|Photo: Houston Chronicle|
Vikings quarterback Case Keenum carved up the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense and Stefon Diggs added a pair of touchdown grabs to fuel a 34-17 win. Daniel House shares his initial thoughts from the victory.
Updated: September 17, 2017, 4:55 p.m.
By: Daniel House
By: Daniel House
All week, everyone panicked after the Vikings struggled on the road against the Steelers. With quarterback Sam Bradford out and an underrated Bucs team coming to town, the experts wondered how the Vikings would stack up. Of course, they executed the unexpected. The Vikings’ offense ripped the Bucs to shreds for 494 total yards and quarterback Case Keenum aired it out for 369 yards. Stefon Diggs added a pair of touchdown grabs and the Vikings rolled past Tampa Bay, 34-17.
Gameplan fuels Keenum’s success
The Vikings used a strong gameplan from offensive coordinator Pat Shumur to fuel an impressive performance. Quarterback Case Keenum was maximized by running play-action looks on a consistent basis. Keenum is most effective when he is on the run. He is able to buy time and find his targets up the field. He completed 25 of his 33 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns. Keenum was extremely efficient and the Vikings let him consistently air it out deep. He carved up the Bucs when they left receivers with 1-on-1 looks over the top. Keenum also stepped out of the pocket and used his legs to pick up key first downs. He showed what he can do when he has time and is willing to step into the pocket, too. Keenum gashed a Tampa Bay defense that was battling injuries throughout the day.
He delivered a strike to wide receiver Stefon Diggs up the seam for a 47-yard completion. The throw had excellent touch and velocity. Diggs shredded the Bucs secondary for 173 yards and a pair of scores. He was winning off a variety of different routes and dazzled with a beautiful head fake on one of his touchdown grabs. In addition, wide receiver Adam Thielen was dominant on deep routes. He beautifully tracked a pass for a difficult 45-yard reception and maintained body control to the ground. Thielen had five catches for 98 yards and is teaming up with Stefon Diggs to become one of the best pass catching duos in the game. The Bucs left Thielen and Diggs 1-on-1 with a safety throughout the game and the Vikings took advantage.
Cook is a dynamic weapon
Running back Dalvin Cook continued to show his versatility and playmaking ability. He rushed for 97 yards on 27 carries, notching a score and 72 receiving yards. Cook is dynamic when he gets to the edge and has a crease. More importantly, he can create yards after contact, while running through limited rushing lanes. Cook also was impressive as a pass catcher, tallying an explosive 36-yard reception in the second half. He gets better as the game progresses because he wears defenses down with his running style.
Offensive line bounces back
The offensive line played much better and the system emphasized more quick passing than deep drops. They didn’t allow a sack and allowed Case Keenum to move up in the pocket. When he has time, he can throw the ball accurately across the field. The run blocking still has lapses and will need to improve moving forward. Dalvin Cook has struggled to run the ball early in games and some of this is attributed to limited rushing lanes. At a quick glance, left guard Nick Easton was up-and-down, but center Pat Elflein helped spark several positive runs. He played a role in a 26-yard scamper by Cook. The offensive line benefited from a gameplan that fit their strengths, along with the skill-set of Case Keenum.
Vikings create takeaways on defense
The defense played more opportunistic and created three takeaways. It helped the offense control the time of possession significantly. Minnesota had the ball for 37:46, while the Bucs held it for just 22:14. It was a huge difference in the game. Also, the Vikings’ third down defense was solid. Tampa Bay converted just one of their six third down tries. Minnesota created enough pressure to force quarterback Jameis Winston into mistakes. Winston threw into triple coverage and was intercepted by safety Harrison Smith. He also airmailed a throw that was picked off by safety Andrew Sendejo.
Sendejo tallies a huge interception
Sendejo put together a strong performance, notching an interception, two pass breakups and five tackles. He delivered several big hits across the middle and deflected the pass to Harrison Smith for his interception. As a whole, the secondary had up-and-down moments, but managed the pass catching weapons the Bucs had. In his first game as a Viking, Tramaine Brock was beaten for a 25-yard score and committed a pass interference penalty on the same drive. Brock was in position, but didn’t turn to make a play on the ball.
The secondary gave up chunks of yardage late in the game when they started playing more deep zone. Trae Waynes had a few rough moments, but closed quickly on an interception in the first half. He had a least two situations where he blew coverage assignments. The secondary needs to continue getting better, but having a top-five level player like Xavier Rhodes doesn’t hurt. According to PFF, Rhodes allowed just four receptions for 36 yards while covering Bucs wide receivers. He had Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans visibly frustrated throughout the game. The secondary might have lapses, but notching three interceptions was a huge difference in this matchup.