Bucs QB Josh Freeman was the architect of yet another heart stopping comeback to stun the Minnesota Vikings 24-20. The win marked Freeman's 8th fourth quarter come from behind victory in his young career.
While the victory even the Bucs record to 1-1 and keeps them tied for first in the NFC South, it masks a lot of issues that the Bucs must fix if they hope to truly compete for a playoff berth.
With those thoughts in mind, let's talk about the 10 things we think we learned about our Buccaroonies after the Vikes game.
1. These slow starts are killing the Buccaneers.
It's been an epidemic dating back to last season. The Bucs simply don't come out to play in the first half. I don't know what they need to do to get themselves ready or if the pre-game gameplan the Buccaneers come up with simply aren't very good and it takes a half to adjust and get things going or if Coach Raheem just can't get the team motivated for the first quarter. Whatever it is, the Bucs need to solve it and fast. It nearly cost them against the Vikings and it did cost them against Detroit.
You can't count on FIVE being able to bring you back every week.
2. Maybe a little no huddle at the beginning of the game would help
Freeman is without a doubt a master at the two minute drill - maybe if the Bucs started with a no huddle offense to begin the football game, Freeman would get into rhythm and the Bucs would get off to a better start.
3. The Bucs first half defense is simply horrible.
It seems to take an entire half for Coach Rah to adjust to what defenses are doing to his team or maybe the Bucs simply aren't executing Coach Rah's gameplan to begin the game - regardless of what it is, the Bucs first half defense is frighteningly bad. It seems that after the Bucs play a half and have a chance to get their bearings at half-time, they settle down and play solid defense in the second half.
4, Bucs are scary bad against the run.
Mason Fosterwas supposed to fix the run defense but it hasn't worked. A week after surrendering 126 yards rushing to Detroit, the Bucs gave up 186 yds on the ground to Adrian Peterson and the Vikings. Peterson had nearly 100 yards in the first half but was slowed down in the second half as the Bucs defense tightened up.
5. Quincy Black has been awful this season.
The Bucs are relying on Quincy Black to spell Mason Foster on passing downs because supposedly he's better in pass coverage. Thus far, he's been horrible in pass coverage and hasn't been a sure tackler, missing several against Minnesota. The Bucs improvement on defense coincided with Black exiting the game with an injury forcing the Bucs to interject Dekota Watson.
Watson flew all over the field and helped Foster, who battled injuries throughout the contest, to shore up the Bucs defense in the 2nd half.
I know the Bucs have invested a lot of money in Black - but right now Watson is doing a better job.
6. Welcome to 2011, LeGarrette Blount.
Kudos to Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olsenfor not giving up on the running game when things looked pretty bleak. LeGarrette Blount exploded in the second half for two touchdowns and looked like the "LG - Life's Good" back the Bucs believe they discovered off the Tennessee Titan's scrap heap. Blount even unveiled the 2011 version of the Blount Bounce as he lept over a Viking defender for a big first down.
7. Preston Parker Steps Up.
I have to apologize to Preston Parker. I questioned why the Bucs would keep Parker over speedy wide out Ed Gant in the final cuts of the pre-season. Coach Rah showed once again why he's coaching and I'm writing as Parker had a tremendous game on Sunday. The final total for Parker: 6 receptions, 98 yards, including a 51 yard thing of beauty that set up a Bucs score.
8. Gritty Performance by Mason Foster
Foster left the game twice due to injury but each time he returned and played a solid ballgame, registering 10 tackles, his first career sack and a forced fumble.
9. Gerald McCoy invisible again.
In Madden, Gerald McCoy is an unstoppable force that threatens in the NFL sack record. In reality, McCoy struggles to make an impact on the field. Coach Rah says that McCoy's influence is felt by making his teammates better but honestly - he was invisible most of the game.
McCoy did flash briefly with back-to-back tackles on Adrian Peterson (one deep in the backfield), however he would only make one tackle the rest of the game. Many of the Vikings runs were right up the middle at McCoy and Frank Okam.
If the Bucs defense hopes to get better, they need more production out of their top draft pick of 2010.
10. It's Falcons Week.
Many point to the Detroit game last year as to the game that cost the Bucs a playoff spot but one could argue that the two heartbreaking lossed to the Falcons could have made all the difference. If the Bucs get one more yard in Atlanta or defend the kickoff better in Tampa, the Bucs could have won the NFC South and been in the playoffs instead of the Falcons.
Instead, they took two losses they had chances to win and ended up on the outside looking in for the playoffs.
If the Bucs truly have aspirations of winning a division championship, the Bucs need to beat Atlanta.