Comeback kid: Freeman, Bucs rally at Vikings 24-20By JON KRAWCZYNSKI, AP Sports Writer Monday, Sep 19, 2011
MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Wearing No. 5 on his chest and orchestrating another fourth-quarter comeback with his big right arm and confidence-instilling poise, Josh Freeman(notes) sure looked like a young Donovan McNabb(notes) as he rallied the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a win over the Minnesota Vikings.
Even though he was on the losing side, McNabb couldn’t help but be impressed.
Freeman threw for 243 yards, one TD and one interception, directing two touchdown drives in the final eight minutes of the game for the eighth fourth-quarter comeback of his young career.
“I thought Josh did a wonderful job of keeping his composure, being a great leader and leading his team to a big victory,” McNabb said. “When the chips were down, they were able to keep confidence in themselves. Josh did a great job leading the charge, but this is a game we should’ve won. No doubt about it.”
The Vikings dominated the first 30 minutes, outgaining the Bucs 284-62 and getting two touchdown runs from Adrian Peterson to take their big first-half lead.
But Blount ripped off a 27-yard TD run early in the third quarter to get the Bucs on the board, and Freeman didn’t let an interception in the end zone rattle him. He connected with Arrelious Benn(notes) on a 25-yard TD pass with 6:39 to play, then was 5 for 6 for 46 yards to move the Bucs down in position for Blount’s TD.
“I just try to win,” Freeman said. “That’s all there is to it. It’s as simple as it goes.”
The Vikings wish it were that easy. They’ve held a halftime lead in their first two games, including a 17-7 advantage at San Diego last week, only to have them slip away down the stretch.
“When you control a game for as long as we did and don’t finish games, it’s very frustrating and disappointing for our team,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “It’s something that we have to figure out real soon, otherwise we’ll continue to be in this situation. We’re playing too well early to not finish games the way we need to.”
The Bucs began the go-ahead drive at their 39-yard line and got to the Vikings 16 by the two-minute warning, but Frazier chose not to use any of Minnesota’s three timeouts.
“I really had confidence we were going to stop them,” Frazier said.
Peterson rushed for 120 yards and McNabb shrugged off last week’s abysmal 39 yards passing to complete 18 of 30 throws for 228 yards. But the Vikings (0-2) only managed a field goal in the second half to let the Bucs (1-1) back into the game.
“My first thought that goes through my mind is, ‘Wow, we gave the game away,”’ Peterson said.
After expressing frustration he wasn’t more involved last week, Blount finished with 71 yards and two scores on 13 carries. Preston Parker(notes) had six catches for 98 yards and the Bucs got going just in time to avoid falling to 0-2.
Bucs coach Raheem Morris wore a hat to his postgame press conference that read “Youngry.”
“This team, I told you, they’re just young and hungry,” Morris said proudly.
So what do you call that first half, then?
“No, youngry was the second half,” Morris quipped. “The first half was badly.”
The Buccaneers had only three first downs in the first half and couldn’t keep defensive ends Jared Allen(notes) and Brian Robison(notes) out of Freeman’s face. The 6-foot-6 quarterback was constantly under pressure, but never wavered. He started getting rid of the ball sooner in the second half to neutralize the rush and even an interception on an ill-advised throw off his back foot into the end zone didn’t faze him.
“He doesn’t blink,” Morris said. “He’s not a blinker. He’s going to come out and control the game and control his people and win football games.”
NOTES: The Vikings have started 0-2 in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2001-02. They started 0-4 in 2002. … After failing to complete a pass to a tight end in the opener, McNabb connected three times with Visanthe Shiancoe(notes) and targeted TEs a total of nine times. … The Buccaneers have won five straight games in this series, dating to 2001, when they were together in the old NFC Central division. … Through the first half, Blount’s season totals were 10 carries and 19 yards. He now has 18 rushes for 90 yards. … Bucs LB Mason Foster(notes) had 10 tackles and a sack.