Stadium staff in Tampa Bay should have been getting ready to refund the ticket prices for those poor souls who had to sit through the first three quarters of the game yesterday between the Minnesota Vikings and the Buccaneers. There were a few good plays, but for the most part calling the “action” pedestrian would have been a generous way to describe it. That all changed in the fourth quarter, as the somnolent Bucs suddenly discovered both a running game and that the forward pass was still legal in the NFL.
Vikings fans were starting to get that horrible 2013 feeling … that the Vikes were going to lead all the way down to the final minute, then give up the go-ahead score … just like last week. Instead, the last drive in regulation got the score tied up to force overtime, and overtime didn’t last very long at all, as Arif Hasan explains:
Those two minutes (or rather 1:57 after the runback by Patterson) were just enough for rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (after a confusing call by the refs that functionally drained 20 seconds from the clock—though not technically wrong, just unusual) to drive down the field in perfect position for a field goal (with room for error) in order to force the game into overtime.
A pair of offsetting penalties may have felt like more of the same to a franchise whose fans are convinced the organization is snakebitten. But immediately afterwards, a completion to Austin Seferian-Jenkins was turned into a fumble by the goat on the touchdown play, Anthony Barr, who ran it in for a touchdown to end the game.
In the end, just like in the Buffalo game, the real takeaways are not in single plays like the fumble return or the touchdown Barr allowed, but in the balance of the game. The ball bounced the right way for the Vikings this time, but the overall script was a positive one for Minnesota, as they consistently dominated an admittedly weak Tampa Bay team.
Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s stats included 241 passing yards, and a touchdown with no interceptions and only took one sack. 1500ESPN‘s Andrew Krammer discusses Bridgewater’s “up and down” day:
Bridgewater did his part to force overtime, but there is plenty of room for improvement from a rookie quarterback the Vikings initially wanted to have sit and learn in 2014 before Matt Cassel’s season-ending injury. Seven of Bridgewater’s 18 incompletions were tipped passes, including three from the Bucs’ defensive line.
“[Bridgewater] was up and down,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “I thought he took good care of the football, which we’re asking him to do. He was only sacked one time, those things are important too. We definitely are having a hard time scoring points, so we have to do a better job there. I think his composure was very good today. He took some shots down the field, which we have to do. And we missed them. If we keep throwing them, we’ll hit some.”
On a play-by-play count, Bridgewater went 4-for-10 on his deep attempts, missing his first three before tight end Chase Ford reached back to grab a poorly thrown ball to finish with a 19-yard catch-and-run. Three plays later, Bridgewater spiked the ball to set up Walsh’s 46-yard field goal before halftime.
The receivers helped Bridgewater out, including Patterson’s 28-yard tip-toe grab down the sideline that was challenged by Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith and upheld for the Vikings’ longest pass play of the day. But Bridgewater showed the ‘ups’ as well as the ‘downs’ that Zimmer’s postgame comments referred to.
After left tackle Matt Kalil was beat by Michael Johnson, who tackled running back Jerick McKinnon for a loss of five yards, Bridgewater hit Ford for nine yards and then found receiver Greg Jennings over the shoulder for a 17-yard touchdown and 10-0 lead in the third quarter.
“The throw to Jennings was a great catch,” Zimmer said. “Unbelieveable throw with a guy in his face. Those are the throws he can make, just have to continue to make the pocket clean and he has to just keep making those throws.”