Vikings vs Buccaneers: 5 Takeaways from a Week 1 Ruined by Mistakes, Turnovers

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings started their 2023 season with a 20-17 loss on Sunday vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was a game that was very much within reach. The Vikings offense was more prolific than the Bucs and Brian Flores’ new defense gave Baker Mayfield plenty of headaches. But in the end, turnovers and mental mistakes ruled the day.

I think it’s fair to say the lesser team won vs the Vikings and Bucs this weekend. Minnesota sports fans can take that as a positive or negative, depending on the way they see it. Here are 5 takeaways from the opening week loss.

1. Vikings vs Buccaneers: Mistakes derail very winnable game for purple

There’s no doubt the Minnesota Vikings beat themselves on Sunday. They put up 127 more yards of total offense and controlled the football for most of the game. But they turned the ball over three times including an interception and fumble inside the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30 yard line.

The Vikings also committed 3 more penalties than the Bucs, which totaled 45 yards vs the Bucs 19. The biggest mental lapse of the game came on Tampa’s first drive of the 2nd half, when Minnesota jumped offsides on a Bucs field goal. The Bucs turned that mistake into a touchdown, a difference of four points on the scoreboard. Tampa Bay ended up winning the game by three points.

2. Flores’ defense starts fast, finishes slower

The Vikings defense was far from perfect on Sunday but there was a noticeable improvement from the brutality we were forced to witness week in and week out in 2022. His pre-snap camouflage messed with Baker Mayfield all game and the constant pressure was a breath of fresh air vs what we saw last year when quarterbacks were able to make lunch, call their mom and set their 3PM fantasy lineups before hitting a wide open receiver down the field.

When dust settled on the 4th quarter, Tampa Bay totaled just 242 yards of offense. There’s no doubt, given all of the turnovers and dumb mistakes made by the Vikings on Sunday, they would have lost by 20 had Ed Donatell’s defense been on the field. Still, the Bucs offense found holes in the 2nd half and struggled to shut drives down before they reached Minnesota territory. In other words, there’s plenty of improvement yet to be had.

3. Vikings interior OL, pass protection still a problem

Minnesota took a calculated risk this offseason, when they chose not to draft or sign a starting-caliber interior offensive lineman in free agency, instead choosing to rely on growth from 20-somethings, Garrett Bradbury, Ed Ingram and Ezra Cleveland to cure last year’s headaches.

vikings vs buccaneers
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, that stubbornness came back to bite them. All day long, Kirk was under pressure, especially up the middle. It was like I was watching the “Quarterback” series on Netflix all over again. If offensive coaches cannot figure out a way to keep Cousins on his feet this season, more often than not, he’ll face an uphill battle on health again.

4. Kirk Cousins is going to have a huge season

Kirk Cousins went undrafted in a lot of fantasy football drafts this fall. You can guarantee he’ll be one of the most claimed players this week on the waiver wire because there’s no doubt, after week 1, that Cousins is going to have a massive 2023 season.

Kirk tossed for 273 yards and a TD in the 1st half alone, on Sunday, and finished 33/44 (75%) for 344 yards and 2 touchdowns. Kevin O’Connell is going to put the 2023 season on the arm of his QB. As long as Cousins’ ironman streak continues and he plays all 17 games, he may set every single-season passing record in Vikings history.

5. 1-0 (0-1) in one-score games this season

Well, the doubters were right. The Minnesota Vikings will not go undefeated in one score games like they did in 2022 (11-0). They will have to clean up their sloppy performance going forward because luck isn’t going to be on their side like it was in 2022.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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