Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Vikings.com Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Vikings.com Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.
Sunday didn't go the way the Vikings — or I, to be frank — envisioned. Minnesota fell 20-17 to Tampa Bay to open 2023 as mistakes seemed to keep having a multiplier effect.
Three turnovers (Minnesota was minus-3 in the margin) loomed large because of the opportunities they erased twice with the Vikings in scoring position and once in setting up the Bucs at the Minnesota 18-yard line. Tampa Bay kicked a field goal to end that drive that netted 0 yards.
Thus, there's something metaphorical here in U.S. Bank Stadium to write about mistakes a couple of hours after the game ended while the turf scrubbing machine hums and whines as it erases NFL Kickoff and Vikings Classic branding from the turf.
While the game outcome wasn't desired, it was nice to see the return of several emailers to the inbox after the game, as well as receiving correspondence from newcomers. We have a short week ahead, so going try to get to as many of these before we turn our content toward Philadelphia for Thursday's Week 2 game.
Takeaways from the game. First, there were zero of them by the Vikings defense. Three of them by TB. That will lose a game almost every time. If that's where you want to stop, fine. But there's more. Second, let's acknowledge we aren't blaming a kicker for anything. Third, pass receivers will be exciting. Fourth, the [Brian] Flores defense shows real promise even with so many young players. Fifth, and here's where leadership seems deaf, because fans and analysts and according to today's announcers even TB's coaching staff all know the glaring weakness on this team is interior offensive line (IOL). Don't say injury. A healthy center does not change the weakness. The problem existed all of last year. It remains.
I'm tired of hearing fundamentals, technique and scheme. You know what opposing defenses have? Fundamentals, technique and scheme. Players play. And better players play better. The IOL deficiencies have not been addressed properly. The book on [Kirk] Cousins is hit him early, and he gets rattled. Today was a case in point. Can something be done to address center and guards now? Highly doubtful. Draft and free agency will be needed. That's no help this year.
It's early. Week 1 is a liar. Players are still getting conditioned to full-game action. The cliches will be said and yes, they're true. But this IOL is set. It wasn't considered worth adding significant personnel. We will all see how that decision plays out just like we saw how it played out today.
Oh yeah, the same IOL goes against Philly in Philly Thursday night.
— Jeff in Sacramento, California
So glad the 2023 season has arrived. This game was full of Vikings mistakes and wasted opportunities and failure to execute on both sides of the ball. We continue the lousy trend of playing bad on both sides of the ball at the end of the half and start of the third. Heading into half we inevitably punt away and then cannot stop a score. When starting on defense in the third quarter, we give up long scoring drives. If starting on offense in the third, it is usually a three-and-out for us. Here are my 3 ups and 3 downs for the game.
1. Defense looks sharp early except for the missed TD pass by Baker and the 2-minute drive before half they gifted to Baker.
2. Defense held the Bucs to a field goal after the Bucs strip sacked Kirk at our 18.
3. Two quality offensive drives in the second quarter to include Addison's first NFL touchdown reception. Great play call and nicely set up.
1. Kirk hit multiple times by Bucs with two sacks on Kirk, two fumbles by Kirk, one caused by the right guard, who inexplicably knocks the ball out of Kirk's hand? A total of three Viking turnovers in the first half that caused a minimum swing for the Bucs of 9 points. Plus, the 4 points on the careless [offsides] penalty equals 13-point swing given to the Bucs. Unacceptable all around.
2. Second half defense gave up repetitive time-consuming scoring drives. Dumb penalty costs us 4 points by turning their FG into a TD. Can't stop the Bucs in the fourth quarter with the game on the line? Sad.
3. Second half offense was weak and inconsistent. We couldn't convert when the game was on the line. Sad.
Looking forward to the Eagles, but I am not optimistic right now based on our wasted opportunities and poor performances when it mattered most.
— Jeff Ludwig
Gonna start with Jeffs in California and Florida, who are among the emailers that it was nice to hear from again with the return of the regular season.
There's rarely a better link to the results of football games than turnovers, which allowed the Bucs to keep the score in a range they'd rather prefer.
Between Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, K.J. Osborn and Jordan Addison, who recorded a 39-yard touchdown in his NFL premier, the Vikings should have plenty of ways to try to attack opponents, but the protection up front has to allow the ball to get there.
There could have been some communication and timing issues when Garrett Bradbury left the game with a back injury early in the game, but Austin Schlottmann has plenty of NFL experience.
That's a good defense on the Bucs, too, with many participants from the Super Bowl LV winner.
This opener was more reminiscent of 2021 at Cincinnati when mistakes also pulled the rug out from under the Vikings.
Tampa Bay scored a tying touchdown after a third-and-7 turned into a third-and-2, thanks to a neutral zone infraction penalty giving the Bucs a boost. Then, the Vikings squandered their chance for an answer touchdown and halftime lead in the waning seconds.
And, they followed by giving the Bucs a fresh set of downs on what would have been a 13-10 lead after a field goal.
Tampa Bay with a lead is a different team than the Bucs playing from behind. Most teams are, but the scoreboard situational kept the game on the Bucs terms.
Did not look sharp. Offensively, we started out flat. Thank goodness we didn't play in preseason. Defensively, we looked good in the beginning and then, suddenly we looked like last year. Playing too far off receivers, people wide open. Clearly we don't have enough speed to press and blitz. When TB scored on third and goal [in the third quarter], our DBs were standing in the end zone! Easy score. Offensively, the numbers will look good, but we did not look sharp by any means. It's going to be another long year if we can't get it figured out. Thursday going to Philly, I pity any team let alone us. 0-2 will make a playoff run that much tougher. This has to be a huge wake-up call after all the preseason hype I've been reading. We're better than we showed.
— J.B. Brunet
It's such a tough call, because I've seen numerous players knocked out for an entire season from one snap in the preseason. Irv Smith, Jr., in 2021 is one of the more recent examples.
I will not pretend to know the amount of defense (or offense or special teams) as NFL coaches or players, but I was surprised about the deep off coverage on a few plays on the same day the defense was showing signs of being more aggressive this season.
On the touchdown throw to Palmer on third-and-goal from the 7, it seemed like the call was to rush three and drop eight defenders. Palmer, however, found a large window among those Classic jerseys.
Slow start & overall poor offensive play calling, but what should they expect when the starting offense NEVER took a snap under game conditions during the preseason! Holding penalty on our punt return & our defense lines up offside on fourth down!? This speaks to our level of "game situation intellect!" Finally, just because, what's with the ball caps that coaches & players wore? BLUE IS NOT OUR COLOR and wrong choice of logo! Should be Viking Head. NOT helmet! Hoping for bounce back vs. Eagles!
— Randy in Las Vegas, Nevada
One of the things the 2022 Vikings generally did for themselves was start games fast. Going three-and-out — after a false start turned a third-and-2 into a third-and-7 — was rough.
But the Vikings moved the ball 61 yards on their next drive that ended with the self-inflicted fumble.
Another fumble occurred three plays later when a blitz by Antoine Winfield, Jr., wasn't picked up.
As for the color of the caps, as we all know, purple is formed with red and blue, so sometimes it can appear more one or the other, particularly in certain lighting conditions.
The logo was part of the Classic theme to go along with the uniforms and the tribute to Bud Grant and the teams he led to three Super Bowls from 1973-76.
Very rusty. Very sloppy! I've always thought that not playing your starters some in preseason is always a mistake. You could tell in the first two drives, that they were not all on the same page. Practicing against other teams in controlled environment is not game speed. Preseason is when starters can hone their timing. Downside is some get hurt or injured, but it is football. Life-long fan and ready for a championship!! SKOL!
— Sparky in Yankton, South Dakota
So far it seems like Kevin O'Connell's philosophy will be to try to have as many players as possible available for Week 1. I think that's because of the magnitude, especially when opening a season at home.
Now that the NFL plays 17 games, and with this being a season with eight home games and nine road games, this was a missed opportunity to hold serve at home — and it had too many forehands into the net, to borrow from unforced errors in tennis.
From an availability standpoint, the Vikings opened with every starter but outside linebacker Marcus Davenport, who dealt with an ankle injury at the end of the week.
I said I'd NEVER do this, but I just can't take it anymore. I've been a fan since a kid, and I can honestly say I've NEVER seen a franchise that absolutely loves playing down to lesser opponents. We will be the only franchise to give away Randy Moss, Adrian Peterson and then lose Justin Jefferson because he's a winner. Smh.
— Chambord Barker
While the Vikings were favored, part of why so many people love following the NFL, is the competitive balance that can occur from week to week and game to game.
There are so many moments where a subtle play here or there could drastically change a game.
Jefferson turned in another outstanding day with 150 yards on nine catches (12 targets), and he also showed how truly competitive he is with his tackle of Christian Izien after the interception.
The only thing with continuity on the offensive line is they still are bad. They can't block for the running back, and they can't pass block. Are there any guards unclaimed that might do better? I am tired of seeing [Ed] Ingram and [Ezra] Cleveland standing over Cousins or the running back to help them up after the person they were supposed to block made the tackle. Two three-and-outs when it matters at the end of the game. I thought they were working on avoiding negative runs, and how many did they have?
The defensive line isn't much better with not getting much pressure in the second half and letting 4 and 5 yard runs up the middle. Is this the players or the coaching?
Did we keep the scouts from the previous general manager? I know it is early, but I do not see a lot of impact players from the last two drafts.
— Dave Abele in Sterling, Illinois
Perhaps the toughest part of the day was when Ingram made contact with Cousins on Minnesota's first fumble of the game. Ingram was on his way across the formation when he bumped Cousins.
There were times when it seemed like Alexander Mattison got more than appeared initially available, and his gumption — his touchdown catch could have been over at the 5-yard line had he not broken a tackle and powered through two more defenders — helped avoid some negative runs.
A big part of the problem in the second half was the way Tampa Bay opened the third quarter by going 3-for-4 on third downs, including a pair of third-and-6s and the third-and-goal from the 7 after the penalty on the field goal allowed one more opportunity.
The Bucs were content to grind out the clock with short gains and kept the football for 8:59 of the third quarter and a whopping 11:04 of the fourth. That's what I meant earlier by Tampa Bay leading is being a different approach than Tampa Bay trailing.
As for the last question, yes, multiple scouts retained their positions with the Vikings when Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was hired in January 2022.
Addison's initial debut resulted in four catches for 61 yards on six targets, and he and Jefferson averaged more than 15 yards per catch, so that's a point of encouragement.