man drop on third-and-goal. Why's he taking up a spot on the 46 again?
Percy Harvin (30 snaps) doesn't look hurt, so how can coaches justify sitting him for 55.9% of the snaps? Taking such a dynamic threat off the field makes it that much easier for a defense to declare its doubles, yet the Vikings did it from the get-go, with Harvin sitting out the first three snaps -- and an incredible 11 of 14 snaps in the red zone (78.6%). Harvin still led the Vikings with seven receptions for 76 yards in nine targets, carried twice for 18 yards and mugged up SS Sean Jones on Peterson's second TD run. Compare that to the production of Michael Jenkins (52) and Bernard Berrian (51), who combined for 46 yards on four receptions. All three of Jenkins' catches for 29 yards came off bootlegs that left him wide open against zone coverage. Berrian couldn't handle a bullet behind him on a slant, couldn't get off a jam on McNabb's lone deep try, caught one ball on an in-breaking route for 17 and didn't finish in the blocking phase. Aromashodu (five) had no idea where he was supposed to line up on a late third-and-6, then couldn't win the go ball against nickel CB E.J. Biggers. The only guy capable of beating the man coverage Tampa Bay played with increasing frequency after the half spent most of his time on the sideline.
Tight ends (2½)
What would the Vikings do without Jimmy Kleinsasser (31 snaps)? He played seven "F" snaps in the backfield, set the edge on Gerhart's long run, crushed linebackers on both of Peterson's touchdowns and threw two blocks on McNabb's third-down scramble. He gave up only one pressure in seven one-on-one protection assignments against Tampa's ends as OC Bill Musgrave gave the line help 16 times in McNabb's 27 dropbacks (59.3%). Kleinsasser dropped the only pass thrown his way with SLB Dekoda Watson on his back. A holding penalty for hooking Barber was tough but the right call. Visanthe Shiancoe (60) sustained better in run blocking and finally got involved in the passing game, though he only caught three of seven passes thrown his way for 28 yards. He might have had a chance to pick up McNabb's low pass in the end zone. He let LE Michael Bennett get off a block, contributing to a sack. Kyle Rudolph (40) played 11 of his snaps (27.5%) in a two-point stance and got his first NFL catch, feigning one of the backside cutoff blocks he kept throwing on zone runs and coming free in the flat for 15 yards. He has yet to show he can win one-on-ones in pattern. Allen Reisner (three) will keep getting occasional chances as long as Musgrave is deploying this many sets with at least two tight ends on the field (51 snaps, 75%).
Offensive linemen (2)
C John Sullivan always struggles to hold his ground against strong defensive tackles, and this was no different. DTs Frank Okam, Brian Price and Gerald McCoy all bulled him back at times. Price brought Sullivan to his knees on first-and-goal and McCoy beat him with a swim move to flush McNabb on second-and-goal. Sullivan did do good work at the second level on Peterson's 19-yard run and picked off FS Cody Grimm 15 yards downfield on the screen to Gerhart. Blown protections don't fall all on the line, but there's no way Sullivan, LG Steve Hutchinson and RG Anthony Herrera all were supposed to block one man as Jones came free for a sack on one of the Bucs' 12 extra-man rushes (44.4%). Hutchinson just looks so average. Herrera gave up three QB pressures but seemed a little more comfortable on his reconstructed knee. Two of four QB pressures against LT Charlie Johnson came on the final series. WLB Geno Hayes beat him to drop Peterson for a 3-yard loss. RT Phil Loadholt let Foster loose for a green-dog sack, allowed three QB pressures and took his weekly false start. His run blocking started better than it finished. Patrick Brown did his job as the extra lineman on Peterson's first touchdown.
Defensive linemen (2)
RE Jared Allen (55 snaps) sacked QB Josh Freeman in 2.8 seconds on the opening snap, hit Freeman twice on the second series and recorded five additional pressures against LT Donald Penn. Allen also was late to react to Freeman's sneak on third-and-1 and propelled a fourth-quarter touchdown drive with a roughing the passer penalty. None of the Vikings' mistakes was more costly than an offsides penalty on LE Brian Robison (48), who jumped on third-and-17 and wiped out a fumble UT Letroy Guion (47) recovered at the Tampa 11. Robison did have six pressures against RT Jeremy Trueblood. He also let WR Preston Parker get behind him for a 17-yard gain on third-and-10 and got doubled 2 yards back on HB LeGarrette Blount's go-ahead TD run. Guion had two QB pressures and drew a holding penalty on LG Jeremy Zuttah but otherwise blended in again. UT Kevin Williams can't get back soon enough. Two games and NT Remi Ayodele (16) still doesn't have a solo tackle. NT Fred Evans (17) had one, took another offsides penalty and got fewer turns than rookie DT Christian Ballard (27), who was on the field for his pass rush and didn't bring any. DE Everson Griffen (13) played five snaps inside, too, got his first sack off a blown protection and got another pressure with a spin move against Trueblood.
Give MLB E.J. Henderson (56 snaps) credit just for gritting it out again on a sore knee. He made six tackles (five solo), missed one, got pancaked by FB Erik Lorig on Blount's 27-yard TD run, closed too slowly while spying on Freeman on third-and-2 and was late on Freeman's sneak, too. It's no surprise Henderson didn't look quite as explosive. He did sniff out a screen to FB Earnest Graham for a 5-yard loss. SLB Chad Greenway (55) had five tackles (two solo) and was pedestrian by his standards. Freeman worked the middle of the field against soft zone coverage in the fourth quarter and there wasn't much the nickel 'backers could do about it. DC Fred Pagac rushed five or more nine times in Freeman's 31 dropbacks (29.0%), mostly with Greenway and Henderson, who got home once. WLB Erin Henderson (27) never got to his gap on Blount's long run, had a solo tackle and played a rare nickel snap.
Defensive backs (2)
It's only two games, but CB Antoine Winfield (56 snaps) finally might be showing some age. He led the Vikings with 11 solo tackles, including a bubble screen to WR Mike Williams that lost 4. But Winfield couldn't get off Williams' block on Blount's long TD and let Parker -- the unheralded second-year receiver from North Alabama -- beat him on a catch-and-run drag for 51, plus a stick for 6 on third-and-4 that set up the winning score. CB Cedric Griffin (56) gave up the other touchdown on a 25-yard fade to WR Arrelious Benn. Williams beat Griffin on the same play from 17 yards out earlier, only to have it wiped by Benn's illegal shift. Griffin did cause the fumble Robison's penalty wiped out. FS Husain Abdullah (56) intercepted Freeman's late seam throw for TE Kellen Winslow as the Vikings continued to put him in man situations against tight ends. Abdullah made six solo tackles, couldn't cut off the angle on Blount's long TD and missed a tackle on Parker's big play. SS Jamarca Sanford (30) dropped down to stop Blount at the line twice early and then split reps with SS Tyrell Johnson (26), who nearly saved the day but had the late slant to Winslow bounce off his hands.
Booker blew it by bringing out a kickoff from at least 6 yards deep with the Vikings clinging to a late three-point lead. Harvin bobbled the final kickoff -- a line drive made for a return -- and fielded a couple of touchbacks. CB Marcus Sherels gained 3 yards total on two punt returns. Abdullah, Johnson and Griffen all took penalties. P Chris Kluwe averaged 4.06 seconds of hang time on five punts, including a low reboot after a penalty that hung 3.1 and gave Tampa possession at the Vikings' 44. He grossed 41.3 yards and netted 34.5. PK Ryan Longwell chipped in field goals from 29 and 22 yards, converted two extra points and averaged 3.72 seconds of hang time on five kickoffs, including his first touchback.