The Tampa Bay Buccaneers shocked just about everyone in the nation by going into Minnesota and beating the living tar out of the Vikings in front of a national audience. What did we learn from the game?
What a difference a few days make - huh Bucs fans? After Sunday's soul crushing loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Bucs had to pull themselves back together and face a 5-2 Minnesota Vikings team on the road on a short week, in front of a loud hostile crowd and a national television audience expecting to see the Vikes put on a show.
A show was delivered but it wasn't from the team that was undefeated at home including victories against playoff contenders San Francisco and Arizona.
With that in mind - what did we learn from the can of whupass the Bucs opened up in Minnesota?
1. Doctor StrangeJosh or How I Stopped Caring About Josh Freeman's Completion Percentage and Loved the Bomb. You know, it's time to stop worrying about those worm burners Josh Freeman seems to have every single week. Is it maddening? Of course. But let's face it Bucs fans, Josh isn't Tom Brady or Drew Brees. He wasn't accurate in college, he's not in the Pros.
Does it matter? Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas has a 54.7% completion percentage. John Elway was a 56.9% passer Brett Favre had 5 seasons of his Hall of Fame career where he completed less than 60% of his passes. Eli Manning is a career 58.8% passer.
What I'm saying is we've been conditioned for years in a West Coast offense philosophy. It began with Clyde Christensen, continued with Jon Gruden and remained with Greg LOLsen. For us, completion percentage is of utmost importance. Folks, it's time we let go and understand that if our guy throws for 300 yds (or close to it) and 3 touchdowns without turning it over to the other team every single week - he's pretty damned good.
2. If not for Adrian Peterson's 64 yard run in the third quarter, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense would have completed a terrific effort against one of the best backs in the National Football League. Without that bust out, Peterson had 14 carries for 59 yards, which was well below his 5.1 season average. Of course, the play happened and excited the Vikings crowd for a brief moment, ruining a stellar performance by the Bucs defense.
3. Note to NFL Network: Even if you think the game is going to be a blowout in a certain direction - it might be helpful to focus some of your broadcast on the other team. Before the game, we were subjected to Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin and Jared Allen highlights over and over. When they weren't pumping up the Vikings, they were talking Cowboys. Then there was the cursory, "Oh by the way, they're playing the Bucs and they usually keep games close so it might be worth watching for awhile."
It was interesting to hear Deion Sanders say the Bucs had a terrible offense and Rich Eisen making plans to talk to Percy Harvin or AP after the game.
Tampa Bay has more stars on their offense than Minnesota does but because the NFL "experts" gave Tampa Bay no shot - the nation got shocked by Doug Martin, Mike Williams, V-Jax, Josh Freeman and the spunky Bucs defense.
4. It's a shame Donald Penn will be remembered more for beating the crap out of Jared Allen than the performance he put on the Vikings' defensive end. With the exception of his emotionally charged rush after the altercation, Penn dominated the perennial Pro Bowl sack master.
5. I think it's time to stop whining about the play calling of offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. In our Madden/Fantasy Football society, we think every play should go for gobs of yardage and scores - but the truth is - while every play is designed to score - many plays are run to set up a bigger play down the line. The bottom line is that Sullivan's offense is averaging 441.2 yds and 31 points per game over the last four games. That's impressive no matter who your opponents are. What's scary is he is still learning his players and they are still learning his offense. Imagine how good it will be when they actually know what they're doing.
6. So does anyone think Brandon McDonald just got himself Wally Pipp'd? Leonard Johnson played a solid ball game in relief of the injured McDonald, intercepting a pass and making a key pass breakup (and near interception) on Percy Harvin. Johnson made a good accounting of himself throughout the ballgame. In fact, the corner who struggled this week was Eric Wright - who after a fast start earlier in the season has struggled the last couple weeks facing the top receiving threats in Aquib Talib's absence.
7. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Doug Martin's performance last night. Doug channeled Emmitt Smith with his long, powerful runs and his 64 yd touchdown reception was simply want to. This kid is already a special football player. Seeing him grow more comfortable against NFL level competition and begin to make plays has to be exciting for any Bucs fan.
8. Speaking of making plays - how about the dynamic duo of Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams? Williams looks like the guy we remember in 2010, while Jackson has earned every penny of his massive free agent contract. These two players and the trust the quarterback has instilled in them is the primary reason for the turnaround on offense.
9. I find it interesting how a team will be talked up before a game as a Bucs opponent, then if they lose to Tampa Bay the feeling is, "Well, they're not that good - they lost to Tampa." The Vikings were a legit 5-2 with one of the most dynamic defenses in the NFL and an undefeated record at home. Whether they took the Bucs lightly is irrelevant. Tampa Bay went into hostile territory on a short week against a quality opponent and kicked their cans up and down the field. Bucs fans should be proud of their team today.
10. So the question is where do we go from here? Traditionally, Tampa Bay plays poorly on the west coast - but this team is very "non-Tampa" like. If the Bucs can get the win against a subpar Oakland team - they're back to .500 at the halfway mark of the season with games against the teams they're chasing to get back into the playoff race still on the schedule. If the Bucs can string a few wins together in the next couple weeks, the confidence could very well feed an exciting second half.