We got a slightly extended look at the Vikings starters Saturday evening at TCF Bank Stadium. Each played three drives and the Vikings starters outperformed Tampa Bay by a score of 9-3.
Below are some notes for how each of those drives went and a few notes about individual performances.
FIRST DRIVE (OFFENSE)
Cordarrelle Patterson fielded the opening kickoff from seven yards deep in the endzone, but was unable to get past the 20 yard line on a very ho hum return.
Like last week, Bridgewater found tight end Kyle Rudolph for a first down on, this time on a play action bootleg where Bridgewater showed nice patience. On the next play, a nothing-doing handoff to Jerick McKinnon, Phil Loadholt limped off the field and visibly appeared to be in pain.
After a five yard gift on a Bucs penalty, Bridgewater hit Jarius Wright on a nice crossing pattern for a big gain of 26 yards, most of which was found by Wright after the catch. A quick screen to Mike Wallace on the next play gained only two yards and then a deep shot out of the shotgun ended up being a missed connection to Wallace in the endzone. A few yards on a pass to McKinnon was enough to stall the drive and set up the Blair Walsh field goal that put the Vikings ahead on offense.
Bridgewater looked sharp and the offense seemed to move well. Mike Wallace underwhelmed a bit in his two targets, but it isn’t like he was terrible. The biggest news from the first drive, unfortunately, is whether or not Phil Loadholt’s injury will be a long-term problem for this team.
SECOND DRIVE (DEFENSE)
The kickoff combined with nice coverage and a Bucs penalty to back Jameis Winston up on his first NFL drive. Starting at the five yard line, Doug Martin gave his offense some breathing room on a first down gain of five yards. On second down, Martin again turned nothing into enough with some nifty moves, gaining about eight yards and a first down.
Martin again banged forward for seven yards and on second down Chad Greenway finally gave the defense some run defense on a beautiful read, resulting in a tackle for a loss for the veteran. On third down, Winston made his first passing attempt which was off target and the Bucs were forced to punt from well within their own territory. The punt was a fair catch from Marcus Sherels.
The run defense looked less than stellar on this drive, but Greenway made up for it on his beautiful play in the backfield. The pass defense was not tested at all on that first drive, but it was nice to see the Bucs offense forced off the field despite a manageable third down situation.
THIRD DRIVE (OFFENSE)
Starting at their own 33, McKinnon was buried by Lavonte David for a loss of two on an outside run to the left. Norv Turner followed that up with a toss to the right to McKinnon and the result was again a loss of two. On third and 14, Bridgewater took a shotgun snap and checked down to a wide open McKinnon for a gain of only seven yards. Locke then had a beautiful 49 yard punt and the coverage was able to the contain the return man for no significant gain.
Zach Line looked like a liability at fullback on this drive and the offensive line didn’t look really great.
FOURTH DRIVE (DEFENSE)
Doug Martin found no room on a first down run this time around and Winston followed it up with two more errant passes. The Bucs made it nowhere in their three-and-out drive. Sherels set the offense up with great field position after his patented nifty-moves return that produced in the efficient way we have all grown to take for granted.
The Vikings defense continued to look solid but weren’t tested by a true passing threat by any means.
FIFTH DRIVE (OFFENSE)
24 yards was gained on first down with Bridgewater progressing nicely through his reads and finding Jarius Wright once again on the left side of the field. Wright went out of bounds inside the five and McKinnon was unable to punch it in on first down, clearing the way for Zach Line to rumble towards the end zone for the touchdown.
The Vikings opted to test out their two-point conversion formation following the score. Bridgewater, out of the shotgun, had the pocket collapse around him and was dragged down before he could scramble for the score. The Vikings starters are now outscoring the Bucs 9-0 at this point.
Jarius Wright is finding ways to get open and produce yards after the catch. Wright seems like he could become a forgotten man with Minnesota’s new wide out depth chart, but he isn’t going to forfeit any playing time to anyone without putting up a fight, that much is clear.
SIXTH DRIVE (DEFENSE)
A decent kick return gave Tampa their best field position of the evening, setting up at their 22 yard line. On first down, Everson Griffen put a sick move on the rookie left tackle he was facing and sacked Winston for a loss of nine yards. On second down, Winston gained five yards back on a ho-hum running effort setting up the third and long.
It was then, on third and long, that Winston hung in nicely and delivered a long pass to Vincent Jackson who had badly beaten rookie Trae Waynes for a huge gain. Winston then delivered another nice pass to the outside and was seemingly finding a rhythm.
Waynes then came back, blanketing his man, to make a nice second down play at the goalline. Robert Blanton then played some beautiful pass defense on Vincent Jackson and got his hand on a pass to knock it away. The Bucs were able to convert the field goal and make the score 9-3.
Waynes was again worrisome on this drive. Unless my eyes deceived me, he didn’t even seem to remember that ball carriers need to be touched in order to be consider “down” in the NFL. Regardless, he still needs to improve before he can be relied upon with a large role during the regular season.