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Turnovers, Stalled Drives Sink Vikings Against Buccaneers

Vikings lose their season opener against the Buccaneers with three turnovers.

The Vikings absolutely beat themselves in an immensely disappointing Week 1 loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Playing in front of a sold-out crowd at home, the Vikings could not get out of their own way. Penalties, fumbles, interceptions, turnovers galore, you name it. Expectations were high following the unfortunate end to the 2022 season in which the defense could not stop NY Giants QB Daniel Jones. Unfortunately, things did not shape up much better during the start of the 2023 campaign.

The offensive line started the disaster with G Ed Ingram swiping the ball out of Kirk Cousins hands as he shuffled in pass protection. A once promising drive ended with a fumble recovered by the Bucs. This is the same Ingram who was responsible for tripping Cousins multiple times last season. The second-year guard is making a name for himself. He’s just doing it in the worst possible way.

Interior pass protection issues turned up again quickly. Antoine Winfield Jr., making his return to the city where he watched his father be a star for the Vikings, crushed Cousins on a safety blitz. This time, the ball was recovered near the Vikings own 20 and led to a Tampa field goal.

Offensive play-calling was, well, offensive. HC Kevin O’Connell kept relying on screen passes, despite only one working. More often than not they were immediately sniffed out. Hopefully the staff looks at the tape, learns from it, and burns the pages of the playbook that involve throwing it to tight ends behind the line of scrimmage. When Justin Jefferson keeps getting open, it might be a good idea to keep throwing it to him.

Despite the offense shooting itself in the foot, the defense looked primed to dominate against Baker Mayfield. But when the offense keeps stacking turnovers, there isn’t much a defense can do but get tired. Baker suddenly remembered that he had good receivers in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. The defense’s lack of defensive back depth became clear, as Mayfield ripped a deep touchdown to Evans between safeties Josh Metellus and Harrison Smith.

It wasn’t all bad in this game. There were clear signs of a good team in this loss. Justin Jefferson is going to be worth $10 billion by the end of the year if he keeps playing like he did today. Jordan Addison had one heck of a first career touchdown. He looks every bit as good as fans were hoping for in replacing longtime Viking Adam Thielen. Cousins’ interception on the Tampa 1-yard line is, honestly, more on KJ Osborn not holding onto the ball than Kirk throwing a terrible pass. Cousins was close to 300 yards in the first half. The first half defense looked what we were hoping they were (they just couldn’t sustain the pressure).

The worst part, though, might be that the team’s weakest position sustained injuries already. Garrett Bradbury suffered a back injury early in the game. You might remember that he missed the last five games of 2022 with a back injury as well. Christian Darrisaw, one of the best LTs in the NFL, hurt his ankle.

It is going to be an interesting week coming up. The Vikings now play again on a short week against the Philadelphia Eagles for this week’s edition of TNF. The Eagles, coming off a Super Bowl appearance, have one of the best defensive lines in the league. They also have a penchant for making Vikings fans spend record amounts of money at their local bars. Last year the Eagles made the Vikings look terrible in a *checks notes* Week 2 TNF matchup. The chances of history repeating itself look eerily familiar.

This is just week one of a long NFL season, so there shouldn’t be too much doom and gloom. There are still 16 more opportunities to make something special happen. That said, they play a tough 1st place schedule this season. If they want to get in the win column, they can’t have the same appearance against the better teams of the NFL.

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