The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were flying high after their dominating 29-7 win over the Chicago Bears. However, that time in a the clouds was a short flight thanks to the 34-17 beating they took up in Minnesota against the Vikings on Sunday.
The Vikings received the opening kickoff, and from the first snap on, they never lost control of the game – and, in fact, had a death grip on it for most of the game. After a few carries for running back Dalvin Cook, which got the ball rolling, back up quarterback Case Keenum connected wth wide receiver Adam Thielen for a 45-yard pass that set up a touchdown drive for the Vikings.
The Buccaneers responded well in their first drive with three first down passes to three different receivers, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard, but ultimately could not punch it in for the tie – perhaps due to a stagnant rushing attack – and were only able to get three.
After a pair of punts for both teams, the Vikings really started their attack on the scoreboard. Scarce pass rush left the Bucs cornerbacks, who were without their No. 1 corner, Brent Grimes, vulnerable. Vernon Hargreaves and Ryan Smith were left out to dry and both Thielen and fellow Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs had field days on them. The Vikings had long passes of 49 yards and 56 yards, and plenty of long first down throws in between. Diggs and Thielen combined for nine catches for 173 yards in first half.
The Buccaneers had trouble answering them without a rushing attack. Mike Evans was in a constant battle with Vikings No. 1 cornerback, Xavier Rhodes, but he was still getting the better of him most of the time, though Rhodes had his moments, too. But, the moment that really killed the Bucs chances was when the team was driving into Minnesota territory, and Winston under threw an open Jackson in the end zone which was picked off by Trae Waynes.
At that moment, it seemed like all the wind was sucked out of their sails and the half ended with a 21-3 lead for Minnesota.
Keenum and Diggs opened up the second half (after a three and out from the Bucs) with that 59-yard bomb which extended the Vikings’ lead to 28-3.
After a pair of touchdowns on their next two drives, first to Cam Brate, the to DeSean Jackson, the Bucs started to get their momentum back while Minnesota could only manage a field goal in betwen. With the score at 31-17 entering the fourth quarter, the Buccaneers defense held the Vikings to their first three and out of the day. With the offense back on the field, after a nice first down pass to Humphries, Winston and Jackson were not on the same page once again which led to Winston second interception of the game. As if that wasn’t the killer, the Bucs got the ball back with a slim chance and Winston again threw and interception in the end zone.
The staples of the game were what let the Bucs down on Sunday. On defense, there was no pass rush for most of the game. The lack of pressure form the front four forced defensive coordinator Mike Smith to send extra blitzes. This lets the defensive backs vulnerable and therefore cooked for much of the game. What was most crushing, however, was Vernon Hargreaves, Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David all going out with injuries during the game. With the injuries they were already battling going into the week, they can’t lose those guys.
On the offensive side, the Bucs had no running game. Jacquizz Rodgers led the team in carries and yards with five for 15. This team desperately misses Doug Martin, and clearly doesn’t trust the run game without him. That won’t win many football games.
Vikings quarterback Case Keenum finished the game 25-for-33 with 369 yards and three touchdowns. Diggs finished the game with 173 yards on eight catches with two touchdowns and Thielen had 98 yards on five catches. Running back Dalvin Cook had 94 rushing yards on 26 carries with 72 receiving yards on five catches.
On offense for the Bucs, the lack of run game or ability to control the clock led to a bad ratio of time of possession. The two turnovers from Winston also proved to be costly, as the Bucs could not get turnovers of their own. Winston finished the game 28-for-40 for 328 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Jackson led the team in receiving yards with 84 on four catches and a touchdown. Evans was next with seven catches and 67 yards. Humphries had six catches for 68 yards, Godwin had three for 44, Howard had one for 12 and Brate had four catches 33 yards before leaving with what we assume will be announced as a concussion.