Penn Again Comes Up Big
If Donald Penn keeps this up, he might even get a compliment from offensive line coach Bill Muir. Someday. Tampa Bay's 25-year-old left tackle reinforced his reputation as one of the NFL's best-kept secrets Sunday by manhandling Pro Bowl DE Jared Allen in a 19-13 triumph that improved the Bucs to 5-0 at Raymond James Stadium. "Yeah, he's not bad," Allen said after Penn limited him to two tackles and not even the hint of a sack. "I'd say Penn's a pretty good player."
You won't hear that sentiment yet from Muir, who routinely shies away from any praise for the undrafted free agent because he doesn't want Penn to relax. "I hope I can play my whole career flying under the radar," said Penn, who was released by the Vikes in '06 and then plucked off their practice squad by the Bucs. "Minnesota cut me - and it's their loss. I know what I can do; it's just a matter of me doing it on Sundays."
Penn received little help while keeping Jeff Garcia clean against Allen, whose 51 sacks since 2004 tops the NFL. He has also neutralized other premier pass rushers like Carolina's Julius Peppers and Dallas' Demarcus Ware.
"They keep on bringing guys in and No. 70 keeps shutting 'em down," said Bucs G Davin Joseph, part of a strong push up front that produced 108 yards on the ground against the NFC's top-rated rushing defense.
Somebody asked Garcia if Allen came near him at all. "After the game, he came up and we shook hands," Garcia said. "I am really happy for Donald Penn and what he has done."
With the game hanging in the balance, Jimmy Wilkerson tilted the field in favor of that unrelenting Tampa Bay defense. The reserve lineman wrecked Minnesota's final possession with key plays on successive snaps in the last two minutes. After sacking Gus Frerotte at the Vikings 18 on first down, Wilkerson stripped RB Chester Taylor after an 11-yard catch, with Ronde Barber recovering to end Minnesota's final threat. "The impact Jimmy has had on this team can't be measured," DE Kevin Carter said after Wilkerson had four tackles, including two for losses, and two hurries.
After missing six games with a hamstring injury, FB B.J. Askew registered his first career TD, plunging over from a yard out to cap an 80-yard drive and forge a 13-13 tie.
"I wouldn't necessarily say it was a reward," Askew said after the first regular-season carry of his two-year Buccaneer career. "My job is to block, be the fullback and that is what I love to do. It was nice. I missed seven weeks and forgot how it feels."
In an example of how statistics can be misleading, Frerotte actually posted a better passer rating (105.8) than Garcia (101.4), primarily because he had a TD pass. ... Ex-Bucs safety John Lynch, who will announce his retirement today at the team facility, took part in the pregame coin toss. ... Tiger Woods attended the game and stood near the Tampa Bay sideline. ... The Vikings were outgained 200-64 in the second half. ... LB Chad Greenway stood out with 16 solo tackles and Minnesota's only sack.
Ira Kaufman, The Tampa Tribune 17 November 2008