1. The job that K/P Michael Koenen did last night against the Minnesota Vikings should not go unnoticed. That is why we will talk about him first in this column. The Bucs' high-priced special teams addition from a season ago played extremely well and neutralized one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL with his big leg. Koenen booted kick after kick out the back of the end zone last night in order to keep the dangerous Percy Harvin from getting his hands on the ball. In fact, Koenen had a streak of 21 straight touchbacks before Harvin was able to return a kickoff in the second half. That was the longest such streak for a player since 1970. He also did a very good job using directional punting to slow return man Marcus Sherels, who had just 10 yards on three returns. And let's not forget about kicker Connor Barth, who was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals. The kicking game was excellent for the Bucs last night, and Koenen and Barth deserve a lot of credit.
2. The Bucs may have blown out the Vikings by 19 points last night, but the defense shouldn't be pleased with everything. The defense still gave up way too many yards – 369 total yards to be exact – and allowed some touchdowns that shouldn't have happened. Percy Harvin completely zoomed past cornerback Eric Wright in the slot and caught a difficult over-the-shoulder throw over him for a 18-yard score second quarter. For Wright, it was his second sub-par game in a row after giving up seven completions and a long touchdown his way last week against the Saints. Wright is a talented corner, but he is struggling right now and the Bucs need him to step his game up during the second half of the season. The stout Bucs' rush defense also gave up a 64-yard touchdown scamper to Adrian Peterson in the second half. We know Peterson may not be human and is an All Pro back, but the Bucs missed several tackles on the run and Peterson almost got the Vikings back into the game with that long score. Tampa Bay will be happy that it caused three turnovers and sacked quarterback Christian Ponder three times, but the defense has to do a better job of limiting the big scoring plays.
3. It was rookie running back Doug Martin who had his coming out party last night with 214 total offensive yards and two total touchdowns, but his fullback Erik Lorig deserves some time in the spotlight after his performance against Minnesota. It was because of Lorig's exceptional blocking that Martin was able to break off many of his big gains. Lorig did an outstanding job of putting a body on would-be tacklers and opening up some massive holes for Martin to burst through. Lorig, who came into the NFL three years ago as a defense end, has come a long way and has developed nicely into a quality fullback this season. He was also rewarded for his hard work with a 1-yard touchdown reception last night. Lorig got his first NFL touchdown in the first quarter on a play-action pass near the goal line. It was a nice moment for Lorig and he may get a few more opportunities to score if he continues to play like he did against the Vikings.
4. This was pretty much a make or break season for quarterback Josh Freeman and he is playing like he knows it. Freeman's rookie contract is up after the 2013 season, but Tampa Bay wanted to figure out this season whether or not it was going to lock him up for the long haul. After struggling out of the gates, Freeman has been masterful the past few weeks and is playing as well as any signal caller in the NFL right now. In the past three games, Freeman has thrown for over 1,000 yards with nine touchdowns to just one interception. Right now, Freeman is on pace to throw for a over 4,100 yards and 32 touchdowns, both of which would be career-highs for the 2009 first round pick. It seems as though the Bucs did what Buccaneers101.com what suggested they do after their bye – take the reins off Freeman and let him air out to his play-makers. That is exactly what he has been doing the past three weeks and the results are easy to see. Look for the Bucs to continue with this offensive game plan moving forward because they have scored an average of 34.7 points per game since the bye week.
5. And last but certainly not least, give it up to Ronde Barber people. The ageless wonder shined on national television and continues to make his case for Canton, OH when his playing days are ultimately over. The 37-year-old Barber was all over the field making life miserable Christian Ponder, and even nearly got a few sacks on the young quarterback. Barber also forced a turnover when he stripped Peterson on a spin move, and he finished with a team-high nine tackles. Moving to free safety was a great career move for Barber, who looks as though he could continue playing for another season or two after this year is done. He is putting up Pro Bowl numbers and should be in for another trip to Hawaii if he continues to play like he is. It's been an honor to watch Barber all these years and if this is his last season, he is certainly going out with a bang.
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