Vikings report card: Flipping the script
A week after seeing a win snatched away in the final seconds, the Minnesota Vikings were on the other end on Sunday at Tampa Bay.
What appeared like another late collapse was salvaged by Minnesota's own 2-minute drive and game-tying field goal before Anthony Barr ended the game in overtime. The Vikings (3-5) snapped a three-game losing streak when Barr stripped Buccaneers tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, picked up the fumble and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown in overtime.
Minnesota returns home off a 19-13 victory with one game left before its bye. Barr and the Vikings demonstrated they wouldn't suffer another letdown.
Handing out the grades for the Vikings on Sunday:
Just like last week, the grades reflect the good and the bad in another uneven game. This time around, Minnesota couldn't get much going through the air but got the job done at the most crucial times. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater avoided turnovers and drove the Vikings down the field at the end of each half for field goals.
With 59 seconds left in the first half, Bridgewater hit three straight passes for 38 yards setting up a 46-yard field goal by Blair Walsh for the first points of the game and a 3-0 lead at halftime. Given 1 minute, 57 seconds left in regulation after Tampa Bay had taken a 13-10 lead, Bridgewater completed 5 of his 9 passes for 54 yards to set up Walsh's 38-yard field goal, which pushed the game to overtime.
Bridgewater gained 241 yards and one touchdown on 24-of-42 passing. He was under pressure at times again, but handled the situations and took just one sack. Bridgewater misfired on a few passes again but made a perfect pass with defenders in his face, placing the ball over two more defenders for a Greg Jennings 17-yard touchdown.
Cordarrelle Patterson had his biggest impact since the first game of the season by catching six passes on a team-high 12 targets for 86 yards. Bridgewater also used more of tight end Chase Ford, who had six catches for 61 yards.
Minnesota was unable to sustain many drives early, going 6 of 15 on third down, but made enough plays in crucial moments.
The Vikings might have not given enough opportunities to running back Jerick McKinnon to control the ball. McKinnon took the majority of carries for the third straight week as he appears to have seized control of the lead running back job. McKinnon then went out and averaged 5.2 yards per carry against Tampa Bay.
Alas, McKinnon only had 16 carries. He finished with 83 yards rushing, including a long of 28 yards. Meanwhile, Matt Asiata had four carries for one yard. Asiata was also on the field instead of McKinnon when Minnesota went three-and-out late in the fourth quarter and the Buccaneers followed with their touchdown drive.
McKinnon did help the Vikings on their own touchdown drive. He ran the ball on the first four plays of the drive for 39 yards, including the 28-yarder, to help set up Bridgewater's 17-yard touchdown to Jennings. Minnesota finished with 22 rushes for 97 yards.
Taking the good with the bad again. For three quarters, the Vikings' defense dominated Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers finished 1 of 12 on third downs. Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon was sacked five times. But Glennon drove 71 yards in nine plays and hit Sefarian-Jenkins for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:02 left. Glennon was 5 of 7 on the final drive for 59 yards.
The Buccaneers appeared ready to give Minnesota another disappointing loss with late breakdowns. Barr made the game-saving play in overtime after allowing Sefarian-Jenkins to catch a 10-yard pass on the first offensive play of the extra session. Barr ripped the ball out, picked it up and ran 27 for the touchdown, becoming the only player in NFL history to cause a fumble and return it himself for a touchdown in overtime.
The Vikings held Tampa Bay to just 72 total yards in the first half and the defensive line dominated the game. Barr, Everson Griffen, Sharrif Floyd, Tom Johnson and Brian Robison each had sacks. Captain Munnerlyn had his first interception with Minnesota and the secondary, aside from the final drive and a few penalties. Of the Buccaneers' 225 total yards, 124 were on the final two drives.
Glennon didn't have much support from the running game. Griffen and Floyd were all over the field, harassing Glennon and snuffing out the run. The Vikings had five tackles for loss, two by Griffen. Tampa Bay finished with 66 yards rushing on 23 attempts, a 2.9-yard average.
Doug Martin started for the Buccaneers and had 10 carries for 27 yards before leaving the game with an injury. Bobby Rainey supplied a bit more as a runner and receiver, but finished with eight carries for 25 yards and a team-leading six catches for 41 yards.
Kicker Blair Walsh put the game into overtime, but the special teams won't please coach Mike Zimmer. The Vikings continually gave away field position in a close game and continued to have special teams penalties for another week.
Jabari Price was called for holding, negating a 42-yard punt return by Marcus Sherels. Antone Exum had another special teams penalty, getting hit for a holding call on another punt return.
Punter Jeff Locke averaged 35.1 net yards per punt with three of his eight punts resulting in touchbacks. Perhaps worried about another touchback, Locke had another punt fair caught at the 18-yard line for only 32 yards.
Walsh just missed a 56-yard field-goal attempt, which would have tied his career record, wide left on Minnesota's first possession of the game. Walsh came back and connected from 46 and 38 yards. Before each attempt, which came at the end of each half, Tampa Bay tried to ice Walsh with timeouts.
The Vikings didn't let another strong defensive performance go to waste. There were issues -- the passing offensive struggles, the late defense, penalties, and the punting game -- leaving plenty of room for improvement. But Minnesota earned the win. In the survive-the-week NFL winning is the only thing that matters.
The team's rookie class came through with Barr making the key play, and Bridgewater and McKinnon leading the offense. The team's defense has had three very solid games in a row and appears to be taking to Zimmer's teaching and schemes. After the disappointment at Buffalo a week ago, the Vikings probably had an enjoyable flight home from Tampa.
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