Vikings stunned by late comeback

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Vikings stunned by late comeback

From Comcast SportsNet Monday, September 19, 2011
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Josh Freeman and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers retreated to the locker room after an awful first half, still confident they could win despite a 17-0 deficit. The comeback, after all, is what Freeman has perfected in his 26-game career. LeGarrette Blount's 4-yard touchdown run with 31 seconds left sent the Buccaneers past the stunned Minnesota Vikings 24-20 on Sunday, completing another rally guided by Tampa Bay's calm young quarterback. "He doesn't blink," coach Raheem Morris said. Eight of Freeman's 14 career victories have come when the Bucs (1-1) went ahead in the fourth quarter or overtime. Given how overwhelmed they were before halftime, outgained 284 yards to 62 during the first two quarters, this might have been the most impressive. "Arguably our worst half of football since I've been a head coach," Morris said. After expressing frustration he wasn't more involved last week, Blount finished with 71 yards and two scores on 13 carries. "We just came together and collectively said, 'This is not how we play football. Let's go out and do what we do best,'" Freeman said. There was no screaming, throwing chairs or drastic readjustments to the game plan. The Bucs simply emerged with the kind of steadiness and confidence down the stretch that the Vikings (0-2), still led by a bunch of veterans, haven't shown yet. "We have to have that attitude that we can't be stopped," quarterback Donovan McNabb said. Freeman found Arrelious Benn for a 25-yard touchdown pass over Cedric Griffin with 6:39 remaining to cut Minnesota's lead to three points. A 19-yard leaping catch by Dezmond Briscoe and a 15-yard late hit penalty on Jared Allen set up the score. Freeman told Benn to watch for the ball because the Vikings were focusing on Blount. "He just ran by him, straight up," Freeman said. "There's just nothing special about that play." Morris said he thought his young team "blinked" last week in the 27-20 loss to Detroit, when the Lions led at the half and held on. This time, the Bucs didn't flinch. "If we thought we were going to lose in the second half, we would've stayed in the locker room," linebacker Quincy Black said. Tampa Bay even overcame a couple of costly mistakes. The Bucs recovered an onside kick after Blount's first touchdown, but Freeman threw off his back foot for Kellen Winslow into the end zone. Husain Abdullah returned the interception 32 yards. Then an illegal shift penalty wiped out what would've been a terrific touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone by Mike Williams, and they settled for a field goal by Connor Barth to pull within 17-10. "With the bitter taste in our mouths from last week, we had to be better," Blount said. Adrian Peterson had 25 carries for 120 yards and two touchdowns in the first half for the Vikings (0-2), who blew a healthy lead for the second straight week and were booed off the field when their desperation drive was stopped around midfield as the clock ran out. "Wow. You're not supposed to give away a game like that," Peterson said. McNabb was much better than in his Minnesota debut, finishing 18 for 30 for 228 yards and effectively using the rollout often to find open receivers in the middle of the field. But Freeman was the better quarterback when it counted most, completing 22 of 31 passes for 243 yards, one touchdown and one interception. "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." The Vikings showed better balance than the week before. But in mixing up their play calls, they might have strayed too far in the second half from Peterson, who plowed and danced through Tampa Bay's front seven for much of the afternoon. The Bucs needed several ankle tackles to bring him down in the first half, and the Vikings had touchdown drives of 90 and 75 yards. The Vikings were flawless on defense before halftime, but their tackling was substandard again down the stretch and Freeman was able to find cracks in the coverage with better protection. The Bucs began the go-ahead drive at their 39-yard line and got to the Vikings 16 by the two-minute warning, but coach Leslie Frazier chose not to use any of Minnesota's three timeouts -- leaving only 24 seconds for the offense after Percy Harvin fumbled the kickoff and was tackled at the 10. "I really had confidence we were going to stop them," Frazier said. 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 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 had 10 tackles and a sack.

Valentine will be plunked down in heart of D-line

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Valentine will be plunked down in heart of D-line

FOXBORO – The Patriots used the 96th overall pick – a compensatory pick that came to the Patriots after losing Darrelle Revis – on a very large man. Vincent Valentine, a 6-3, 329-pound defensive tackle from Nebraska who is more space-eater than penetrator.

Though Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio said Valentine has played all over the defensive line including 5-technique (outside shoulder of the tackle), he’ll likely be an early-down, middle of the defensive line player for the Patriots at the outset. How does the team go about getting him on the field?

Currently, they are pretty well-stocked with big bodies. Last year’s first rounder, Malcom Brown, is going to play a lot for a long time. Terrance Knighton, added as a free agent, figures to be a major component of the defensive line. And aging Alan Branch showed in 2015 that he’s still got plenty of plays left in him.

The other 300-plus pound linemen in the mix are Marcus Kuhn, a free agent brought over from the Giants, and Joe Vellano, who’s been with the team for four seasons as an end of the roster player.

Valentine had an injury-plagued final season with the Cornhuskers and will need to tune up his body and conditioning for the NFL. He’s not a project but neither is he a plug-and-play type who can be expected to walk in and make immediate contributions. With the 31-year-old Branch nearing the end, it’s reasonable to expect Valentine to be the successor to him in the Patriots interior rotation when they go heavy on early downs and in short-yardage and goal-line.

Examining possible Patriots fits going into Day 3

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Examining possible Patriots fits going into Day 3

The Patriots have eight picks remaining on the final day of the draft. While they may not use all of those selections -- they currently have 80 players on the roster, leaving them with only two slots for undrafted free agents if they use all of their picks -- they still have plenty of opportunities to take chances on talented athletes Saturday. 

Here's a quick look at some of the best players available after they spent their first four selections on a corner (Cyrus Jones, Alabama, pick No. 60), an offensive lineman (Joe Thuney, North Carolina State, No. 78), a quarterback (Jacoby Brissett, North Carolina State, No. 91) and a defensive tackle (Vincent Valentine, Nebraska, No. 96). 

The Patriots have one fourth-round pick, five sixth-round picks and two seventh-rounders remaining.

RUNNING BACK: KENNETH DIXON, LOUISIANA TECH

Listed as one of our top players available after Day 1, Dixon is still hanging around after nearly 100 picks have gone off the board. Perhaps his level of competition at Louisiana Tech has worked against him. Perhaps his fumbling issues have come back to bite him. Perhaps this is simply an indication of how the rest of the league considers this position. Only four backs have been drafted through the first three rounds. 

Other top running backs available: Jordan Howard, Indiana; Devontae Booker, Utah; Paul Perkins, UCLA; Jonathan Williams, Arkansas; Alex Collins, Arkansas. 

RECEIVER: DANIEL BRAVERMAN, WESTERN MICHIGAN

If ever there was a player who stood out as a potential Patriots pick, it would be Braverman. At 5-foot-10, 177 pounds, he is a prototypical slot receiver whose skill set resembles that of Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola or Troy Brown. He's very shifty in and out of his breaks, he does a great deal of his work while risking big hits over the middle of the field, he catches just about everything thrown his way, and he churns out yards after the catch with speed and good vision. 

Other top receivers available: Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia; Rashard Higgins, Colorado State; Devon Cajuste, Stanford; Keyarris Garrett, Tulsa; Keenan Reynolds, Navy.

LINEBACKER: JOSH PERRY, OHIO STATE

This Buckeye seems to fit the size profile the Patriots typically like in their receivers at 6-foot-4, 254 pounds. He runs well enough to be able to track ball-carriers from sideline-to-sideline, and he has a ton of experience coming downhill to make big hits in the running game. Perry will need some work before he's a reliable defender in coverage, but on first and second downs he could be a force. 

Other top linebackers available: Scooby Wright III, Arizona; Kentrell Brothers, Missouri; Stephen Weatherly, Vanderbilt; Blake Martinez, Stanford; De'Vondre Campbell, Minnesota. 

DEFENSIVE TACKLE: HASSAN RIDGEWAY, TEXAS

A college teammate of Patriots defensive tackle Malcom Brown, Ridgeway is considered by many to be more physically talented than Brown was when he declared for the draft. Injuries hurt Ridgeway's productivity last season, and there are some who question his conditioning, but he understands how to be a disruptive force on the interior, both in the running game and in the passing game. If he's in shape and can maintain the level of fitness that will be expected of him as a pro, he could turn into an immediate contributor.

Other top defensive tackles available: Andrew Billings, Baylor; Sheldon Day, Notre Dame; DJ Reader, Clemson; Dean Lowry, Northwestern; Justin Zimmer, Ferris State.