Crucial Mistakes Prove Costly for Vikings in Week 1

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Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Rinse and repeat. Crucial mistakes prove costly for the Vikings in the Week 1 opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The same issues that plagued the Vikings throughout 2022 showed up again to start the 2023 season.

Crucial Mistakes Prove Costly for Vikings in Week 1

The one-score victories were a discussion point in 2022. Analyst after analyst said there was no way the Vikings could continue winning all of the one-score games. However, time and time again, the Vikings proved those analysts wrong. They did so with such frequency that many fans started arguing that it was a skill to perform highly in critical moments.

However, the Vikings often ended up in many of those one-score games due to crucial mistakes. They would have an untimely turnover, penalties, or go 3-and-out multiple drives in a row, allowing an opponent to make a comeback.

This game against the Buccaneers was the same as those last year, except this time, there was no heroic effort by the Kirk Cousins-led offense to score in the final minutes to pull ahead.

It was not all doom and gloom for the Vikings, though. The offense did mount several good drives, and the defense played quite well for most of the game. We saw the “what could be” from both sides of the ball, and it could be spectacular.

Crucial Mistakes at Crucial Times

Crucial mistakes
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Many fans are now on social media deciding who is most at fault for the loss. Was it Ed Ingram’s left hand? Was it Kevin O’Connell’s playcalling? Was it the interception that was seemingly ripped from KJ Osborn’s hands? Was it the entire offensive line’s inability to pick up blitzes? Was it an untimely offsides on the field goal that gave the Buccaneers a first down and then a touchdown?

The point is that so many crucial mistakes by so many people in crucial moments resulted in this loss. It is impossible to pick out a singular event and say that was the cause.

This was a team loss caused by poor execution.

Since 1966, NFL teams are 70-733-4 when they lose the turnover battle 0-3, including the Vikings loss yesterday. Simply put, if you give the other team free possessions, you are not very likely to come out with a victory.

Thankfully, this is something that the Vikings can clean up before heading to Philadelphia. It is highly unlikely that Ingram’s left hand will slap the ball out of Cousins’ hand again. Then, the offensive line can work on setting better pass protection to protect Cousins from the blitz.

Some of the other mistakes were procedural issues. Jay Ward being offsides on the field goal attempt will likely not occur again, at least not in that specific scenario where it hands the opponent a gratis first down.

All in all, fans can be upset about the loss, but these crucial mistakes can be cleaned up.

The Bright Side of What the Vikings Could Be in 2023

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

While the loss induced by blunders will be highlighted by the media and fans alike, there was much to like in this game, too. Justin Jefferson did what he does best. Jordan Addison had his first career touchdown as a result of the attention that Jefferson drew. Best yet, the defense played extremely well and confused Baker Mayfield in the pocket for nearly the whole game.

While on the field for 12 possessions, the defense looked very impressive. This is different than what the 2022 Vikings defense looked like. There were 7 or 8 men at the line of scrimmage for most of the game. They would then blitz or back off into coverage.

This constant look of pressure confused the Buccaneers. Sometimes, the Vikings would back off and only rush 4 or 5 and still get instant pressure on Mayfield. However, the Vikings were only able to sack Mayfield 1 time, but sacks are not everything.

The Brian Flores-led defense allowed only 3.6 yards per play. This is a stark improvement to the 2022 season, where the Vikings allowed 5.9 yards per play. This is what all of those pressure looks accomplished. The confusion forced a lot of checkdowns for fewer yards.

Fortunately, this is sustainable throughout the season.

Lastly, the Vikings offense showed us glimpses of what they can be. A high-powered offense that can feature Jefferson but then use the attention defenses must give to Jefferson against them. That is precisely what happened with the Addison touchdown.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Addison was running a seam route, and Jefferson was running [what looked like] a corner route. The slot corner and middle safety both had eyes on Jefferson. The outside corner had Addison. When Jefferson made his cut to the outside, the outside corner dropped Addison to help with Jefferson, leaving the middle safety out of position to pick Addison up the seam.

Easy touchdown.

Looks like that is exactly why the Vikings drafted Addison. This is a theme that the Vikings should be able to carry forward for the rest of the season. Get Jefferson his touches and use the defense’s reaction to Jefferson against them.