MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — LeGarrette Blount’s 4-yard touchdown run with 31 seconds left lifted Tampa Bay past the Minnesota Vikings 24-20 on Sunday, completing another comeback guided by Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman — this time from a 17-0 halftime deficit.
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.
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.
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.
Coach Raheem 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.
After expressing frustration he wasn’t more involved last week, Blount finished with 71 yards and the two scores on 13 carries.
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.
Donovan McNabb was much better than in his Minnesota debut, finishing 18 for 30 for 228 yards. But Freeman was the better quarterback when it counted most, completing 22 of 31 passes for 243 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
The Vikings showed much better balance than the week before, but in mixing up their play calls they might have strayed too far from Peterson, who plowed and danced through Tampa Bay’s front seven for most of the afternoon.
Peterson was busy pounding the ball into the throat of Tampa Bay’s defense, which needed a bunch of ankle tackles to take him down. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave had McNabb rolling out often with the line pulling the other way, and the Bucs frequently took the bait.
After a superb first half, the defense faltered again, too, missing some crucial tackles and letting Freeman find cracks in the coverage. The touchdown toss to Benn capped an 80-yard, eight-play drive that lasted barely three minutes, and then Lorenzo Booker’s ill-advised kickoff return from the end zone netted only 9 yards.
The Vikings punted, giving the Bucs prime field position to either tie or take the lead. Tyrell Johnson dropped an interception near the goal line on first down from the 16, and the Bucs were in the end zone three plays later.
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