It’s been almost 24 hours since the Vikings seasoning opening loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and my reaction is pretty much the exact same as it was when the game ended.
Tampa Bay was supposed to be a team in the Caleb Williams sweepstakes and the Vikings were supposed to deal with them sure-handedly before moving on to a real test in Philadelphia. But the Vikings showed way too much rust and now face down the most difficult part of their schedule already in an 0-1 hole. The game was not all negative. As with any loss, there were positives to admire, but also too many dud performances. Here are 3 duds and 2 studs from the Vikings season opening loss.
Dud: Ed Ingram
Unfortunately for the Vikings, Ed Ingram didn’t show much growth in the season opener. Ingram had an atrocious game on Sunday. He garnered 46.2 PFF grade, which is his third worst grade of his career and was the 20th lowest grade of any offensive lineman that played on Sunday. He was consistently tossed aside in pass protection and was credited with 1 sack and 4 pressures. Oh yeah, and there was this:
This was the Vikings' first turnover, which happened just outside of the red zone in the first quarter.
Ed Ingram's left hand knocked the ball out of Cousins' hands. Never seen that before. pic.twitter.com/m1x3y9HNv9
— Will Ragatz (@WillRagatz) September 11, 2023
The interior offensive line as a whole was a problem yesterday and with Garrett Bradbury’s injury, Ingram needs to show steep improvement in the coming weeks if the Vikings stand a chance against the top teams in the NFL.
Stud: Justin Jefferson
In better news, Justin Jefferson also picked up right where he left off in 2022, amassing 7 catches for 138 yards in just the first half of yesterday’s game. Many of these catches saw Jefferson with impressive separation and 4 of his catches went for over 20 yards. Even as the clear focal point of the defense’s gameplan, Jefferson remains the Vikings most important offensive asset. If he continues with these performances, the Vikings will be forced to write an even heftier check than they may expect come next offseason.
7 catches for 138 in the first half for Justin Jefferson
— Grace (@gracesporttakes) September 10, 2023
Dud: Matt Daniels
The Vikings coaching staff has multiple up-and-comers in its ranks and one of the best known in NFL circles is special teams coordinator Matt Daniels. That said, Daniels had a game to forget on Sunday. The special teams did not play well and was responsible for two key mistakes that led directly to the Vikings loss. First, Jay Ward lined up offsides on the Buccaneers 3rd quarter FG, giving the Tampa offense new life and they cashed in with a game-tying TD. Then, with 5:15 left in the game, the Vikings were forced to take a time-out before Tampa Bay kicked the go-ahead FG. The Vikings FG block team was confused and didn’t have the right alignment. By burning a timeout here, the Vikings were only able to stop the clock twice ahead of the 2-minute warning, which may have changed the team’s end-of-game strategy. As the special teams coordinator, these key mistakes lie on Daniels shoulders.
Stud: Alexander Mattison
There was some warranted hesitation about the Vikings run game heading into 2023. Afterall, Dalvin Cook was released, leaving Alexander Mattison and his uninspiring 3.8 yards per carry last season as the lead back. Mattison quickly quelled the fears of many fans with his performance. He didn’t do anything spectacular, but he didn’t need to. When given a chance, he ran hard, fought for extra yards and kept the Vikings on a positive game script. One of the biggest takeaways from Mattison’s game is that the team should have given him more chances.
You can’t tackle Alexander Mattison pic.twitter.com/i5uB4s0Pco
— VikingzFanPage (@vikingzfanpage) September 10, 2023
Dud: Kevin O’Connell
Kevin O’Connell is a bright offensive mind and a modern players’ coach that should have finished at the top of voting for NFL Coach of the Y0ear last season. I am personally a big KOC fan. Those statements can all be true along with the fact that Kevin O’Connell was one of the biggest duds of the Vikings’ season opener. As the head coach, O’Connell did not seem to have his team ready for success. The Vikings looked woefully rusty across the board, committing ugly offensive turnovers, mental mistakes like missed assignments/wrong routes and bad penalties on offense, defense and special teams. Most disappointingly though, O’Connell’s offensive gameplan and play calling seemed disjointed and uninspiring. The team stopped finding Jefferson in the second half and seemed to stop pushing the ball downfield all-together in favor of an unsuccessful screen game. In addition, O’Connell’s trend of abandoning the run game continued as the Vikings only ran the ball 6 times in the second half and once in the 4th quarter despite the team being tied or a one possession game for the entire half. Overall, O’Connell’s offense went three-and-out when it mattered, and the team’s supposed strength was a Week 1 let down.
Feature image courtesy of USA Today