About That Vikings Slow Start..

Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) leaves the field after the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings started as touchdown favorites against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While the line dropped closer to a field goal by kickoff, Week 1 was a game they were supposed to win. Plenty went wrong, but there were a few things that stood out.

About That Vikings Slow Start..

Going up against a Baker Mayfield-quarterbacked Tampa Bay team, Minnesota had an opportunity to show off Brian Flores’ shiny new defense. Although Marcus Davenport was out for Week 1 opposite of Danielle Hunter, we were going to be shown what improvements the scheme changes led to and how much coaching had taken place.

There was supposed to be plenty of status quo on offense, even with Alexander Mattison taking over for Dalvin Cook. For the most part, the passing game was as expected, and the game certainly went through superstar Justin Jefferson. Racking up 150 yards, there is a real possibility he’ll have even greater earning power by the end of the season.

Focusing on a few key spots, these were this writer’s takeaways from Week 1:

Ed Ingram Is Still a Problem

You could use that term in a good way, but it’s certainly not what is happening here. We saw Ingram step on Kirk Cousins’ foot as a rookie and sack his own quarterback. It didn’t take long for him to create another miscue when he knocked the ball out of Cousins’ hands, causing a fumble and turnover. Ingram has sometimes flashed promise, but he allowed significant interior pressure on Sunday. With starting center Garrett Bradbury bowing out next to him, it’s not surprising things got even worse.

about that vikings
Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings guard Ed Ingram (67) defends against Las Vegas Raiders defensive tackle Vernon Butler (94) in the first half at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings brought in Dalton Risner for a visit late in training camp, and that appeared to be curious with Ingram ticketed for a starting role. Now, just one week into the season, it’s worth wondering if he should be brought back and not allowed to leave without a contract. Minnesota needs to tighten things up on the line, and that starts with Ingram.

Alexander Mattison Was Mediocre

Maybe this should have been expected, given how tough the Tampa Bay defense can be on the defensive line. However, in Mattison’s first opportunity as the guy, he turned in just 3.1 yards per carry and didn’t bust a run longer than nine yards. The running game never really got going for Minnesota, and while that created more of a one-dimensional flow, Mattison appeared to be an afterthought.

Aug 5, 2023; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison takes the field during training camp at Twin Cities Orthopedic Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Going forward, the Vikings will need someone to present as something of a consistent runner. Only Ty Chandler and Myles Gaskin are on the roster behind Mattison, and neither of them should be expected to carry the load. Mattison wanted this opportunity, earned it, and now needs to prove it.

Defense Still Creates Questions

Minnesota’s defensive unit in the first half looked like a rejuvenated bunch under Flores. They were flying to the football and keeping Mayfield looking like the quarterback many have grown accustomed to viewing him as. Then halftime hit, and things changed.

Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) warms up before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings pressure in the second half wasn’t nearly what took place in the first two quarters, and it was as though they didn’t make enough adjustments. It’s hard to believe that Flores couldn’t make changes on the fly, so it stands to reason that players began to fall apart and communication broke down.

Turning things around on a short week, Minnesota will need to make very fast adjustments and show up in a big way against a good Eagles team. Thursday Night Football allows Kevin O’Connell to see how this team faces adversity. 

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.