Buccaneers Slide Past Vikings for Dramatic Road Win

Ken Cross

September 13, 2023 at 12:04 pm.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Tampa Bay’s 20-17 win at the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday will not go down as one of the more elevated offensive shows of this season, last season, or 30 seasons ago. But, it was the Buccaneers stellar defense that pulled out Sunday’s entrance to the 2023 NFL campaign.

Bucs rookie wide receiver Trey Palmer caught a four-yard touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield to give the Buccaneers a 17-10 lead with 6:01 remaining in the third quarter.

From there, Minnesota methodically moved the football 75 yards on 16 plays to tie the game on a four-yard run by Alex Mattison, who is trying to help Minnesota formulate a rushing attack after the loss of Dalvin Cook to the New York Jets in the offseason.

Kicker Chase McLaughlin had the game-winning honors on a 57-yard field goal with 4:46 to play.

“Schematically, they gave us a hard time in the beginning and they made some adjustments that we had to get used to,” said Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles. “We started to move the ball some. These guys are gritty. It’s a tough win in a tough place.”

The story was the Buccaneers’ defense who forced three Minnesota turnovers. Rookie Christian Izien picked off Vikings QB Kirk Cousins and safety Antonio Winfield and outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka recovered a pair of fumbles on Minnesota’s second and third drives of the game.

“That was the main emphasis we had since we walked in,” explained defensive tackle Vita Vea. “We have to win on our side of the ball. Our back end did a good job and we did well up front. We came together as a group and we got the job done.”

Sunday was a tough start for Tampa Bay’s offense as it produced only 242 yards on 68 offensive plays. Both teams stopped the run, so the recording of the three Minnesota turnovers was a prime factor in taking the ‘W.’

Mike Evans caught a 28-yard touchdown pass before halftime to tie the game at 10-10. He led the Buccaneers with six catches for 66 yards.

“We were pushing the tempo and not allowing them to get into certain things – making them declare what they’re doing,” said Mayfield.

An even bigger point came in the fourth quarter on Chris Godwin’s catch for a first down which allowed the Bucs to slam the door on a Minnesota offense that doesn’t have a running back that it can call a potential 1,000-yard rusher or someone that can carry the ball and allow the Vikes to generate drives.

Godwin had to corral a Mayfield pass that was thrown too far to the outside, so he went airborne and made the catch to secure the win as his left knee touched inbounds on his miraculous effort.

“Starting off week one with a win is always a good sign,” explained Vea. “We will take the wins as they come and that is always a plus for us.”

The win over Minnesota was a confidence builder for the Buccaneers after they struggled so readily on offense. Their rushing attack only picked up an average of 2.2 yards per carry and 4.8 yards per pass play.

The key is to remain turnover-free on a consistent basis. That will keep the Buccaneers’ defense and special teams as the main entities with the potential ability to win from week to week.

“We kept them out there on the field a long time and that goes a long way in the last part of a ball game,” analyzed Bowles. “That was big for us coming out there and controlling the ball and giving the defense a rest.”

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