5 things we learned: Vikings at Buccaneers
A finish? Well, the Minnesota Vikings had one on Sunday, even as inexplicable as it was.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had done little on offense against Minnesota all day before charging 62 yards for a go-ahead touchdown with 2 minutes, 2 seconds left. The similarities to last week’s last-second loss to Buffalo were everywhere.
This week, the Vikings had one more shot on offense — and closed the game with plays on offense and defense. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater drove the Vikings 54 yards into field position for kicker Blair Walsh to force overtime with a 38-yard field goal.
On the first play of overtime, rookie linebacker Anthony Barr stripped tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins of the ball, recovered the fumble and raced 27 yards for a touchdown and a 19-13 victory.
Here are five takeaways:
Barr has received plenty of compliments early in his career, especially as he adapts to more of a role as an all-around linebacker instead of strictly being a pass rusher in college. Barr has had a lot of responsibility and been an every-down player and has been adept in sniffing out runs, screens, and rushing the quarterback while improving in coverage.
Sunday offered the biggest play of his short career. Barr had a knack for creating fumbles as a pass-rusher in college, finish his two years as a linebacker at UCLA with 10 forced fumbles. Barr was in coverage of Sefarian-Jenkins on the first offensive play in overtime when the rookie tight end made a 10-yard catch. Barr closed in and ripped at the ball, swiping it free and then was aware enough to pick up the loose ball and fast enough to score.
When Minnesota’s defense needed a play, it got it from Barr. Barr has a lot of promise and is continuing his development. He finished second on the team behind Chad Greenway with eight tackles Sunday and had a sack.
Another rookie first-round pick helped finish on Sunday. Over the past two weeks, Bridgewater was sacked 13 times and threw five interceptions. Minnesota’s offense was sluggish again on Sunday. But Bridgewater came through when given a chance in the two-minute drill. He drove the Vikings for a field goal to end the first half and did the same in the fourth quarter.
With the ball at the 20-yard line with 1:57 left, Bridgewater completed 5 of his 9 passes on the final drive for 54 yards. Bridgewater looked his best in the hurry-up scenario, making decisions and moving Minnesota down the field. Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson made big plays on the drive and finished with six catches for 86 yards.
Bridgewater was sacked just once on Sunday and didn’t have any turnovers. He finished 24-of-42 passing for 241 yards and a touchdown to Greg Jennings.
Tampa Bay’s offense did little through three quarters and the Vikings’ defensive line was a big reason why. Everson Griffen, who signed a big-money contract extension in the offseason, continued his strong play, both in stopping the run and pressuring Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon.
Griffen had four tackles, including two for loss. He had one sack and one quarterback hurry. Griffen stopped an end-around for no gain by reading the misdirection and used his speed to take away the angle and ran down receiver Robert Herron. On another play he stopped running back Doug Martin for a 3-yard loss on a pass play.
Minnesota’s defensive line had another dominating day, sacking Glennon five times and holding Tampa Bay to 66 yards rushing. Barr, Griffen, Brian Robison, Tom Johnson and Sharrif Floyd had sacks. Floyd was very active, particularly in the first half as the Buccaneers were held to 72 total yards through the first two quarters.
Floyd was disruptive in the run and pass game and finished with eight tackles, including one for loss, a sack and a quarterback hurry. The Vikings line rotation — which has Griffen, Floyd, Robison, Johnson, Linval Joseph and Corey Wootton all playing vital roles — is really creating chances for all of the players. Joseph stood up strong in the middle of the line in run defense again.
Minnesota has possibly found a running back to rely on without Adrian Peterson. For the third straight game, Jerick McKinnon — another rookie — had big plays and also ran tough, breaking tackles. Backup Matt Asiata still saw time in a split backfield, but McKinnon made the difference.
McKinnon had 83 yards rushing on 16 carries, a 5.2-yard average. Asiata had four carries for one yard. In a curious move, Asiata was actually on the field when the Vikings went three-and-out late in the fourth quarter before Tampa Bay’s touchdown. Asiata added four catches for 26 yards.
But McKinnon showed his value as the lead back again. On Minnesota’s touchdown drive in the third quarter, McKinnon carried the ball on the first four plays of the drive for 39 yards, including a long of 28 yards for the game, to help set up Bridgewater’s 17-yard touchdown to Jennings.
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