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Why We Won: Defense, Timely Playmaking Pave Way to Victory

1. A Dominant Defensive EffortFor the third straight game, the Vikings defense put together a stifling effort that kept the game close until the end. This week's performance may have been the best of the three, though, as the Vikings held Tampa Bay to just 13 points, 225 yards of offense and a per-play average gain of just 4.0 yards. Tampa Bay had 12 offensive drives, with seven of them ending in punts and with zero or just one 1st down and with a series of five consecutive three-and-outs at one point. After allowing a seven-yard rushing gain on the first play of the game, the Vikings defense allowed just one more rushing gain of seven yards the entire game, finishing the day yielding just 66 yards on 23 carries (2.9 yards per attempt). Lastly, the Vikings defense held on 11 of 12 3rd downs, a remarkable number.

2. Plus-Two in Turnover Margin (no turnovers)Taking care of the ball on offense and taking the ball away on defense – objectives held by every team going into every game. The result of this battle is the single biggest indicator of wins and losses in the game of football. The Vikings were on the right side of the turnover margin on Sunday, taking it from the Buccaneers twice, including on the game-winning score in overtime, and never giving the ball away via a fumble or interception. The first forced turnover for the Vikings came on the opening drive of the game, when CB Captain Munnerlyn covered WR Mike Evans like a blanket deep down the right sideline and wrestled away an interception. The Vikings weren't able to score off of that turnover, but the turnover itself may have prevented a Buccaneers score because they had already drive from the minus-13 to near midfield before Munnerlyn ended the drive and gave possession to the Vikings. The interception is the first of Munnerlyn's career with the Vikings.

3. Timely PlaymakingIn close games such as this one, a common phrase you'll see attached to the winning team is "they/we just made the plays needed to win." That's exactly what the Vikings did. Here are just a few of the timely big-time plays registered by the Vikings:

-- Munnerlyn's 1st-quarter interception
-- Three consecutive completions by Teddy Bridgewater with under a minute to go in the 2nd quarter that led to a Blair Walsh 46-yard field goal on the last play of the half
-- Bridgewater-to-Greg Jennings for a 17-yard touchdown on 3rd and 6
-- Brian Robison's sack on 2nd and 6 from the Minnesota 25 that put Tampa Bay behind the chains and eventually stalled a promising drive that could've resulted in a game-tying touchdown
-- Bridgewater going 5 of 8 on the final drive to put the Vikings in position to try a game-tying field goal
-- Walsh hitting a clutch field goal from 38 yards as time expired to tie the game
-- Anthony Barr's forced fumble and 27-yard fumble return touchdown on the first play of overtime to win the game

It should also be mentioned that DE Everson Griffen wasn't into timely playmaking on Sunday; he was into constant playmaking. Griffen had another sack, giving him 8.0 on the season and 10.5 over his last 10 games, and he also had another tackle for loss, two other quarterback hits and a few other pressures.

4. Offensive Line (pass and run) Blocked BetterFair or not, the Vikings offensive line has been a much-maligned group at times this season, largely because of the pass protection issues the Vikings have had in several games. The offensive line was much improved against Tampa Bay, though, allowing just one sack (to All-Pro Gerald McCoy) and paving the way for rookie running back Jerick McKinnon to dance and dash his way to 83 yards on 16 carries for a per-carry average of 5.2 yards. Critics may point to the McCoy sack or a few other pressures and hits allowed on Bridgewater, but for the vast majority of the game the offensive line provided Bridgewater with adequate time and moved the line of scrimmage forward in the running game.* *

5. Barr's Big PlayOn a weekly basis, rookie linebacker Anthony Barr does something that makes even the most learned and experienced football observers shake their head in amazement. Sunday was no different, as Barr was all over the field while collecting eight tackles (unofficial), a tackle for loss, a sack, a pass breakup (PBU), a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Barr's effort on the first play of overtime produced the game-winning play, as he chased and tackled Buccaneers TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins after a 10-yard reception, forced a fumble with the help of S Harrison Smith, scooped the fumble and sprinted 27 yards down the left sideline to give the Vikings a dramatic, sensational and spirit-lifting overtime win on the road.

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