Which Buccaneers players stood out in Thursday's 36-17 win over the Minnesota Vikings? What players need to rebound before Tampa Bay takes on Oakland a week from Sunday? Find out in this weekly post-game feature from PewterReport.com.
After an important 36-17 road win the candidates to be included on the Most Impressive list was long and difficult to choose from. Below are six players who stood out and had a direct hand in the victory.Most ImpressiveRB Doug Martin
Can you say coming out party? Bucs running back Doug Martin looked like a special back for the first time all season. Martin has had his moments at times this season, but on Thursday the Boise State rookie put it all together. Maybe it was the national stage that gave him the inspiration, or maybe the proverbial light bulb went off, whatever it was Martin looked decisive, powerful and showed a burst that some had questioned if he even possessed. With 103 yards rushing in the first half alone, Martin stole the spotlight from the Vikings Adrian Peterson. Martin finished with 135 yards on 29 carries and one touchdown rushing, and also was the Buccaneers leading receiver, tacking on another 79 yards on three receptions and a score. Maybe, just maybe, those Ray Rice comparisons aren’t too far off.DE Michael Bennett
Bennett, like his fellow defensive linemen, had been quiet the previous two weeks, failing to produce a sack or many splash plays. Maybe it was all the talk of Da’Quan Bowers rejoining the team, or maybe, like Martin, Bennett enjoys the national stage. Whatever the reason, Bennett put on a display of speed, power and attitude on Thursday, harassing Vikings QB Christian Ponder all night. Bennett ended the night with five tackles, one sack and a forced fumble. The fumble play was a display of sheer hustle, as Bennett had to race not only across the field, but also 20 yards down the field to create the Buccaneers first turnover of the night.FB Erik Lorig
Fullbacks in the NFL have always been under appreciated, and even lately are starting to become more and more extinct. However, when a team rushes for nearly 150 yards in one game, most likely there was someone leading the way, helping to open holes or at the very least, creating seams for the running back to squeeze through. On Thursday that person opening holes, sealing the ends – and scoring a touchdown – was Lorig. The former defensive lineman turned fullback threw several key blocks helping Martin get to the second level where the rookie did his thing.
QB Josh Freeman
Freeman started off rocky, and at times struggled with accuracy, but when the key plays had to be made No. 5 delivered. Freeman became the first Buccaneers QB to throw for three touchdowns in consecutive games in franchise history. The Vikings obviously studied tons of tape on Freeman and the Tampa Bay offense, and were unwilling to give up the deep ball, playing primarily zone defense and keeping two safeties deep. Freeman was patient and instead took what the defense gave, meaning checking down at times and working the soft spots in the middle of the field. The ability to not force the ball down the field into coverage shows Freeman is taking major steps in his development as the Buccaneers franchise quarterback. On the night Freeman finished 19-of-36 for 262 yards and three touchdowns.P/KOS Michael Koenen
Normally when a kicker ends up on an impressive list or in the running for game MVP it is because he was the only bright spot. On Thursday that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Koenen was an integral part of the Buccaneers 36-17 win over the Minnesota Vikings booming his kickoffs deep in the end zone, keeping dangerous kick returner Percy Harvin from impacting the game. And the one time Harvin chose to return one, it was Koenen who actually made the tackle. Not only did Koenen put all of his kickoffs in the end zone, he did a terrific job in the punt game, averaging 41.7 yards per punt, while directional punting towards the coverage.WR Mike Williams
Mike Williams stood in the Buccaneers locker room on two occasions last season declaring his play as “terrible.” While Williams would most likely say there is still room for improvement, nothing about the season Williams is having can be deemed terrible so far in 2012. On Thursday against the Vikings Williams had the opportunity to show the national audience his acrobatic circus-style ability to bring in passes from every angle. Williams touchdown pass in the second quarter was vintage Williams, going up over the defender, snatching the ball out the air, while still managing to tap his toes in the end zone. Williams finished Thursday’s game with a game-high six receptions for 68 yards and the one score.Honorable Mentions:
S Ronde Barber, DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, LB Mason FosterMost Disappointing
When a team wins a game by the score of 36-17 on the road, the roster
for the most part all played well. Thursday was no different but we have
to select a few players that could have had a better game.T Donald Penn
Penn had an excellent game for the most part, keeping sack master Jared Allen off of Freeman’s back for most of the evening, only allowing one QB takedown. However Penn’s aggressive play against Allen in the second half created a huge potential momentum shift. The MMA style fight Penn and Allen had after a play in the second half, which resulted in a bloody nose for Allen, seemed to rev up the noise at Mall of America Field. Fortunately for the Buccaneers, the Vikings offense sputtered and they never were able to build off of the emotionally charged crowd. Many appreciate Penn’s aggressive nature but cooler heads must prevail in that situation, particularly on the the road in a hostile environment.T Demar Dotson
Dotson didn’t give up a sack in Thursday night’s big road win, but did struggle to keep Vikings defensive end Brian Robison from batting three Freeman passes down at the line of scrimmage (one was on a rollout by Freeman where Robison was unblocked). The Buccaneers seemed intent on getting several quick receiver screens set up in the first half but Robison would have nothing to do with that, clogging Freeman’s throwing lanes and batting the ball twice on screens. Dotson apparently hasn’t mastered the cut block quite yet, and it potentially could have been a disaster had Robinson managed to wrap his hand around the ball as opposed to swatting them down.KR Roscoe Parrish
Parrish committed a deadly and sometimes job-costing Schiano offense fumbling a punt return in the first half. Parrish fortunately was able to recover his mishap and most likely saved his roster spot with the recovery. But even when managing to field punts cleanly, Parrish was unable to make anything out of the returns, netting zero yards on three returns.CB Leonard Johnson
It was a tough decision to place Johnson on the disappointing list as he was thrust into the starting nickel back role in such a crucial game. Johnson actually played well in coverage including one pass break up and also notching his first career NFL interception. But Johnson, who also is part of the punt unit, had two penalties during the course of the game, one for holding and another for illegal hands to the face.
CB Eric Wright
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