The quarterbacks will be trying to lead more balanced offenses when the Buccaneers and Vikings go for their first wins Sunday in Minneapolis.
Tampa Bay fell 27-20 to visiting Detroit last Sunday as the Buccaneers struggled to keep the Lions off the field.
Josh Freeman completed a career-high 28 passes in 43 attempts for 259 yards, one touchdown and one interception, but LeGarrette Blount(notes) was limited to five carries - four in the first half - for 15 yards, as coach Raheem Morris couldn’t find a way to use him while implementing a 2-minute offense.
Morris said he might have gone to the hurry-up offense too early with the Buccaneers trailing 27-13 in the third quarter.
“We want to win games with Blount bludgeoning you for 130 yards and us having a couple of play-action bombs and being efficient with (Freeman),” Morris said. “When we go to that 2-minute offense we take Blount out of the game and that’s something we don’t want to do.”
While winning 10 games last season, the Buccaneers featured a balanced offense. Freeman averaged 29.6 pass attempts while Blount ran for over 1,000 yards, averaging 5.0 per carry and recording six touchdowns.
Tampa Bay, which ranked eighth in the league in rushing yards per game with 125.1 in 2010, was 7-2 when Blount ran for 57 or more yards.
Freeman said while the offense was unable to feature Blount, it doesn’t indicate a lack of confidence in the second-year back.
“Last year you might have seen him unsure about his protections, but this year he’s getting to his spot,” Freeman said. “I think he’ll be big. … It comes with reps.”
The Buccaneers were 6-2 away from home last season and now travel to Minnesota, where Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was also defending his play-calling.
Minnesota lost 24-17 at San Diego last Sunday after failing to protect a 17-7 halftime lead. The Vikings recorded 21 yards of offense after the break.
Donovan McNabb struggled in his Minnesota debut, throwing for 39 yards—the fewest in a game for the Vikings since 1971.
Despite the lack of passing offense, the Vikings aren’t concerned that they are too reliant on Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 98 yards on 16 carries.
“We’ve got the best running back in the National Football League and we’re grateful for that and we like the way our offense is structured,” Frazier said. “We just got to keep working to get a rhythm and find the balance that we need. But I like our situation. I like the fact we got No. 28 in our backfield.”
Frazier said things will balance out, which would help keep the defense fresh. San Diego was on the field for just over 37 of the 60 minutes.
“Everything that we do is based on getting (Peterson) going because it opens up so many things for our offense,” he said. “But there has to be balance. We understand that. But because of so much attention being paid to Adrian, it opens up so many opportunities for other players on our offense.”
McNabb and the offense may have an easier time gaining yards against Tampa Bay, which failed last week to put much pressure on Matthew Stafford(notes), who threw for 305 yards while completing 72.7 percent of his passes. The Buccaneers also failed to record a sack after finishing tied for 30th in the league with 26 a year ago.
Tampa Bay has won four in a row over Minnesota, including 19-13 at home in the most recent meeting Nov. 16, 2008.