The Promising Takeaway from Vikings Loss to TB

Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Todd Bowles hug after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings dropped to 0-1 last Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, watched as their wins forecast via sportsbooks dipped from 8.5 to 7.5, and put themselves in an unforeseen early-season hole.

The Promising Takeaway from Vikings Loss to TB

Kevin O’Connell’s team turned the ball over thrice while forcing no takeaways and lost 20-17 accordingly.

The Promising Takeaway
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell looks on during the third quarter against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The 0-1 rut assuredly wasn’t ideal, and the club has a daunting test on Thursday night at the Philadelphia Eagles. But one promising takeaway cannot be ignored from the loss to the Buccaneers — the defense played well, on the whole.

Since the start of the 2020 season, the Vikings defense has never returned to its peak-Mike-Zimmer form, instead performing woefully most of the time, with a few hints here and there of promise. In 2022, under one season of Ed Donatell’s tutelage, Minnesota’s defense would bend for the first three quarters of games and then arrive in the 4th Quarter with some juice.

Well, on Sunday, to open the 2023 campaign, the Vikings defensive unit actually looked the part, especially in the 1st Half, and the numbers substantiate the claim.

Vikings to Showcase
Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Flores was hired in February 2023 to take over for Ed Donatel after Minnesota finished 30th in points allowed.

To the naked eye, the Vikings defense looked hungrier and faster and didn’t miss as many tackles as the 2022 edition. That’s probably why FTN Fantasy’s DVOA metric ranked the Vikings 11th after Week 1 on the defensive side of operations. Too, the 242 yards allowed to Tampa Bay were the fewest allowed by the Vikings in a game since November 2020.

If the defense felt different — in a good way — the numbers, at least for a game, confirm your suspicion.

Hunter Is
Oct 10, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter (99) celebrates a sack of Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (not pictured) during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.

NFL teams held opponents to 242 yards or fewer 10.2% of the time in 2022. And, yes, the Vikings commendable showing came against the Baker Mayfield-led Buccaneers, so take the fancy stat with a grain of salt. Still, Tampa Bay employs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and those men aren’t chumps.

In an article this week by CBS Sports, Jeff Kerr analyzed one item learned about each NFL team during Week 1. For the Vikings, that was Brian Flores’ impact, the Vikings new defensive coordinator hired in February.

Kerr wrote, “The hire of Flores as defensive coordinator was one of the best in the NFL this offseason, and the early returns are promising. The Vikings defense allowed just 242 total yards and 3.6 yards per play, holding the Buccaneers to just 20 points.”

1 Viking Significantly More
Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) reacts after breaking up a pass against the New York Jets during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

To the layperson, Minnesota’s Week 1 defense wasn’t terribly memorable because a) The Vikings lost and b) They forced no turnovers.

“Three points were off a fumble by the Vikings offense at their own 18 (which was the difference in the final score). The Vikings didn’t have a single game holding an opponent under 250 yards last year, so Flores is already making an impact on the unit,” Kerr concluded.

Fast forward to Week 2, and Minnesota will encounter an almighty test for its newfound competent defense, as the Eagles can beat a team on the ground and through the air.

But at least the Vikings won’t meander into Philadelphia having just surrendered 450 yards to Tampa Bay or something of the sort.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by