The Vikings defense looked dominant for three quarters before another regression. Still, it appears progress continues there. Plus, get more than two dozen notes that help tell the tale of the game.
The Vikings defense still has to work on finishing off games in regulation, but for three quarters the Vikings were once again dominant on defense, holding a third straight opponent to 17 points or fewer and dictating the tempo of the game throughout in a 19-13 overtime win against Tampa Bay.
The Minnesota defense has been what head coach Mike Zimmer claimed could be the dominant side of the ball after being a liability for the last few seasons. While it wasn’t showing up much early on when the team was facing a slew of Pro Bowl/Super Bowl quarterbacks, the defense was doing everything it could to set up the offense.
Tampa Bay finished with just 225 yards of offense, but that didn’t tell the story of the game. The Bucs didn’t get over 100 yards of total offense until the first play of the fourth quarter. Quarterback Mike Glennon
was pressured and harassed all game long and the Vikings defense recorded five sacks.
“I felt like we were in pretty good control of the ballgame most of the time,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “During the week, we were humming pretty good defensively. I said if we can continue to do these things, then we have a chance to be a good defensive football team. We’re definitely not there yet. We’ve got a long way to go, but I think we’ve made pretty good strides since the beginning of the season.”
The running game was bottled up the entire day. Tampa Bay rushed 23 times, but gained just 66 yards – a 2.9-yard average – and had only one carry that gained more than seven yards.
Although the fourth quarter struggles continue – Tampa Bay scored on each of its final three possessions in regulation – the Vikings stymied the Buccaneers offense throughout the first three quarters and gave the offense the opportunity to put the Bucs away.
It took a couple of skipped heartbeats to get the job done, but the Vikings came away with a much-needed win that improves the team to 3-5 with four of their next five games coming at home, preserving hope for the 2014 season.
GAME DAY NOTES
Teddy Bridgewater was efficient at quarterback and completed a lot of big passes throughout the game, completing 24 of 42 passes for 241 yards with one touchdown, no interceptions and a passer rating of 81.5.
“He was up and down,” Zimmer said of Bridgewater. “I thought he took good care of the football, which we’re asking him to do. He was only sacked one time, so those things are important, too. We definitely had a hard time scoring points. We have to do a better job there. But I think his composure was very good today. He took some shots down the field, which we have to do. We have to take some and we missed some. But if we keep throwing some, we’ll hit some.”
Rookie Jerick McKinnon continues to make his case for remaining the featured back, rushing 16 times for 83 yards. Formerly in a time share with Matt Asiata, in Sunday’s game, Asiata had just four carries for one yard.
“Jerick looks like a pretty good back, doesn’t he?” Zimmer said. “I love the way he runs. He’s got some great cut ability, but the thing I like most about him right now is his physicality when he runs. He’s a smaller stature guy who is very strong. He doesn’t run like a small guy, in my opinion. And he’s got the juice to get in and out of cuts and make some things happen. He’s been really good with those things.”
Over the last three games, McKinnon has 46 carries for 226 yards, while Asiata has just 12 carries for 20 yards.
In the first half, McKinnon had seven carries for 23 yards. In the second half, he had nine carries for 60 yards.
The Vikings defense did a great job bottling up Doug Martin, who had infamously torched the Vikings in their last meeting on a Thursday night game at the Metrodome. Martin ran 10 times for just 27 yards before leaving the game with a sprained ankle.
Cordarrelle Patterson had his most productive receiving day of the season, catching six passes for 86 yards – season highs for both receptions and yards.
“I told Cordarrelle this was the best week of practice that he had,” Zimmer said. “I told him before the ballgame, I said, ‘Now let’s take it out to the game and let’s play like you can.’ I thought he stepped up and played much better today.”
Greg Jennings caught Bridgewater’s only touchdown pass on a 17-yard strike. It was Jennings’ first touchdown since Week 1 at St. Louis.
Tight end Chase Ford had the most productive game of his career, setting single-game highs in receptions (six) and receiving yards (61).
Bucs leading receiver Vincent Jackson had just one catch for 13 yards and didn’t have a reception until 5:30 remained in regulation.
Rookie linebacker Anthony Barr had a career day with eight solo tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and his first career touchdown.
Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was busy Sunday, recording eight tackles and getting a sack of his own.
The Vikings had five sacks Sunday, including the eighth from team leader Everson Griffen, the fifth from role player Tom Johnson and the first full sack from Brian Robison. In the first seven games, Robison had just a half-sack to his credit.
Although the Bucs were able to pressure Bridgewater, the Vikings allowed their QB to get sacked just once.
Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David had a huge day, recording a game-high 14 tackles and making plays sideline to sideline.
Captain Munnerlyn recorded his first interception as a Viking Sunday, picking off Glennon on the game’s opening drive.
Both teams entered play Sunday near the bottom of third-down defense, but the Vikings put in their best game of the season. The Bucs converted just 1 of 12 third downs, while the Vikings made good on 6 of 15 chances.
The special teams is likely to hear it from Mike Priefer when they do film study. Several snaps on punts and field goals were off-line, Blair Walsh missed a field goal (albeit from 56 yards), and punter Jeff Locke had three touchbacks on punts. In the first seven games, he had punted 36 times and had just one touchback.
Michael Mauti made the special teams play of the day, lighting up return man Trindon Holliday late in the fourth quarter.
The Buccaneers never got closer than the Vikings 40-yard line until the fourth quarter and, in the second and third quarters combined, the Bucs offense had five straight drives that went three-and-out.
Although they only scored three points in the second quarter, the Vikings dominated Tampa Bay, holding the ball for more than nine minutes and outgaining the Bucs 72-26 in yardage.
The Vikings and Bucs came close to having the first scoreless first half of a game since Chicago and Denver went scoreless on Dec. 11, 2011 – a span of 668 games. Walsh ended that possibility with a field goal as time expired in the first half.
The Vikings didn’t have a penalty until just 3:45 remained in the first half, but it was a big one – a holding call on Jabari Price that negated a 42-yard punt return by Marcus Sherels that would have set the Vikings up on the Tampa Bay 26-yard line.
Although the Vikings managed just three points in the first half, it was a vast departure from what the Bucs have allowed in the first half this season. Tampa has had the worst first-half defense by far in the NFL this season, being outscored 72-17 in the first quarter and 126-27 in the first half of their seven games this season.
The win for the Vikings was the first over Tampa Bay since 2001, a span in which they lost six straight. It was also their first win in Tampa since 1997.
The Vikings will have a chance to gain a little ground against the rest of the NFC North next week. The other three teams in the division all have their bye week.
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