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Monday reaction: Positives from the Vikings week one defeat

The Minnesota Vikings started the 2023 campaign on a sour note with a 20-17 defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at U.S Bank Stadium.

It was a tough loss, not because it was only by three points or the fact that the Vikings were favored heading into the game, but because of how they lost. Against the Buccaneers, Minnesota turned the ball over three times, two in Bucs territory, while the interior offensive line struggled, resulting in Kirk Cousins’ struggling.

But, sometimes, a self-inflicting loss covers up a lot of good. The Vikings outgained the Buccaneers and kept the visitors in check for most of the game. Here’s why that was.

Silver lining No. 1: Justin Jefferson isn’t slowing down any time soon

In the second half, the Vikings had just three offensive possessions. Two of them were three and out. This, though, didn’t take away from an outstanding day by Justin Jefferson, the second most productive wide receiver in the NFL on Sunday.

Jefferson had just a pair of receptions for 12 yards in the second half, but totaling that up with his first-half stats added up to nine receptions for 150 yards on the afternoon. The reigning OPOY backed up his 2022 performance, as he was the best offensive player between both teams.

Silver lining No. 2: The Vikings found their running mate to Jefferson

One of the most important questions for this offense this season is if someone could step up and become a reliable No. 2 wide receiver alongside Jefferson. In a tiny sample size of one week, that question is answered. Jordan Addison made his arrival in a big way, scoring a 39-yard touchdown, the first for the Vikings this season. It wasn’t a 1998 Randy Moss against Tampa week one performance, but it’s a good sign showing he’s on track to truly replacing Adam Thielen.

Here’s how every rookie wide receiver drafted in the first two rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft performed.

  • Zay Flowers: 9 receptions, 78 yards, 2 carries, 9 yards
  • Jordan Addison: 4 receptions, 61 yards, TD.
  • Rashee Rice: 3 receptions, 48 yards.
  • Jonathan Mingo: 2 receptions, 17 yards.
  • Jaxson Smith-Njigba: 3 receptions, 13 yards.
  • Marvin Mims JR.: 2 receptions, 9 yards.
  • Quentin Johnston: 2 receptions, 9 yards.

Silver lining No. 3: The defense may be ahead of schedule

The arrival of Brian Flores alone elevated the defense, and it showed today. Tampa’s offense averaged just 2.2 yards per rush and 3.6 yards per play against the Vikings, and was stagnant early on. Here are the results of the Buccaneers first six drives against Brian Flores unit:

Drive 1: 3 plays, 2 yards (Punt)

Drive 2: 5 plays, 14 yards (Punt)

Drive 3: 4 plays, 0 yards (Field Goal)

Drive 4: 3 plays, 7 plays (Punt)

Drive 5: 3 plays, 5 plays (Punt)

Minnesota’s offense during that time? Ten points and one offensive touchdown. The defense did give up a field goal on drive three, but context matters. Kirk Cousins fumbled at the Vikings own 18-yard line, but the ensuing three plays were:

  1. An incomplete pass by Baker Mayfield.
  2. A four-yard gain by Rachaad White.
  3. A Danielle Hunter sack on Mayfield on 3rd and 6 led to a field goal.

While points will be tagged onto the defense on the third drive, it’s really considered a win as they prevented worse from happening following offensive miscues. Eventually, the Buccaneers offense woke up. They are also a professional unit, and the Vikings defense is far from the Cowboys. But the defense’s early performance is promising after last year’s debacle.

Silver lining No. 4: Let’s talk about Alexander Mattison

It’s unfair to try and hold Alexander Mattison to the same standard as Dalvin Cook. And let’s be honest, the performance from the offensive line wasn’t going to allow for an efficient run game, even for a player like Cook. The Vikings ran for just 2.4 yards per carry on 17 attempts.

On a surface level, Mattison’s stat line suggested that he was mediocre at best, with 34 yards on 11 carries. But, again, the o-line didn’t perform to a good enough standard. Mattison made the most of what he was given, fighting for whatever he could get and turning something into nothing. A play that summarizes his grit came in the receiving game as he fought two tackles to get into the endzone and tie the game up at 17 early in the fourth quarter.

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