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Updated: October 26th, 2012 1:20am
Notebook: Vikings' tackling struggles continue as Bucs back runs wild

Notebook: Vikings' tackling struggles continue as Bucs back runs wild

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Although their tackling appeared to be substandard in their victory over Arizona last Sunday, many members of the Minnesota Vikings defense went out of their way to give credit to 5-foot-7 running back LaRod Stephens-Howling for being able to get 104 yards on 20 carries.

The message was this: Yes, the tackling could have been better, but Stephens-Howling did a good job of making guys miss.

That might have been believable for one game, but there is now no doubt the Vikings are in a slump when it comes to the fundamental art of making tackles.

That became obvious during Tampa Bay's 36-17 victory on Thursday at the Metrodome, as rookie running back Doug Martin rushed for 135 yards on 29 carries with a touchdown and also caught three passes for 79 yards and added a 64-yard score in which five Vikings missed potential tackles for a variety of reasons.

Martin, a first-round choice out of Boise State, is only 5-foot-9 and 215 pounds.

He gained 106 yards on the ground in the first half on 14 carries. That average of 7.6 yards per rush set the tone for the night.

"We didn't do very many things at all right when it came to stopping the run, whether we were in our eight men fronts or seven men fronts," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "We were not gap sound. We didn't tackle well. We just played some very uncharacteristic football."

Defensive end Jared Allen said part of the issue is that defenders got out of their gaps.

"It always comes down to small, fundamental, technique stuff," Allen said. "That's what we harp and you have to be right fundamentally. You can't cowboy in this league, you can't try to two-gap. You have to play your gap as sound as you can play it and you've got to wrap up made tackles. ... We have to tackle."

Linebacker Erin Henderson, however, felt that Martin deserved more credit than some gave him.

"You guys underestimate the fact that we play in the NFL and we play against some good backs every now and again," Henderson said. "They're going to be able to make people miss and that's what they get paid for and that's what their job is to do. We just have to do a better job of wrapping and getting people down on the ground."

Mixing it up

Allen and Tampa Bay left tackle Donald Penn got into an altercation in the third quarter after Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman threw an incomplete pass toward wide receiver Vincent Jackson.

Penn gave Allen a few extra pushes near the end of the play and when Allen's helmet came off it cut the bridge of his nose. Allen ended up grabbing Penn's facemask and being called for that infraction, while Penn was called for unnecessary roughness.

"I came around the edge and kind of stumbled on the ground and then he came over and tried to hit me when I was on the ground so we got into a little altercation," Allen said. "My helmet came off and slashed my nose. ... Nothing vulgar though. I know Donald from back at Utah State. He's playing hard and I'm playing hard. Sometimes tempers get going."

The altercation inspired Allen and the Metrodome crowd.

With Allen and members of the defense waving their arms in an attempt to get the Metrodome crowd to make more noise, the building got so loud that Freeman burned the Bucs' second timeout of the half.

Then on third-and-10 from the Tampa Bay 30-yard line, Allen sacked Freeman for a 5-yard loss.

The Vikings trailed 30-17 at that point, but the momentum seemed to shift in Minnesota's direction. However, the Vikings offense had an immediate three-and-out. That took the crowd back out of the game.

"It is frustrating," not to build on that, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder said. "It's frustrating any time you go three and out. When you have the momentum on your side, you have to seize that opportunity and we didn't. It's frustrating, and it's frustrating for an offense to perform the whole time, the whole game, the way we did."

So close

Vikings defensive end Brian Robison broke up three passes in Thursday's game, and in one case had an excellent opportunity for an interception.

With the Bucs facing a second-and-2 from the Vikings 34 late in the opening quarter, Freeman took a snap out of shotgun and looked for Mike Williams. But the pass hit Robison and fell to the ground. If Robison had caught the ball there was a chance he could have taken it all the way for a touchdown.

"I just tried to bat down the ball and he ended up throwing it right in my face," Robison said. "It really kind of just bounced right off my face. I saw it still in the air in front of me, I tried to pick it up, but it was a little bit out of my reach."

Asked about whether he thought he would have gone in for a touchdown he had caught the ball, Robison said: "I'm white, so I probably would have got caught halfway down the field but, yeah, it's frustrating.

"You want to make turnovers in a game like that, really change the momentum of the game. You look back on it and it's one of those deals that could have changed the momentum of the ballgame. But, hey, there really wasn't much I could do. It was one of those bang-bang plays that didn't happen when you want it to."

A pick-six by Robison at that point would have cut Tampa Bay's 10-point lead to three.

100 yards and a fumble

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 123 yards on 15 carries with a 64-yard touchdown on Thursday, a game after going for 153 yards and a score against the Arizona Cardinals.

Peterson, returning from torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee suffered last December, has rushed for more than 100 yards in three games this season.

However, he also had a second quarter fumble that was caused by Buccaneers safety Ronde Barber and recovered by fellow safety Ahmad Black. The Bucs took over at the Vikings 37 and eventually got a 3-yard scoring pass from Freeman to Mike Williams.

The fumble was Peterson's first that he lost since the 2010 season.

Peterson has only two lost fumbles in the past three seasons after having 13 in his first three years, including six in 2009.

"He made a good play," Peterson said of Barber. "That's all I can say. I just remember the safety coming up and spinning off him and as I was spinning, Barber stuck his hand in there and got the ball out. We preach about protecting the ball, so I will make sure that doesn't happen again."

Peterson established a franchise record with his 30th 100-yard rushing game, breaking the mark that had been held by Robert Smith.

Quick hits

Former Vikings linebacker Matt Blair became the 20th member of the team's Ring of Honor when he was inducted at halftime Thursday night.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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