Notes: Vikings focused on limiting Winston

Minnesota Vikings defenders didn’t want to end up embarrassing themselves in Jameis Winston’s debut and the starters left the field after embarrassing Winston. Plus, more than 20 notes from Saturday night’s 26-16 Vikings win.

The eyes of the NFL world were on Jameis Winston as he made his NFL debut Saturday night against the Minnesota Vikings, but it was the Vikings who had the last laugh – shutting down Winston in a 26-16 win at TCF Bank Stadium that saw the Vikings build a 20-point lead while Winston was in the game.

Winston played the entire first half for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who kept their first-team offensive line on the field as well, while the Vikings started replacing their starters after just two drives.

Winston completed 9 of 19 passes for 131 yards and threw an interception, but that didn’t tell the whole story. In the final 3:45 of the half, he completed 7 of 10 passes for 76 yards. Prior to that, he completed just 2 of 9 passes for 57 yards, an interception and a woeful passer rating of 13.4. With the Vikings’ full defensive starting unit on the field, Winston was 0-for-3 passing.

The Vikings starters knew they weren’t going to have a lot of time on the field, but, until they were told their night was done, they had no idea how long they would be getting after the No. 1 overall pick.

“To tell you truth, we don’t know how long we’re going to be out there,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “We haven’t been told in either one of the games how long we’re going to be out there, so we just go out and play until they take us out.”

The Vikings knew that the Buccaneers would come out on an emotional high with the prime-time eye of the NFL looking at Winston to see how he would perform in his debut. Safety Harrison Smith believed that helped motivate the Vikings defense in its own way because they didn’t want Winston to succeed at their expense.

“We knew they were going to be fired up with (Winston) making his first start,” Smith said. “We knew we had to come out ready to play, because you can get embarrassed really quick. We approach it likes it’s a regular season game because we’re not going to have many reps and we need to make them count.”

The Vikings knew that Winston would likely be wound up for his first NFL start, but they weren’t going to change anything they do, especially with the vanilla offenses and defenses that are standard in the preseason.

“You know that he’s looking to put his best foot forward,” Robison said. “To me, it doesn’t matter who’s back there. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 10-year vet back there, if it’s Peyton Manning or Jameis Winston. We wanted to stop the run and force them into passing situations. Then you can get after the QB and not let him sit back there and pick us apart.”

While the Vikings had to pleased with the effort of their front-line players, who helped build a 23-3 lead in the second quarter, they aren’t satisfied and are ready to get back to work.

“We still didn’t do as well as we should have early,” Smith said. “We gave up a big pass on a third-and-14 toward the end of the first quarter. We’re doing some good things, but there is still a lot to improve on and that’s what we’ll be looking to do this week to get ready for the next game.”


  • Teddy Bridgewater had another efficient outing, completing 7 of 8 passes for 86 yards before giving way to Shaun Hill.

  • Bridgewater had another efficient opening drive of the game, completing 4 of 5 passes for 49 yards as the Vikings took a 3-0 lead when the drive culminated in 46-yard field goal by Blair Walsh.

  • In two games, Bridgewater has completed 12 of 14 passes for 130 yards and a passer rating of 105.4.

  • For the second straight week, the Vikings starters got off the field without committing a penalty.

  • One area of concern for the Vikings was that they committed three turnovers. A Joe Banyard fumble was taken of advantage of by Tampa Bay, as the Bucs scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive. Another took points off the board for the Vikings as Dominique Williams had the ball punched out of his hands as he prepared to dive for a touchdown that rolled out the back of the end zone.

  • Hill made his Vikings debut and looked sharp after replacing Bridgewater, completing 8 of 9 passes for 104 yards, two touchdowns and a sparkling passer rating of 154.4.

  • Bridgewater, Hill and Taylor Heinicke combined to complete 27 of 33 passes for 293 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a combined passer rating of 123.9.

  • The backup Vikings running backs carved up the Bucs late. Williams led all rushers with six carries for 44 yards and DuJuan Harris gained 27 yards on four carries.

  • Nobody for Tampa Bay rushed for more than 20 yards, despite three players having five or more carries.

  • As is the habit in the preseason, a lot of players caught passes. A total of 14 Vikings caught at least one pass, led by Adam Thielen, who caught two passes for 54 yards a touchdown, and Jarius Wright, who caught two passes for 50 yards. Eleven Tampa players caught at least one pass.

  • Rookie Stefon Diggs had another big night, returning a punt 37 yards to once again make his case for the punt returner job. In two games, he has returned four punts for 121 yards – a 30.3-yard average.

  • Antone Exum had an interception in the second quarter that set up a Vikings touchdown, as he continues his fight for a starting job.

  • Cordarrelle Patterson caught a TD pass in the second quarter, but cost the team with a stupid penalty on his other reception, head-butting a Buccaneers player and costing his team 15 yards on an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

  • Rookie Eric Kendricks continues to impress. He finished the game with five tackles and a sack in backup duty.

  • Winston’s rushing TD was the first preseason touchdown allowed by the Vikings defense since the third preseason game of last year.

  • In second quarter, in the span of just 15 minutes, each team had the ball five times – averaging just 90 seconds per drive.

  • There is a lot of experimenting going on with teams going for two points following touchdowns. In the first half Saturday night, both teams went for a two-point conversion and both failed.

  • Mike Zimmer still hasn’t lost a preseason game as a head coach, running his career record to 6-0 with Saturday’s win.

  • There was a homecoming of sorts before the game as former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier found himself on the other sideline. Lovie Smith hired Frazier as his defensive coordinator when he took over as Tampa Bay’s head coach last year.

  • Winston and Xavier Rhodes exchanged pleasantries before the game. The two were teammates at Florida State in 2012.

  • Minnesota native and NHL star Phil Housley sounded the Gjallarhorn prior to the game.

  • Prior to the game, the Vikings had a moment of silence for Bill Zimmer, the father of head coach Mike Zimmer, who passed away earlier this week. Mike Zimmer will leave Sunday for a Monday funeral for his father in Florida.

  • The paid attendance was 50,610.

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