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5 Takeaways: Penalties, Special Teams Struggles Hamper Vikings in Loss

MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings missed a chance to make a big move in the NFC playoff picture in Week 14, falling 26-14 on the road to the Buccaneers.

Minnesota is now 6-7, while Tampa Bay moved to 8-5 with the win. The Vikings dropped to the eighth spot — and out of the playoffs — in the NFC after Arizona's road win against the New York Giants.

The Vikings special teams was a source of frustration Sunday, as kicker Dan Bailey missed all four of his opportunities against the Buccaneers.

Minnesota took an early lead, but Bailey missed an extra point try wide left in the first quarter. The veteran kicker late missed three field goal attempts throughout the game.

He was wide right on the trio of field goals, pushing attempts from 36, 54 and 46 yards all to the right as the Vikings missed out on 10 possible points.

Bailey also missed a pair of extra points and a field goal in a Week 13 win over Jacksonville.

The Vikings return home in Week 15 to host the Bears, who are also 6-7 after snapping a six-game losing streak Sunday with a win over the Texans.

Here are four more takeaways from Sunday afternoon:

1. Vikings run game gets it done

The Buccaneers defense entered Sunday's game allowing just 74.2 rushing yards per game, and had only allowed 100 total rushing yards twice in the first 12 games of the season.

The Vikings nearly matched that yards-per-game total in the first quarter, as Minnesota tallied 71 rushing yards in the first 15 minutes.

All in all, the Vikings ran for 162 yards on 33 attempts (4.9 yards per carry), and also added a 1-yard touchdown run by Dalvin Cook.

Cook had 102 yards on 22 carries, while Cousins had a career-best 41 yards on five carries.

Ameer Abdullah and Mike Boone accounted for five carries. Alexander Mattison missed a second straight game after having appendix surgery earlier this month.

2. Penalty flags highlight 2nd-quarter miscues

The Vikings defense pitched a shutout in the opening quarter, with the Buccaneers having just one possession.

But the second quarter was a different story, as Minnesota allowed 17 points. And the Vikings were hampered by a handful of defensive penalties in the final two minutes of the half.

Minnesota appeared to stop Tampa Bay on third-and-6 at the Vikings 21, but Harrison Smith was called for a personal foul for lowering his head to initiate contact. That gave the Buccaneers the ball at the 9.

Two plays later, rookie cornerback Jeff Gladney was called for pass interference in the end zone on Mike Evans, although it appeared as if the wide receiver slipped on the grass. The Buccaneers scored a touchdown on the next play.

The horrors weren't over yet, as the Vikings were also flagged on a Hail Mary attempt with no time left on the clock. Linebacker Todd Davis was also called for pass interference in the end zone, allowing a final untimed down at the 1 for the Bucs. Tampa Bay kicked a field goal for a 17-6 halftime lead.

3. Offensive struggles with pressure on 3rd downs

The Vikings offense struggled to move the sticks on third downs Sunday, as Minnesota was converted just five times on 15 total attempts.

Tampa Bay entered with the 17th-best defense on that down at 41.17 percent, while Minnesota's offense was eighth at 43.61 percent.

The Vikings couldn't get into a rhythm in that spot all game, as the Buccaneers were able to get to Cousins multiple times on third-down pass attempts.

The quarterback was sacked three times on third downs, as Tampa Bay's pressure was able to get to Cousins.

Perhaps the worst sequence in terms of pressure came early in the fourth quarter. The Vikings had first-and-goal at the 8 and trailed 23-14.

But after an incompletion on first down, Cousins was sacked on both second and third downs, losing 19 total yards.

Bailey's 46-yard field goal, which would have cut the deficit to six points, was wide right.

The six sacks on Cousins were a season-high allowed by Minnesota.

4. Smith, Jr., Conklin step up

Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph was inactive for Sunday's game with a foot injury, halting a regular-season starts streak of 93 games. The veteran's overall streak was at 98 games including the postseason.

Tyler Conklin and Irv Smith, Jr., both stepped up in his absence. Smith had four catches for 63 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter.

The 2019 second-round pick returned to action after missing last week's game with a back injury.

Conklin, meanwhile, had five catches for 40 yards. He set a single-game best in catches and produced the second-highest yardage total in his career.

Down to just two tight ends, the Vikings used an extra offensive lineman at times in heavy formations. They also relied on everyone, as Adam Thielen lined up in that spot on Cook's first-quarter touchdown run.