MINNEAPOLIS –Fireworks following touchdowns weren't the only sparks inside U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
The Vikings surged to a 34-17 win over the Buccaneers to move to 2-1 overall and 2-0 at home. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer called the victory a "good team win" after four touchdowns, three interceptions of Bucs QB Jameis Winston and a solid showing by Minnesota's special teams.
Throughout the afternoon, splash plays by the offensive in turn ignited the defense, and vice versa.
In Minnesota's first drive of the day, Case Keenum – who started in place of an injured Kyle Rudolph – made an early statement with a 45-yard deep ball to Adam Thielen, who hauled in the pass using just one hand.
Thielen later made four more catches and totaled 98 receiving yards on the day.
On Monday, he told media that there were times last season and "maybe in that [Week 2] Steelers game" that offensive players felt that they had let the defense down.
"They played really well, and we didn't. That was something for us, coming into this year, that we wanted to do well," Thielen said. "We wanted to say, 'We've got your back if you guys have got our back. Let's win this game as a team.' I think we did that in the two wins we've had so far.
"You never want the feeling of one side of the ball winning the game. That's just not a great feeling," Thielen continued. "Even if you do win the game, it's like, 'I feel like we let you guys down, and you guys had to carry the whole team.' I think it takes a lot of pressure off the defense when they know we can score points and can change the field position. I think that helps momentum and their mindset."
A number of defensive teammates raved about the Vikings offensive performance, affirming Thielen's theory.
"They did a great job moving the ball down the field," safety Andrew Sendejo said after the game. "They had some long drives, which was good to see. It was good complementary ball in all three phases."
Following Thielen's catch and Dalvin Cook's first pro touchdown four plays later, the Vikings defense held the Bucs to a 40-yard field goal. In the second quarter, the defense followed up a Jarius Wright touchdown by forcing Tampa Bay to punt after a three-and-out series.
Harrison Smith said the defense draws extra energy when the entire team shares the load.
"We feed off those guys [on offense]. We feed off special teams. We feed off if the guy next to us makes a big play," Smith said. "This team is not [sections] of offense and defense; it's a team. It's everybody. We love seeing no matter who it is make a play."
While it was the offense that got hot early, the defense executed well and picked off Winston at crucial times, including twice deep in Vikings territory. The first interception was by Trae Waynes, who snagged a deep pass intended for DeSean Jackson near the goal line to prevent a Tampa Bay touchdown.
On the Vikings following drive, Keenum launched a 47-yard pass to Stefon Diggs and three plays later located the receiver for a 17-yard score. Diggs, who led the team with 173 yards and two touchdowns, described an electric atmosphere on the sideline.
"For me being on the other side, it's exciting, especially to see the defense get picks, Griff' (Everson Griffen) back there chasing people down," Diggs said. "It kind of gets us going as well, gives us a spark as well."
Added Diggs: "We feed off each other, offense having success, defense out there, too."
Brian Robison emphasized the importance of creating turnovers – Sunday's were the team's first of the 2017 season – in order to get the offense back on the field.
"We need to have those turnovers, put our offense in a good position and be able to score," Robison said. "They did a great job today of putting points on the board early and allowing us to pin our ears back and get after them. This was a great team win for us."
Traditionally, Zimmer's teams have garnered a reputation of being strong defensively.
The goal, however, is for the type of complete wins that fans witnessed against Tampa Bay. Zimmer was happy with contributions across the board, and the Vikings aim to continue fostering the type of exchanged energy evident in Week 3.
"Yeah, Coach Zim' says it all the time – he doesn't necessarily want this to be a defensive organization," said tight end Kyle Rudolph. "But we're better now because we've practiced against those guys all offseason … and each and every day in practice.
"There will be games where we have to feed off the defense, and there's games where the defense has to feed off of us," Rudolph added. "We just want to win games as a team."