The Same Old Vikings Showed Up in Week 1
The Minnesota Vikings envisioned to open their 2023 campaign with a victory but they failed to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A few crucial mistakes like committing penalties in key moments and turning the ball over turned the game into a deserved defeat. The purple team has only a few days to fix those issues before they face the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday.
The Same Old Vikings Showed Up in Week 1
After a fluky 13-4 season, four aspects of the Minnesota Vikings needed to be improved but none of them was fixed.
1. Running Game
The Vikings ranked inside the bottom five in rushing attempts and yards in Kevin O’Connell’s first offensive season and the 4.1 yards per carry ranked 25th. Subsequently. the Vikes put a huge emphasis on improving the rushing attack, parting ways with Dalvin Cook and signing run-blocking specialist Josh Oliver in free agency. Fullback C.J. Ham received a new contract.
All of those efforts led to a horrendous rushing attack in Week 1. New top running back Alexander Mattison had 34 yards on 11 rushes, his backup Ty Chandler rushed three times without gaining a yard. The two running backs combined for 34 yards on 14 carries, resulting in an average of 2.4 yards per run.
The offensive line badly lost their matchup against Vita Vea and his Buccaneers’ defense, a strong unit but still unacceptable, and the backs couldn’t make any plays.
2. Offensive Line
Much has been said about the offensive line in Minnesota’s fanbase and from the important guys in the organization. After investing a high draft pick on a lineman in six consecutive years, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah stopped doing that in the 2023 offseason and kept the same five starters.
Those five guys were a problem last season and Kirk Cousins was hit more often than any other quarterback in the NFL. The Vikings put all their hope into continuity and scheme familiarity to fix some issues as well as the development of guard Ed Ingram.
One week into the season, that hasn’t worked. Cousins was under duress all game long, having to toss the ball while a defender was hitting him multiple times, he also took two sacks. In the running game, they couldn’t open any holes and added to their disastrous day by forcing a fumble, an absurd play by Ingram.
3. Pass Defense
Ed Donatell’s defense allowed every subpar quarterback to march up and down the field, guys like Mac Jones, Mike White, and Daniel Jones had field days against the Vikings. The hire of Brian Flores to replace Donatell was supposed to change that.
In the first quarter and deep into the second quarter, the Vikings’ defense looked quite good, like a throwback to the prime Mike Zimmer units. A touchdown drive in the second quarter and the whole second half were a throwback to the 2022 defense with Baker Mayfield running circles around them, although the running defense played a great game.
Mayfield finished with 173 yards, completed 21 of 34 passes, had two touchdowns and no picks. The Buccaneers are not expected to be one of the most explosive offenses in the league so the final 35 minutes were concerning for Vikings fans.
4. Close Game
The Vikings failed to put the game away early when the defense was locked in, instead, the offense struggled. Then the offense woke up and the defense disappeared. At the end of the game, neither unit was any good. Turnovers and penalties didn’t help.
Coming off a season with close games on a weekly basis, one point of emphasis was to stop getting into those tight situations by putting the game out of reach earlier in the contest. O’Connell’s operation was 11-0 in the regular season in one-score games in 2022 but lost the postseason game in a close matchup.
Once again, the Vikes played one of those nailbiters but this time, they failed to come away with the victory.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt