NFC South: Metrodome

Wrap-up: Buccaneers 24, Vikings 20

September, 18, 2011
Thoughts on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' victory against the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome:

What it means: The Bucs were on their way to seeing their season slip away when their offense failed to show up in the first half. The Bucs were down 17-0 at halftime and had only three first downs in the first two quarters. Then, the second half started and Josh Freeman and the offense suddenly started clicking. When’s the last time the Bucs had a quarterback who could fall that far behind and bring them back? They never have.

What I liked: Coach Raheem Morris, who must have given one heck of a halftime speech, and offensive coordinator Greg Olson didn’t give up on the running game after falling behind, like they did in the opener. They kept using LeGarrette Blount and he ended up scoring two second-half touchdowns.

What else I liked: The defensive performance in the second half was pretty remarkable. The defense spent way too much time on the field in the first half. When that happens against Adrian Peterson, it’s usually a formula for disaster. But this young defense stepped up and held the Vikings to a field goal in the second half. Of course, it helped a bit that the offense was doing its job in the second half.

Wide receivers step up: The Bucs have been searching for a No. 2 receiver to complement Mike Williams. It looks like they’re making some progress in this area. Arrelious Benn, who is coming off a serious knee injury, had a touchdown catch and Dezmon Briscoe had four catches for 42 yards.

What’s next: The Bucs host the Falcons next Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

Week 2: NFC South stats and stuff

September, 14, 2011
Let’s turn to ESPN Stats & Information for some notes and nuggets for Week 2.

New Orleans Saints vs. Chicago Bears
  • The Saints lost their Thursday opener to Green Bay. The last time the Saints lost the Thursday season opener was in 2007, when they began the season 0-4.
  • The Bears are trying for the their second straight 2-0 start. Each of the past two times the Bears started 2-0, they've advanced to at least the NFC Championship game (2010 and 2006).
  • Chicago has won its last four games against New Orleans, including the playoffs. The Bears have been a thorn in the Saints' side, especially in postseason play. They ended the Saints 1990 season with a Wild-Card victory and advanced to Super Bowl XLI with a win in the 2006 NFC Championship.
  • Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler completed four screen passes for a league-high 116 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons Sunday. Cutler ranked second in the league in passing yards on screen passes in 2010 and the Saints have allowed a higher percentage of screens to be completed than any other team in the NFL over the past two seasons (90.9). Cutler also came out of the gate firing on screen passes in 2010. Cutler went 6-for-6 with 126 yards and a touchdown on screens Week 1 against the Lions. Cutler threw for just 176 yards and no touchdowns on screen passes after Week 1.
Carolina Panthers vs. Green Bay Packers
  • In Week 1, Cam Newton became the first player in NFL history to throw for 400 yards in his debut, and second rookie (Peyton Manning in 1998) to throw for 300+ yards in his team's season opener.
  • ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rankings measure all facets of a quarterback's play (passing, rushing, sacks, fumbles, penalties) and accounts for when each play happens in a game. The final rating is on a 1-100 scale. In Week 1, both Aaron Rodgers (second at 91.1) and Newton (fifth at 75.7) were among the league leaders.
  • Newton completed nine of 13 attempts for a league-high 279 yards and 2 touchdowns on passes thrown 15 yards or more downfield Sunday. The nine completions were the second-most in the NFL in Week 1 (Drew Brees, 10) and the Packers have allowed the third-most completions 15 yards or more downfield since 2008.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Minnesota Vikings
  • Tampa Bay has won each of its last four games against Minnesota. The Buccaneers’ win streak is their longest against the Vikings in team history. Prior to this run, the Bucs had not won more than two straight against their former divisional rival. It’s the first game between the teams in Minnesota since Week 1 of the 2005 season.
  • This is the first regular-season game back at the Metrodome since the roof collapse from a snow storm on December 12. The Vikings played their final two home games in Detroit at Ford Field (lost 21-3 to Giants) and at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis (lost 40-14).
  • The Donovan McNabb era got off to a rocky start as he was seven for 15 for 39 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a 24-17 loss to the Chargers in Week 1. McNabb has lost four straight starts dating to last season.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles
  • Michael Vick returns to Atlanta as a starting quarterback for the first time after spending six seasons with the Falcons from 2001-06. He started 67 regular-season games and five playoff games with the Falcons and was selected to three Pro Bowls. When Vick played in Atlanta with the Eagles in 2009, he was a backup quarterback but did record a rushing touchdown and a passing touchdown in the Eagles' win.
  • Since finishing the 2010 regular season with the NFC’s best record at 13-3, the Falcons have lost two straight games (including last season’s Divisional Playoffs loss to the Packers) by a combined score of 78-33. Over that span, the Falcons’ 23 offensive possessions have resulted in eight punts, seven turnovers, three touchdowns, two field goals, one turnover on downs and the end of the half/game twice.
  • The Falcons are 1-6 against the Eagles since 2000 with their only win coming in the 2005 season opener in Atlanta. Among teams the Falcons have played at least four times since 2000, their 1-6 record against the Eagles is their worst against any team.