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Takeaways from Buccaneers-Vikings | Week 1

Top observations from the Buccaneers 20-17 victory over the Vikings in the 2023 regular season opener


In front of a boisterous crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Buccaneers left with a 20-17 hard-fought win over the Vikings. With Baker Mayfield at the helm, Tampa Bay overcame an early offensive lull for an exhilarating upset over Minnesota on their home turf. In the Twin Cities, a three-takeaway output in the first half by the Bucs' defense kept the visiting team in the game. An impressive 57-yard field goal by Chase McLaughlin and a fingertip grab by Chris Godwin on third-and-10 secured the win for Tampa Bay. Here are the top takeaways from Sunday's clash against the Vikings:

Three Takeaway Outing

The Bucs won the turnover battle, 3-0, which helped bail out the team's sluggish start on the offensive side of the ball. Tampa Bay compiled all three momentum-shifting plays in the first half, as Todd Bowles' opportunistic crew set the tone in front of a vivacious sea of purple. The first turnover came at the hands of Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. Following a botched snap, Tryon-Shoyinka recovered the football, but the Bucs' offense was not able to capitalize. Next, it was Antoine Winfield Jr.'s turn. With five one-on-one blocks up front, Winfield took advantage of the free run at the quarterback. He went unblocked off the left edge and brought down Cousins for the sack, knocked the ball out and recovered it at the Minnesota 18. That strip sack set up a Chase McLaughlin field goal for the Bucs' first points of the afternoon. Late in the second quarter, with the score tied at 10 and an explosive 42-yard gain by Justin Jefferson, Christian Izien became the protagonist. Izien, an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers and the Bucs' starting nickel corner, stole the ball from K.J. Osborn at the goal-line. He saved a touchdown before the half, keeping the momentum in favor of the Bucs.

Overall, Devin White spearheaded the unit with 12 tackles, showcasing his range and burst downhill. Second-level teammate Lavonte David added eight more to the mix, along with two for loss. Both played a critical role in erasing the Vikings' screen game and option concepts out of the flat. Winfield Jr. contributed eight tackles, a sack, two quarterback hits, a pass defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Bowles came out aggressive and on the second play of the game, Winfield blitzed and forced an errant throw. Then on third-and-seven, Calijah Kancey fired up the middle like a man possessed, knocking down Cousins. Winfield nearly had an interception on Cousins' rushed release.

Minnesota's offense compiled 369 total yards in Week One, with Justin Jefferson serving as the beneficiary. Jefferson caught nine passes for 150 yards, including 130-plus in the first half. Jefferson exploited zone coverage with in-cuts, skinny post routes, and shallow crossers. Minnesota used play-action fakes to set up deep crossers to Jefferson, who worked the middle of the field with precision. The Bucs' defense made the necessary adjustments at halftime, putting a lid on Jefferson in the second half of the opener.

Offensive Surge

Brian Flores' disguised coverages and creative blitz packages are no easy feat for any quarterback, and the Vikings' defensive coordinator certainly dialed up some tricks in Week One. With a minute left in the first half, the Bucs only gained six yards off 11 offensive plays ran. Additionally, the unit gained just 34 yards on the first six possessions, however, a successful two-minute drill tied the game 10-10 at halftime. With just over a minute to play in the second quarter, Mayfield and Evans became poetry in motion. Evans hit a double move on a corner post, leaving the Vikings' defender behind, connecting with Mayfield on a 28-yard touchdown.

Then, the Bucs opened the third quarter with a methodical, 16-play, 75-yard drive. A sloppy defensive offside penalty by the Vikings made the touchdown play possible, putting Mayfield back on the field to extend the promising possession. The drive began with a stunning impromptu play by Mayfield. With pressure closing in, Mayfield pitched a no-look pass to Rachaad White. Then came the off-platform theatrics. Mayfield rolled to the left on a boot-action, got both feet off the ground in order to flip his hips and fired a strike to Cade Otton for a pivotal first down. Mayfield had six-consecutive completions on the drive, including three-straight first downs. The nine-minute possession culminated in a side-arm pass to rookie Trey Palmer for a touchdown, making it a 17-10 ballgame. Mayfield completed 21 of 34 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns on the afternoon. In the second half, his ball placement and fiery demeanor willed the team to victory. From a lethal stiff-arm to splitting two defenders on a strike to Godwin, Mayfield put it all on the line in the second half of his debut.

Four-Minute Drill

Tampa Bay's defense forced a three-and-out when it mattered most, and Cousins never took the field again. Carlton Davis III made a diving third-down pass breakup to force a punt and Mayfield engineered a successful four-minute drill, monopolizing the clock, keeping the ball away from the Vikings. Moxie Mayfield lowered his shoulder on third-and-two to get a key first down. The violent finish embodied the club's "gutsy" win. His passion and heart were personified on that play and on the ensuing third-down play, Chris Godwin sealed the victory. The Bucs needed a first down to kneel and run out the remainder of the clock. Mayfield put his back foot in the ground and let it fly to Godwin, who was running an out-route. Godwin lunged for the ball, catching it with his fingertips and got both feet in bounds for an 11-yard gain. That play not only dictated the outcome of the matchup but will perhaps mark a momentous moment for the Bucs' 2023 season.

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