The Vikings offense struggled in many aspects of the game, and the quarterback and receivers had various views on what contributed to the problems. Get that and two dozen game-day notes from the Vikings' 24-13 loss to Tampa Bay.
From the perspective of those who have predicted or projected that the Vikings will win the NFC North, the additions made on defense were expected simply to supplement one of the game's top offenses. Instead, Minnesota's only touchdown of the game was scored by safety Darren Sharper
and the only seven that mattered for the Vikings offense was the total number of times the team gave the Bucs defense a chance for turnovers – four fumbles (two lost) and three interceptions.
A look at the Vikings' drive chart spoke volumes. With the exception of one drive in the final seconds of the first half that stopped when time expired, the Vikings' 11 offensive drives of the game ended as follows: interception, fumble, fumble, punt, punt, punt, field goal, punt, field goal, interception, interception.
"We moved the ball against them, but we just made critical mistakes that hurt us," Nate Burleson
told Viking Update. "You're not going to win against a tough defense playing that way. It takes 11 guys to make a special play and if one person does something wrong, it can hurt the entire offense. We had too many of those today."
One of the missing aspects of the Vikings' passing attack was the deep ball. The two longest completions of the day for the Vikings were 25 yards each, and one of those was a screen to Moe Williams
. The Bucs knew the Vikings intended to take some deep shots, but their defensive front wouldn't allow it.
When asked if the Vikings didn't take deep shots because of the pass rush or by design, Daunte Culpepper
said it was the former.
"I think mainly the pass rush – those guys were doing a tremendous job up front and made it very tough for us," Culpepper said. "We definitely have to take more shots. Coach (Mike) Tice and (offensive coordinator Steve) Loney will see that we're definitely going to take some shots and take our chances with the deep ball."
The good news for the Vikings following the game was that they realize that the season is a marathon, not a sprint, and that there will be opportunities to correct the mistakes they saw Sunday.
"This isn't like college, where a loss ruins your chances to go to the national championship," Jermaine Wiggins
said. "This a long season and we have to get past this and get to where we need to go. There's still a lot of time in a 16-week season."
Perhaps nobody had a rougher day on the field than Wiggins. He had not only one touchdown called back on a penalty, he had two. To make matters worse, one of the TDs that was called back was a phantom pass interference call flagged against Wiggins. Replays showed Wiggins, if he made any contact at all on the pass play in which he thought he scored his first TD, made minimal contact. But, he was philosophical about it after the game, saying, "I don't believe I touched anyone, but I guess you'd have to ask the ref what he saw."
With the exception of a 9-yard run by Moe Williams on the first carry of the day and a 10-yard scramble by Culpepper, the Vikings rushed for seven yards on the remaining 14 carries of the game.
What got lost in the disappointment of the loss was that, before Carnell Williams' 71-yard run on a desperation third-and-1 for the Vikings defense, Minnesota had allowed the Bucs just two first downs in the entire second half and a total of 37 yards to that point.
Prior to the start of the game, the Vikings released their list of inactive players. Included on the list was recently acquired Koren Robinson. Although the announcement was met with skepticism, Vikings officials stated the plan is to re-sign Robinson after the conclusion of the first week of play. Under NFL rules, a vested veteran player on the roster for Week 1 is guaranteed that year's salary. After Week 1, if a vested veteran is released during the season, his salary is pro-rated. The move was seen more as a safeguard than an attempt to get rid of Robinson.
Offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie left the Metrodome wearing a walking cast on his left ankle after getting rolled up on the final offensive play of the game.
The inactives included rookie first-rounder Erasmus James, who was expected to play at least a pass-rushing role in the days heading into the game.
One player who was fired up for most of the game was former Viking Chris Hovan, who had two tackles and a recovered fumble. After a stop early in the game, he stopped and jawed at the entire Vikings bench – appearing to point out Mike Tice as the object of his comments.
No Vikings player had more than 45 yards receiving yards Sunday.
The Vikings had twice as many first downs (four) by penalty than they did by rushing (two).
After starting each of their four preseason games with the ball on offense first, the Vikings defense took the field to start the game.
The Vikings have endured several problems with the red challenge flag over Mike Tice's tenure, but the season was just 8 minutes, 12 seconds old when Tice threw his first challenge flag. However, it was determined that the play, a run by Cadillac Williams that was believed to be a fumble, wasn't subject to review.
Darren Sharper's 88-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter was the fifth-longest interception return for a touchdown in team history and equals the number of interceptions for touchdowns from all of last season – Chris Claiborne had the only pick for a TD in 2004.
In four preseason games – a total of 240 minutes of game time – the Vikings had five turnovers. Sunday, the offense had three turnovers in the game's first 17 minutes and finished the game with five.
The Bucs scored on the first play of the second quarter with help from a Vikings injury. Sam Cowart suffered a shoulder stinger on the next-to-last play of the first quarter. As a result, E.J. Henderson moved to middle linebacker and Rod Davis came in to see playing time. The Bucs went after him on the first play he was in and scorched him for a 23-yard touchdown.
Punter Chris Kluwe gave fans that had been frustrated by short punts from Darren Bennett something to cheer about. Kluwe's first punt traveled 62 yards and rolled out the back of the end zone – another 10 yards. He didn't stop there. His four punts Sunday went 62, 55, 53 and 47 yards.
Michael Bennett officially was not the starter at running back for the Vikings (that went to Moe Williams), but, despite being the primary back most of the game, he didn't have his first carry of the game until early in the second quarter and finished the first half with just three carries for three yards. Things got worse in the second half, where he had three carries for minus-four yards.
For the entire first half, the Vikings had seven rushes for 10 yards, led by Moe Williams, who gained nine yards on the first offensive play from scrimmage.
Welcome to the NFL, rookie. Cadillac Williams carried 18 times in the first half – nine times in the first quarter and nine times in the second quarter.
Despite the number of carries, the Vikings defense did a solid job of stopping the run in the first half. Aside from a 19-yard run by Williams, the Vikes limited Tampa to 44 yards on the other 19 carries in the first half.
The Bucs completely dominated the second quarter of the game. Not only did they outscore the Vikings 17-0, they dominated in total yards (163-28), passing yards (117-25), rushing yards (46-3) and time of possession (10:14-4:46).
The Bucs ran 41 plays in the first half, as opposed to just 19 for the Vikings.
After having a near-perfect preseason, Daunte Culpepper had a passer rating of just 40.4 in the first half.
Mewelde Moore didn't have a carry in the game and injured his ankle on a special teams play in the third quarter – ending his day early.
The Viking sold out their 77th straight game Sunday, with an attendance of 63,973.