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Vikings suffer unexpected 20-17 Week one loss to the Buccaneers

The Minnesota Vikings lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this past weekend at U.S. Bank Stadium. The loss puts the Vikings at 0-1 on the year and will likely spawn concerns regarding the team’s outlook for the season. PHOTO courtesy of wikimedia commons

Entering this NFL season, the Minnesota Vikings had relatively high, yet tempered, expectations. Last year’s 12-4 season, in which superstar receiver Justin Jefferson and quarterback Kirk Cousins led miraculous comeback after miraculous comeback, ended in a flat, disappointing 31-24 loss to the New York Giants. 

Vikings faithful hoped that the loss was simply unfortunate timing, their team victims of the notoriously unpredictable single-game elimination NFL playoffs. If this week’s game is a sign of things to come, however, it may be a long season for the Minnesota faithful. 

When the schedule for the 23-24 season was released, many around the league couldn’t envision an easier opening game for the Kevin O’Connell coached Vikings – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by journeyman quarterback Baker Mayfield, who many projected to be a bottom 5 squad. Entering the contest, Minnesota was a 4-and-a-half-point favorite. 

The game was mostly marked by the Vikings’ self-inflicted wounds. Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw an interception to Buccaneers rookie Christian Izien and later gave up a strip sack fumble recovered by Antoine Winfield Jr.

However, perhaps the most crushing play was a mental mistake made by Vikings rookie Jay Ward. Early in the 3rd quarter, in a game still tied 10-10, the Buccaneers were driving down the field before the Vikings defense forced a field goal attempt from Chase McLaughlin. Unfortunately, as McLaughlin drilled the field goal, a flag for a neutral zone infraction was thrown on Ward, giving the Bucs a fresh set of downs. 

Baker Mayfield and the Bucs proceeded to use this opportunity to its full extent, scoring a touchdown to break the tie and take the lead 17-10, all while taking 9 minutes off the clock. From there, the Vikings simply could not recover. 

Kirk Cousins finished with 344 yards passing on 33/44 attempts, throwing 2 touchdowns, one to running back Alexander Mattison and one to rookie wide receiver Jordan Addison. Meanwhile, Justin Jefferson continued on doing what Justin Jefferson does, racking up 9 catches for 150 yards on 12 targets. However, following the game, Jefferson was visibly upset on the sidelines. 

Baker Mayfield, former quarterback of the Browns, Panthers, & Rams (all within a 1 & a half year span), threw for 173 yards on 21/34 passing, with 2 touchdowns and no turnovers. 

For the Vikings, this is certainly a troubling start to the year. Last regular season, the Vikings were an NFL record 11-0 in one score games, and detractors may point to this result as the beginning of an inevitable reversion to the mean. The Jordan Love-led Green Bay Packers’ thrashing of the Chicago Bears, as well as the surprise Detroit Lions victory over the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs are equally troubling for Vikings fans hoping for an easy division championship.

Postgame, coach Kevin O’Connell and Kirk Cousins both commented on their mental mistakes. 

O’Connell said, “There were quite a few self-inflicted mistakes,” while Cousins added “We moved the football, but we turned the ball over. The game will always be about points.”

The Vikings’ schedule does not get easier from here; their next game is a Thursday night date with the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles in Philly, followed by the always dangerous Los Angeles Chargers at home the next Sunday.


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