What a difference a week can make.
After a sloppy showing in Pittsburgh that saw the Vikings rack up more penalties than points, the team rebounded in a big way on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Vikings controlled the game from the outset, limiting the Bucs to 26 yards rushing and forcing three Jameis Winston turnovers. Minnesota dominated the time of possession and didn’t allow a single sack of Case Keenum, who threw for a career-high 369 yards.
Yes, you read that correctly. “In” Case “Of Emergency” Keenum absolutely dominated Tampa Bay throughout the afternoon, with lots of help in the form of clean pockets from his offensive line and amazing receptions from his wide receivers. It was a truly comprehensive team victory that let the rest of the NFL know that stories of the Vikings’ demise may have been greatly exaggerated. Let’s take our weekly look back at five of the biggest plays from Sunday’s win.
Play 1: Vikings ball, 1st & 10 on the Minnesota 35. First quarter, 13:45 remaining. (Shotgun) C.Keenum pass deep left to A.Thielen to TB 20 for 45 yards (V.Hargreaves III).
This was the moment where we realized that Keenum might be in for a pretty good day.
First, let’s admire the clean pocket the offensive line gave Keenum. Dalvin Cook stayed in to block, but the line did so well one-on-one that Cook was left with little to do. Meanwhile, Adam Thielen got open deep despite a huge cushion from Vernon Hargreaves III, much like Martavis Bryant did on Trae Waynes last week. The perfect pass that traveled about 51 yards in the air was caught by Thielen despite Hargreaves making contact early. (Which should have been flagged, but I digress.) It was an amazing play from front to back that set up the Vikings’ first score of the day. Speaking of which:
Play 2: Vikings ball, 1st & 10 on the Tampa Bay 1. First quarter, 11:01 remaining. (Run formation) D.Cook up the middle for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN.
Dalvin Cook’s first career touchdown!
But it nearly wasn’t—the ball came out just after Cook broke the plane. Tampa Bay recovered the ball, which would have been a gigantic momentum swing early in a scoreless game. Thankfully, it was called a touchdown on the field. After watching the review a few times, it was really close. If it was called a fumble on the field, I doubt that call would have been overturned either. In the end, the Vikings got a lead they would never relinquish on the play.
Play 3: Buccaneers ball, 1st & 10 on the Minnesota 34. Second quarter, 4:02 remaining. (No Huddle) J.Winston pass deep middle intended for D.Jackson INTERCEPTED by T.Waynes at MIN -2. T.Waynes pushed ob at MIN 16 for 18 yards (A.Humphries). PENALTY on MIN-X.Rhodes, Taunting, 8 yards, enforced at MIN 16.
This was a big play on a lot of different levels.
Getting a turnover late in the first half with the Bucs driving is obviously a big in-game play. The fact that Waynes, a player that drew the ire of many Vikings fans last week in Pittsburgh, made it was important too. Jameis Winston gets the assist here for under-throwing the ball, but it was still incredibly promising to see Waynes make the adjustment and get the ball after being in DeSean Jackson’s back pocket throughout the his route. And perhaps most importantly, Waynes’ pick helped set up our next big play.
Play 4: Vikings ball, 1st & 10 on the Tampa Bay 17. Second quarter, 0:53 remaining. (Shotgun) C.Keenum pass deep right to S.Diggs for 17 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
It is so fun to watch Stefon Diggs play football.
An old football adage states that the good teams usually score before the end of each half. The Vikings were definitely the good team on Sunday. After Waynes’ interception, Minnesota needed only six plays to march 88 yards and take a comfortable 21-3 lead into halftime. Diggs’ leaping grab put the perfect exclamation point on an excellent first 30 minutes of football by the hosts.
Play 5: Vikings ball, 3rd & 3 at the Minnesota 41. Third quarter, 12:36 remaining. C.Keenum pass deep right to S.Diggs for 59 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Penalty on TB, Defensive 12 On-field, declined.
After the defense forced a quick three-and-out from Tampa Bay to start the second half, this play put things away for good.
Once again, Keenum had time to throw thanks to play action and a designed rollout, two wrinkles that Pat Shurmur used very well in his game plan on Sunday. Diggs was able to fight through a pretty blatant hold at the top of his route from Ryan Smith and get to his spot near the sideline. (Once again, it probably should have been flagged, but I digress.) Keenum put the ball right on the money, and when Smith gambled for the big play, that was all Diggs needed. A (probably too) casual stroll into the end zone ensued, and the Vikings were up 28-3. Game, set, match.
With a game as packed with big plays as Sunday’s was, I’m sure there are a few more that I missed along the way. The defense certainly did their part in the win, even though we included only one of their plays here. Which play do you think was the biggest? Vote in the poll below. Are there any other plays we should have included? Let us know in the comments.