Vikings take on an old friend in Frazier

(SportsNetwork.com) – It’s a blast from the past for the Minnesota Vikings
this week as the Norsemen will travel to Central Florida to take on their old
NFC Central division rival, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Vikes will also be matching up with their former head coach Leslie
Frazier, who is now the defensive coordinator for the Bucs. Frazier mentored
the Vikings from 2007-2013, including serving as Minnesota’s head coach from
2011-13. He compiled an underwhelming 21-32-1 mark and was jettisoned after a
5-10-1 record in 2013.

“It will be interesting,” Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said. “Obviously
I’ve been with the guy for a long time and I have a lot of respect for him as
a man and as a coach. It will be fun to play against, to compete against him.”

Frazier might be feeling good about getting out when he did, as new Minnesota
coach Mike Zimmer has had to deal with some serious issues, including the
child abuse allegations that have banished star running back Adrian Peterson
and a season-ending foot injury to starting quarterback Matt Cassel. Heck,
Zimmer himself has even been dealing with kidney stone issues over the past
few weeks.

The pain of those stones was likely nothing compared to the heartache of a
last-second loss at Buffalo last weekend, though.

Kyle Orton found Sammy Watkins for a 2- yard touchdown with one second left
to lift the Bills to a 17-16 win over the visiting Vikings.

The prospect of the Bills winning appeared dim when Orton was sacked at the
Buffalo 40 on third down inside the two-minute warning. However, the veteran
quarterback converted a 4th-and-20 with a 24-yard pass to Scott Chandler.

Orton later hit Chris Hogan near the sideline at the 2 for 28 yards before
spiking the ball to stop the clock with five seconds remaining. Orton then
connected to Watkins in the front left corner of the end zone, and Dan
Carpenter made the decisive extra point.

The Bills overcame four turnovers and the loss of running backs Fred
Jackson (groin) and C.J. Spiller (collarbone).

Minnesota rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, making his first road start,
was 15-of-26 for just 157 yards. He threw his first touchdown pass, but was
also picked off twice by Leodis McKelvin in the Vikings’ third straight loss.

Zimmer said his team “didn’t get the job done” and that they “have to continue
to learn when we get in these situations.”

A bright spot for the Vikings was Jerick McKinnon. The rookie rushed for
103 yards on 19 carries against a Buffalo defense that entered Week 7 leading
the NFL in allowing 67.5 yards per game on the ground.

The Bucs, meanwhile, are coming off their bye week and likely needed the extra
time to forget what Joe Flacco did to them in Week 6.

The Ravens’ QB threw for a career-high five touchdowns in a near-flawless
performance that propelled Baltimore to a 48-17 rout over Tampa Bay. Flacco
ended each of Baltimore’s first five possessions with scoring strikes as the
Ravens roared out to a 38-0 halftime lead.

Mike Glennon put up a personal-best 314 yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-44
passing for the Buccaneers, though most of the damage came with the outcome
already decided in the second half. The second-year quarterback was
intercepted once and sacked five times while under heavy pressure for much of
the game.

“The bottom line, the Ravens played better than us,” said Glennon. “There’s
nothing else really to say. They out-executed us, they outplayed us and
obviously the score showed it.”

Louis Murphy had seven catches totaling 72 yards and a touchdown in the
lopsided defeat, with Mike Evans recording four receptions for 55 yards and
garnering Glennon’s other TD pass.

The Vikings and Buccaneers, who played in the same division from 1977 through
2001, have played 53 times overall with Minnesota holding a 31-22-0
series record. Tampa Bay, however, has won six straight and Minnesota has
never won in Raymond James Stadium.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

In Bridgewater’s first career start, the Vikings totaled 558 yards of offense
versus Atlanta, the third most in the NFL in 2014 and the fourth most in team
history.

Things have hit the skids since as the Louisville product has struggled behind
an offensive line that was perceived as a strength before the season started.
Left tackle Matt Kalil has been the key culprit, regressing rapidly from his
Pro Bowl form of 2012.

Injuries have also been a concern as right guard Brandon Fusco was lost for
the season to a torn pectoral muscle and center John Sullivan (concussion) and
guard Vladimir Ducasse (knee) — Fusco’s replacement — went down against
Buffalo.

The Vikings expect Sullivan back in Tampa and Ducasse may be able to go but no
matter who lines up in front of Bridgewater, they have to do a better job
because the rookie’s confidence is eroding rapidly as he gets punished further
each and every week.

“I think they should both be fine,” Zimmer said. “(Sullivan) has passed his
first protocol test or whatever, so I would assume that he would be fine.”

The continued development of McKinnon and the running game is also necessary.
McKinnon had his second career 100-yard game against the NFL’s top rushing
defense at Buffalo and is third in the NFL, averaging 5.2 yards per rush.

Overall Minnesota is mustering just 309.1 yards per offense but the Bucs
defense have struggled mightily while trying to implement the cover-2 defense
favored by Lovie Smith and Frazier. Tampa Bay is surrendering an ugly 422.8
ypg so if the Vikings can’t get it going against the Bucs, it’s time to start
worrying.

Conversely the Minnesota stop unit has been much-improved under Zimmer as
expected, allowing 337.9 ypg. It’s still a work in progress, though, as
evidenced by the late-game implosion against the Bills and the trouble getting
off the field at times, something that reminds Vikings fans of the struggles
in the Frazier regime.

Certain individuals have performed well. Defensive end Everson Griffen is tied
for second in the NFL with seven sacks after matching a career-high with three
against the Bills, while safety Harrison Smith is third in the NFL with three
interceptions.

The Bucs offense has been even worse than Minnesota’s, amassing 306.8 ypg and
their biggest attribute may be the element of surprise as veteran QB Josh
McCown practiced for the first time since injuring his right thumb in Week 3.

Smith has been coy to this point about who will go against the Vikings
although Glennon certainly has outplayed McCown this season.

“We’ll see how the week goes,” Smith said. “As soon as we feel like (McCown’s)
fully ready to play, he’ll have a role with us. I don’t see it that way
(having a quarterback controversy) at all. We have two quarterbacks. You might
say that. … I don’t say that at all. Guys know where they stand (with) the
rotation that we have.”

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Vikings haven’t won in Tampa since the days of the Big Sombrero (Tampa
Stadium) and seem to invent ways to lose on a weekly basis. Fourth-and-20?

Furthermore, it’s hard to pick a rookie QB to win on the road until you have
actually seen him do it.

Sports Network predicted outcome: Buccaneers 23, Vikings 16