Vikings.com is introducing a new day-after-game content series starting today that will combine a deeper look at stats, include more fans' thoughts and add some quotes from Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell, who watched the film between the end of the game and his Monday media session.
We'll start off with a couple of Next Gen Stats related to two important plays in Minnesota's 20-17 home loss to Tampa Bay.
Next Gen Stats
Winfield sack among fastest
The Vikings didn't land any "top plays" in Week 1, according to Next Gen Stats, but the Bucs were involved in executing a couple.
Antoine Winfield, Jr., recorded the third-fastest sack (2.84 sacks) of Week 1 across the league (excludes Monday Night Football game). Winfield screamed through a gigantic opening created by the Bucs between Vikings right guard Ed Ingram and right tackle Brian O'Neill.
Tampa Bay defensive lineman Calijah Kancey took Ingram to the inside, and edge rusher Joe Tryon-Shoyinka took O'Neill outside. This created an opening for linebacker Devin White to come through first and occupy fullback C.J. Ham, paving an unobstructed runway for Winfield, who forced and recovered a fumble as part of the sack.
Mayfield TD among least probable
The Bucs tied the game at 10 before halftime on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield to Mike Evans, converting a second-and-10 on a play that began with 1:14 remaining in the second quarter.
According to Next Gen Stats, the pass had a completion probability of 36.6 percent, which ranked 17th in terms of improbable completions.
Three Vikings offensive linemen — O'Neill, Ingram and left guard Ezra Cleveland — and Cousins played all 64 offensive snaps for the Vikings.
Justin Jefferson played all but one offensive snap. Left tackle Christian Darrisaw and receiver K.J. Osborn each played 58 snaps. Olisaemeka Udoh played six snaps in place of Darrisaw at the end of the first half. Austin Schlottmann relieved Garrett Bradbury at center for 57 snaps.
Receiver Jordan Addison played 36 snaps in his first NFL game, which included a 39-yard touchdown.
On defense, free agent addition Byron Murphy, Jr., played all 68 snaps. Safety Camryn Bynum (67), linebacker Jordan Hicks (66), Harrison Smith (65), cornerback Akayleb Evans (62) and defensive lineman Harrison Phillips (60) each played 88 percent or more of Minnesota's snaps.
Linebacker Ivan Pace, Jr., played 46 snaps on defense, the most by a Vikings rookie.
From the Inbox:
As you can imagine after a disappointing home loss to start the season, the inbox was saltier than the Gulf of Mexico.
I'll try to include a wide array of perspectives in this space. There were multiple mistakes that undermined Minnesota's opportunity to make the most of opening at home. It's an early reminder that football players are human, even if they are exceptionally talented.
[C.J.] Ham dropped a pass, caused turnover and sack by failing to block on strip sack, can't block (isn't this his primary role), too slow — why is he playing?
Ingram — caused turnover.
[Alexander] Mattison — first possession, basically whiffed on block. Play calling — inside 10, Mattison run (can't run against Tampa Bay). Last drive, short screen (open it up). Special teams — almost no return yards. Not entirely sure [Jay] Ward was offsides. Ticky tack.
— George Rodine
One of the more surprising elements from the game was when Ham had the drop. Over the past two seasons, he had caught 27 passes on 30 targets. People, even when they have proven reliability, can make a mistake from time to time.
I covered the blitz that resulted in the sack fumble above. That's a credit in part to the Bucs having a good defensive front and flanking the Vikings with their rush design (and execution).
It is interesting to see the Vikings use Ham more as a pass-protecting running back, which is a bit different than lining up in the I-formation and being the lead blocker. He'll adjust and bounce back from Sunday.
There's plenty of thoughts from people about the offensive line and Ingram, but yeah, the incidental contact with Cousins that forced the first fumble of the game brought a rough result.
Here's what O'Connell said about the play he described as "self-inflicted in its truest form":
"It's a pretty darn random thing. Ed's trying to make sure he gets going to try to gain back some leverage. Third and short, I think it was a third and a little less than 2, we're trying to get the ball in the perimeter and give Alex [Mattison] a chance there, and just sometimes things like that happen. We try to avoid it with technique and fundamentals, but Kirk did, we call it seating the ball, when he brings it in right away and as he goes to toss that thing just a random left arm punch there by our own, but that was a critical play and that's kind of how the day went."
The tight end screens were probably an attempt to slow down the Bucs pass rush a bit, but they were expertly played by the defense.
Tampa Bay punter Jake Camarda had a heck of a day with an average of 54.5 and net average of 48.2. His role in the field position game was important.
Ward said he checked with the official to make sure he was lined up correctly.
O'Connell was asked about that on Monday and said the following:
"It was a situation where he thought he was good, and maybe after getting confirmation from the official that he was good, he probably shifted forward a little bit. Some games you're going to get a warning there, some games you're going to get called on that one. Our message to Jay was a pretty simple one. We have to be onsides and just make sure of it to avoid giving them a new free set of downs."
View game action photos from he Vikings vs. Buccaneers Week 1 home opener at U.S. Bank Stadium
Loss was considerably worse than people realize. Schedule includes all four teams from 2022's conference title games. Vikes could very well go 1-3 in those games — and potentially 0-4. That means little margin for error in remaining 13 games if team is to make playoffs. Home loss to underdog conference rival is very damaging. Further, it did nothing to enhance confidence going into difficult game in Philadelphia on Thursday. Very possible that club will be 0-2. The prognosis for 0-2 teams is usually poor. Generally, 20 percent or less make playoffs. I'm sure that [Kwesi Adofo-Mensah] and [O'Connell] are acutely aware of the quantitative metrics in play here. Very possible that playoff expectations could be low before summer even comes to an end. Speaking of ends, this could also be the swan song for Kirko Chainz. If yesterday is any indication, change will be in the autumn and winter winds.
— Brian Mason (Viking fan for well over 5O years) in Waterford, New York
A cliché is that they all count as one, but then some people readily admit the significance of division games because of the way they can impact the standings and the way that all division winners are secured a playoff berth and 1-4 seed.
Dropping a game at home is never good, and falling in a conference game is another way to put yourself behind the 8-ball because of the role of conference games as tiebreakers for 5-7 playoff spots.
Throw in the fact that a couple of other teams won on the road, either against conference (i.e., Rams at Seahawks) or non-conference foes (including Lions at Chiefs), and it will make the math a bit more difficult, particularly with an incredibly tough matchup in Week 2.
There's a long way to go this year, but the first step the Vikings need to take is reducing mistakes because it's tough to beat any team if you don't stop beating yourself.
I think the outcome of yesterday's game is completely the result of an ineffective offense. You cannot have as many three-and-outs as they had and expect a defense to remain as sharp as possible. And yet the defense did very well overall.
Everyone seems to be either blaming Kirk Cousins or the offensive line or both. The more obvious answer to me is that the play caller knows Kirk Cousins, knows the limits of the o-line, and it comes down to what plays are called given those two known factors.
— David Beehler
The Vikings never fully established their rhythm consistently. The three-and-outs were definitely disappointing, especially closing the game with consecutive possessions without moving the chains.
For all the skills players the Vikings have, Cousins has to have the time to make the reads and deliver the ball, or the answers need to be found quicker.
Lost in the disappointment of the offense putting up only 17 points thanks to two trips inside the 30-yard line that scored 0, was a solid start by a defense that was in its first game under Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores.
That stop in the first half when Tampa Bay got the ball at the Minnesota 18 was impressive, and hopefully can be a building block going forward.
I think most of game one has been covered, turnovers and inconsistency on offense and defense particularly in the second half. On the plus side, I loved the Classic uniforms and wish that they would become permanent.
— Jim Fisher in Goose Creek, South Carolina
The inability to get a stop on defense to start the third quarter was probably the most disappointing part because it let Tampa Bay believe that grinding it out without taking risks was going to be enough. True, the Vikings were going to get off the field with just a field goal before the penalty on Ward, but that drive let the Bucs establish a bit of a tone for the rest of the game.
Glad that you liked the Classic uniforms. The day featured so many great tributes to Bud Grant and the Super Bowl teams from the '70s.
To be the best, you have to beat the best. We did little in the offseason to commit to excellence. Everywhere you look needs help! We got beat everywhere. My prediction is 6-11, at best! And, if you saw how bad the Giants got beat the first week, get ready for some real beat downs. This team is mediocre. Prove me wrong!
— Mark Quirk
I think the team will look to prove that Sunday's results were an exception to the standard. That doesn't mean this week's challenge will go without a hitch or result in a road win in a harsh environment. It will be a long season. Sometimes teams have to try to tread water as they establish that year's version. Facing four playoff teams from last year in Minnesota's first five games adds plenty of chop in the water.
View pregame photos of the Vikings ahead of their Week 1 game vs. the Buccaneers at U.S. Bank Stadium
Why can we not address the center and guard position on this team?! So frustrating and obvious, and it has gone on TOO long. Too small and get pushed around by BIG defensive lines! You see it year-in, year-out! Cousins is so afraid of lack of protection, he checks down way too quickly. Need to have him throw from outside of the pocket. Too stationary.
— Regards, Frankie D. from Connecticut
The Vikings efforts in recent years on the interior of the offensive line include drafting Bradbury in the first round of 2019, adding Cleveland in the second round in 2020 and Ed Ingram in the second round in 2022. They also didn't land on the third-round pick that was used for Wyatt Davis in 2021.
So there's been an investment in draft capital, but some of those resources were applied with a different running game in place.
Tampa Bay nose tackle Vita Vea is going to push a lot of people around, but then it's up to coaches to try to find ways to maximize strengths and minimize gaps when facing other opponents. Then, it's up to players to execute.
Not sure why you're using T.J. Hockenson like a KIA when he is clearly a Ferrari. Throwing passes to him behind the line of scrimmage clearly doesn't work well. When you throw it downfield to him he is a huge mismatch, but on a screen that advantage is clearly negated. The defenses close way too fast to take advantage of his strengths.
— Jeff Tinker
I mentioned earlier that I thought the tight end screens were probably done with the notion of slowing down a pass rush by the Bucs, but Tampa Bay's Lavonte David and Devin White each made plays on those to put Minnesota behind the chains.
No one ever calls a play because they think it won't work, but the Vikings didn't get what they thought they would out of those plays.
The Vikings ran six offensive plays in the final 11:11, and Jefferson was targeted once in that span while sitting on 143 yards.
All offseason we heard about lining up big and running more often. We did it the first play, gained  yards, then went pass happy. Also, the toss run play is a bad idea in today's NFL. The D sees the ball and flows quickly. It's just not a good run scheme unless there are some other mis-directions involved.
I saw a lot of potential, but we beat ourselves today with turnovers and mistakes.
Fan since '70s.
— Mike Harris
That run on the first play of the game raised my eyebrows. Removing that one from the stat sheet, however, meant the Vikings totaled 33 yards on their other 16 carries.
Perhaps the Vikings could have hit a little better stride had they not gone three-and-out on their first possession.
Between Minnesota and Tampa Bay, the teams rushed 50 total times and did not have one single rush that gained 10 or more yards.