The Vikings are back on the winning track following a convincing 34-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Here are seven takeaways from the game.
1. Vikings played complementary football
The offense will grab most of the headlines – and the next three takeaways – but make no mistake: Sunday's Vikings win was a total team victory. As head coach Mike Zimmer said at the top of his postgame press conference, the Vikings played well in every facet of all three phases of the game. Complementary football is the best kind of football, and it was on display at U.S. Bank Stadium. The kicking game was solid, the offense put points on the board and the defense forced punts and took the ball away. With the team effort the Vikings had on Sunday, they can beat any team, any time, anywhere.
2. Keenum's career-best day ignites explosive Vikings attack
Starting quarterback Sam Bradford was ruled out on Friday, but Case Keenum dominated on Sunday. The Vikings backup played like a starter, throwing for three touchdowns and a career-high 369 yards on 25 of 33 passing; he didn't turn the ball over and was not sacked. He had explosive completions of 36, 45, 47 and 59 yards and was in total command of the offense. He teamed with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to keep the Buccaneers defense off-balance, mixing in 27 Dalvin Cook runs (for 97 yards) and using success on the ground to open up play-action passing.
3. Diggs and Thielen combination too much to handle
Just as they did in the home opener two weeks ago, receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen torched the opposing secondary and were particularly productive in the first half. Diggs finished the day with eight receptions for 173 yards and two touchdowns and Thielen totaled five catches for 98 yards. In the first half alone, the pair combined for 192 yards and a touchdown on 10 catches to help the Vikings build a 21-3 lead.
4. Stout defense in first half helped build insurmountable halftime lead
That big halftime lead was partially a product of great defense by the Vikings, but the lead also fed into the defense's performance. As the Vikings offense piled touchdown onto touchdown, the Buccaneers offense became more pass-heavy and the Vikings defense took advantage. After allowing a field goal on Tampa Bay's first possession, the defense took the field for a second time buoyed by a 7-3 lead and didn't permit a Buccaneers drive into the red zone until the end of the 3rd quarter. The five possessions between scores for Tampa Bay ended like this: punt, punt, interception, punt, punt. As the defense continuously shut down Tampa Bay's offense, the Vikings offense grew the lead to 28-3.
5. Run defense continues to show its teeth
Occasional late-season lapses last season caused many to sour on the Vikings run defense. The truth was the Vikings were solid against the run for most of 2016. Now, though, they're downright dominant against the run. New Orleans didn't have a single rusher reach the 20-yard mark, Le'Veon Bell averaged only 3.2 yards per carry last week and then on Sunday the Buccaneers rushing output was nearly non-existent – nine rushes for 26 yards (2.9 yards per carry). The Buccaneers did not generate a 1st down via the rush. This stout run defense put Tampa Bay behind schedule in the down and distance, which helped the Vikings defense put a pass rush in quarterback Jameis Winston's lap constantly (two sacks) and get off the field five of six times on 3rd down.
6. Defense took the ball away
The Vikings had a three-interception day against Winston. Trae Waynes was the first to take the ball away, doing so on a long pass intended for DeSean Jackson in the 2nd quarter. Waynes' interception a four-play, 52-yard drive that had reached the MIN 34. The next interception came in the 4th quarter was Andrew Sendejo's, ending another drive that had reached Vikings territory. The third and final interception was by Harrison Smith, who grabbed a ball that had been tipped int the air to essentially seal the Vikings win. The Vikings scored 10 points off the three interceptions, with a Diggs touchdown coming after Waynes' pick and a field goal following Sendejo's. The Vikings were able to run out the clock on the possession following Smith's interception.
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Buccaneers at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday.
7. Offensive line responds in a big way
After the Week 1 win, everyone wanted to put the Vikings offensive line in the Pro Bowl. After Week 2's loss, everyone wanted a new set of blockers. Who knows what he masses will say after Week 3, but it's hard to poke many holes in the offensive line's performance against Tampa Bay. Keenum was barely touched, the offense neared the 500-yard mark, Cook ran for 97 yards and the offense scored points or ran out the clock intentionally on seven of 10 drives that had consequence (excluding the last drive of the first half).