Grading the game: Bucs

The Vikings needed a strong performance on the road against a solid Tampa Bay team, but instead they got average performances from many of their units, leading to another road loss.

PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus — Gus Frerotte did not throw an interception for the first time in four games, had a second-quarter touchdown pass to Bobby Wade and registered a very solid 105.8 passer rating. So why the poor grade? Because the reality was that this facet of the offense accomplished little. Frerotte completed 14 of 20 passes for a season-low 138 yards and was sacked five times. Things went downhill after the opening half. Frerotte threw for only 65 yards in the final two quarters as the Bucs held the ball for much of that time and frustrated the Vikings offense when it did take possession. A week after being shut out in a victory over Green Bay, wide receiver Bernard Berrian caught a team-leading three passes for 46 yards. Berrian has made several catches for significant gains this season, but the longest pass play to him Sunday was for only 19 yards. Frerotte's longest completion was a 23-yarder to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus — Nothing great here either against a very solid Buccaneers run defense. Running back Adrian Peterson was held to 85 yards on 19 carries, ending his streak of 100-yard rushing performances at four games. The Vikings finished with 99 yards on the ground with running back Chester Taylor (11 yards) and Frerotte accounting for the remainder of the yardage. Taylor, though, lost a key fumble late in the game after an 11-yard reception, putting an end to any potential rally for the Vikings. The Vikings ran only seven offensive plays in the fourth quarter and Peterson did not touch the ball once during that time. In fact, he appeared to get into an animated conversation with running backs coach Eric Bieniemy during the Vikings' final drive when Peterson was on the sidelines.

PASS DEFENSE: C — Tight ends continue to have far too much success against the Vikings. The latest beneficiary was the Buccaneers' Jerramy Stevens, who had a team-leading six catches for 84 yards. Stevens had one of the biggest catches of the game on the opening drive of the third quarter. On second-and-25 from the Vikings 32-yard line, Jeff Garcia threw over the middle to Stevens at the Vikings 1. Stevens was behind linebacker Ben Leber and just in front of safety Darren Sharper when he made a one-handed grab to set up the tying touchdown. This is not to lay blame at Leber's feet. There is little doubt that teams feel they can go at Vikings strong-side linebacker Chad Greenway with their tight end and have success. Greenway was credited with 16 tackles Sunday, but part of the reason was because he was bringing down guys after catches. Right corner Cedric Griffin also continues to find himself a frequent target of opposing quarterbacks. Garcia passed for 255 yards and completed 23 passes to a total of eight receivers.

RUSH DEFENSE: B — This area remains one of the Vikings' greatest strengths, although the 38-year-old Garcia did give Minnesota defenders fits with his ability to move around. Garcia rushed for only 21 yards on six carries, but his mobility kept plays alive time and time again and his willingness to scramble left Vikings players gasping for air. The Bucs lost No. 1 running back Earnest Graham early in the game because of an ankle injury, but the team still managed to get 108 yards on 33 carries. Veteran Warrick Dunn accounted for 53 of those yards on 20 carries. It marked only the third game this season that an opponent has gotten 100 yards or more against the Minnesota defense.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus — The Vikings did not give up any touchdowns on special teams, but there was a costly miscue. Running back Maurice Hicks, signed as a free agent during the offseason to return kicks, was stripped of the ball during a fourth-quarter return with the Buccaneers just having taken a 16-13 lead. Tampa Bay recovered at the Vikings' 26-yard line and got another Matt Bryant field goal to go up 19-13. While the Vikings continue to give up big plays or make costly mistakes on special teams, they rarely are getting meaningful returns. Hicks averaged 21.6 yards on five kick returns with a long of 26 yards. Hicks' longest return of the season was a 34-yarder against Tennessee in Week 4. Adrian Peterson was used on a return late in the game and got 16 yards out to the Vikings 20-yard line. Ryan Longwell did make both his field-goal attempts, 43 and 37 yards, and Chris Kluwe averaged 45 yards gross and 35 net on two punts.

COACHING: C — Peterson was not on the field at any point during the final drive and didn't get the ball in his hands in the fourth quarter. The coaching staff likes to use Taylor on third-down or passing situations, but when the game is on the line they need to find a way to get Peterson on the field. Brad Childress made an interesting decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 49 with the score tied 13-13 in the third quarter. Frerotte appeared to have found Peterson, who was running a wheel route, but Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks broke up the play. Childress was upset because he felt Brooks had interfered with Peterson. The Bucs took over with excellent field position, and certainly some questioning Childress, but Tampa Bay lost a fumble at the Vikings 30 to give Minnesota the ball back.


Viking Update Top Stories