Benn's up-and-down afternoon
T hrough three quarters, Bucs WR Arrelious Benn's biggest contributions were those that helped the Vikings. There was the dropped ball in the first half that forced a punt. And in the second half came a mental error, an illegal shift penalty that erased a 17-yard touchdown reception by WR Mike Williams.
There was little reason to think Benn would make one of the biggest plays — a 25-yard touchdown catch that edged the Bucs to within 20-17 late in the fourth quarter.
"It says a lot about how I bounce back," Benn said. "I really beat myself up. I think the last two weeks, personally, I've been starting off flat. I needed to get it going. But as the game goes on, it gets better.
"It shows a lot about the confidence (the coaches) had to go to me at that time. Not just them but Josh (Freeman)."
Benn, who was out for much of the offseason and was limited in the preseason because of knee surgery in December, had help from Freeman in shaking his slow start.
"He expects to play a perfect game," Freeman said of Benn. "When he makes a mistake, he might be a little too hard on himself. But at the same time, he's a guy who is huge for us. I told him on that touchdown, 'Hey, they're going to be sucking in on LeGarrette (Blount), and there's going to be one-on-one (coverage), and I'm going to give you a chance.'
"He just ran by (the defender). There's nothing special about that play except he just ran by the guy. He put it in his mind that he was going to do it, and he did it."
Take your time, Freeman
Did you notice all the time Bucs QB Josh Freeman had to throw in the second half?
After spending much of the first half under duress — and getting sacked twice — Freeman had room to work in the second half because of a refocused effort by the offensive line.
Communication issues in the noisy Metrodome were resolved, and other adjustments made at halftime helped eliminate miscues that left Freeman under pressure.
"Things came together, and we got our communication down," RT Jeremy Trueblood said. "There were some things in there that we had to straighten out. Once that was all settled, we were good. Actually, the sack where (DE Everson Griffen) wasn't blocked, that was a miscommunication. … We were running a different play than the running back.
"The good thing is we can fix those things."
Being able to sit comfortably in the pocket despite the presence of a top-flight pass rusher such as Vikings DE Jared Allen enabled Freeman to throw the ball downfield more, allowing time for longer routes to develop.
"(The Vikings) had a good blitz package coming in and a good (method) of getting pressure up front," Freeman said. "We just made a couple of adjustments. Next week, we have to adjust faster.
"But we got it done in time and got the win. It's great to see guys make a halftime adjustment and come out and execute so well in the second half."
With gimpy Black benched, Foster steps up
If Bucs LB Quincy Black didn't look like himself in the first half, it's because he wasn't. Coach Raheem Morris said he benched Black after discovering he had an ankle injury that presumably played a role in several missed tackles.
Not that Black used it as a defense.
"That's not my thing," he said. "If I'm out there, I'm out there. I don't make excuses. That's why when I don't make plays, guys are surprised."
Black's loss meant rookie Mason Foster, who has been playing only in the base defense, was asked to play in the nickel defense in passing situations. That's a situation he has little experience with, one that requires him to get downfield in coverage. He had a pass-interference penalty against WR Percy Harvin in the fourth quarter, an infraction that moved the ball 23 yards and led to a field goal.
But the day proved to be a learning experience for the kid, who finished with a team-high 10 tackles and continued to stand out despite his inexperience.
"I'm trying to erase all the mistakes, but I know that if I do mess up, I can play as hard and as fast as I can," Foster said. "We have great people around. The veterans and everybody else played great around me, and I play off of them."
Morris sent Foster on a blitz in the first half that resulted in Foster's first sack — against QB Donovan McNabb — making it a day he'll always remember.
"It was a blitz, and I came (through) free," Foster said. "I think it was supposed to be a bootleg, but one of our ends came free and forced (McNabb) back inside. I was just running to the ball. My first sack in the NFL. It felt great. Man, I'm excited."
Getting Peterson under wraps
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson had a memorable day. He rushed for 120 yards on 25 carries and scored two touchdowns. And he made a little history, surpassing 6,000 career yards and setting a franchise mark for rushing touchdowns (54).
In the first half, he was his typically overpowering self. But in the second half, he looked ordinary.
The credit goes to the Bucs defense, which tackled better, with a little help from S Cody Grimm, who played near the line of scrimmage for the balance of the game.
Peterson, after rushing for 83 yards in the first half, was limited to 37 on 10 carries in the second half. It was a chief reason the Bucs were able to rally because the consistent defensive stops put the ball in the hands of QB Josh Freeman.
The secret wasn't complicated.
"Tackle," coach Raheem Morris said. "There was no key. Hit the man like you hit anybody else. Tackle him and get him on the ground, and the guys came out ready to fly around and tackle."
"It was simple as that," DT Gerald McCoy said.
McCoy took Peterson to the ground on the first two plays of the second half, the first a 1-yard gain up the middle, the second a tackle after 6 yards that prevented Peterson from reaching the second level. They weren't plays that will be celebrated in a game of many big plays, but McCoy provided the spark that the defense needed. Later in the half, Peterson had two negative plays, on tackles made by LB Geno Hayes and DT Brian Price.
"I had to do that," McCoy said. "Somebody had to step up and get it going and set the tone."
Poised Parker emerges
O f all the Bucs who played important roles in Sunday's win, the least likely might have been WR Preston Parker.
Start with the obvious: Parker got extensive playing time only because Tampa Bay's usual slot receiver, Sammie Stroughter, missed the game after foot surgery. And Parker arrived as a fringe player last season, a rookie free agent who was fortunate to make the team.
But Parker's 195 total yards in receiving and in the kicking game loomed large in the Bucs' 24-20 victory at the Metrodome. Included were six receptions for 98 yards.
"I came a long way," Parker said. "I still had to make the team. (There were) a lot of things I had to change about myself. I did it, and this is the outcome. And there's still more to come. It's just one game. Put it behind you and keep going."
Parker had the game's longest play, a 51-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter. And he recorded what was, arguably, the biggest play. It came on third and 4 from the Vikings 10 with 1:17 left. If the Bucs didn't convert, they would have to settle for a tying field goal rather than having a shot at a winning touchdown.
But QB Josh Freeman had a plan: Go to Sunday's go-to man.
"When we got it in close and got to third and short, I knew we were going to have one-on-one (coverage) underneath with Preston," Freeman said.
He drilled a pass over the middle to Parker, who turned up the field for a 6-yard gain and a first down. With first and goal at the 4, the Bucs converted with RB LeGarrette Blount's touchdown run on the next play.
Parker's performance means he'll get further chances to make more. He is gaining the faith of Freeman and offensive coordinator Greg Olson.
"I'm sure when they see I can make plays, they're going to try to come back to me," he said. "When you show them you can make plays … you just make it easier for the coaches."
Raheem rolls dice
The Bucs — like everyone watching their uninspired first-half effort — needed something to spark a rally in the second half.
Coach Raheem Morris, below, figured he knew what would do the trick: the onside kick after the Bucs' first touchdown in the third quarter.
The kick was executed perfectly by Michael Koenen, with CB Elbert Mack swooping in to cover up the loose ball and, as a result, change the trajectory of the game.
"It gave us some momentum," Mack said. "It gave us some hope. It reminded us that we're always in this situation. We've done this before. Like Raheem said at halftime, 'Don't blink, don't shy away from the game plan. Go back out there and execute.' "
The successful kick didn't produce points, as Freeman threw an interception in the end zone with 7:50 left in the third quarter. It was a letdown after the Bucs had moved to the Minnesota 12, but the sequence put the Vikings on their heels.
"It gave us enough momentum to win the football game," Morris said.
Said Mack: "Before we even had gotten points on the board, (Morris) said, 'If we score here, it's all or nothing.' We didn't get any points, but that's what sparked us."
. With his 25-yard touchdown pass to WR Arrelious Benn in the fourth quarter, Bucs QB Josh Freeman has thrown at least one touchdown in 15 consecutive games, extending his team record. The second-longest streak belongs to Brian Griese, who had 12 straight in 2004-05.
. Bucs WR Preston Parker's six receptions for 98 yards were career highs.
. Bucs LB Mason Foster recorded his first career sack in the second quarter, and it marked the team's first sack of the season. Foster also forced a fumble and had a tackle for loss.
. Bucs TE Kellen Winslow has caught at least one pass in 78 consecutive games. He finished with four receptions for 44 yards.
. Bucs CB Ronde Barber extended his league-leading streak of consecutive starts among active players to 185, and his streak of consecutive games played hit 210, behind Vikings K Ryan Longwell (226).