The Vikings nailed a 38-yard field goal to force overtime as time expired, but it was one of the few positives on special teams in the 19-13 overtime victory over the Bucs on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
Kicker Blair Walsh missed a 56-yard field goal on the Vikings first offensive series, punter Jeff Locke had three touchbacks while averaging 35.1 net yards on eight punts and the Vikings recorded three more penalties on special teams.
“We have to learn how important field position is, especially when we’re playing good defense,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. “ It was disappointing. …It’s even more disappointing, the penalties we had in the kicking game. …We got a punt return and we got a penalty on it. All these young guys, I’m just about fed up with it.”
The young guys, as in cornerback Jabari Price and safety Antone Exum Jr., have been repeat offenders since the Vikings have relied on the rookies on special teams recently. Exum has been penalized once in the last three games.
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer wasn’t happy about Locke’s first touchback last week against the Bills. He tacked on three more in a bad performance.
“It’s very frustrating because in college and last year, I was really hitting the plus-50 punts very well,” Locke said. “Even the ones today, I hit them very well. I just didn’t hit the right club at the right moment. I just have to make the adjustment and dial those in and get some fair catches at the 10 or having it land at the eight instead of the 1.”
Even Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson expressed his concerns on kickoff returns, where he has failed to score a touchdown this season. He had two last season and lead the NFL in kickoff return yardage as a rookie.
“We need to step up man,” Patterson said. “I don’t feel like we’re performing that we should be. We’re going to have something planned next weekend, and we just got to step up. We’re not ourselves right now. It feels like something is missing. Coach [Mike] Priefer is doing a heck of a job. I see so many holes getting open. He’s doing a heck of a job with that, and it’s always one guy coming unblocked. We’re going to get that block and be good.”
Vikings rookie linebacker Anthony Barr made up for the defense’s only touchdown allowed by scoring one of his own.
Barr stripped tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and returned the fumble 27 yards for a touchdown to snag the 19-13 victory over the Bucs on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
“I was over by the Gatorade machine, and those dudes were pouring Gatorade,” wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson said. “I said, ‘Y’all pour that out. This thing is fixing to be over quick.’ Next play, Barr did that. Hats off to him and the heck of a job he did.”
On the Bucs previous offensive drive, Seferian-Jenkins scored a seven-yard touchdown with Barr in coverage to give Tampa Bay a 13-10 lead with 2:11 left.
“I gave one up on the other end minutes before that [game-winning touchdown],” Barr said. “So, I was happy I was able to make it up to those guys because I felt like I let them down a little bit.”
Barr finished second with eight tackles and also recorded his third sack this season. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said he was initially upset on the play because Barr was out of position and allowed the catch on the first play in overtime.
“He wasn’t being wide with the tight end enough and he let him catch the ball,” Zimmer said. “But now that it’s over, I’m glad he did.”
Pass coverage is an area Barr, who played just two seasons at linebacker previously, said he’s grown the most.
“I’m kind of understanding concepts, routes, 3-by-1, 2-by-2 [receiver sets] and just understanding how the offense wants to attack a little bit,” Barr said. “I’m feeling a little comfortable each week.”
His improvements in pass coverage didn’t technically show on the final play, but Barr displayed the athletic ability the Vikings drafted the rookie on. He’s building a stronger case for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year with each passing week.
Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson wore a walking boot on his left foot following the 19-13 overtime win over the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium.
Patterson said he injured his left ankle on his final kickoff return with 1:57 left in the game. He remained in the game on the final drive to help the Vikings force overtime on kicker Blair Walsh’s 38-yard field as time expired.
“I finished the whole game,” Patterson said. “In something like this, you’ve got to finish.”
Patterson said the boot was a precautionary step and felt he’d be fine. Fortunately for the Vikings, he didn’t leave the game. Patterson received two targets on the final drive, drawing a defensive pass interference penalty and making a 12-yard grab on the first two plays.
He finished with a season-high six catches for 86 yards. Patterson led all receivers with 12 targets from rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
“I tell Teddy don’t tease me this week,” Patterson said. “Give me six catches this week and next week don’t give me the ball, so it does feel good to get the ball — not just to me, but to all the other receivers.”
Patterson had his best performance as a receiver this season, but he felt it was an average game. He denied that it was even a breakout game when a reporter asked.
“I hope next week I get more catches than I did this week,” Patterson said.
Such is the unforgiving nature of football, and the all-consuming intensity that permeates every game, that on Monday morning the Gophers will wake up tied for the Big Ten West lead and it felt like their season is over, while the Vikings barely avoided losing to one of the only teams in the NFL worse than they are, and it will feel like a rebirth of sorts.
Every game in both college and the NFL is all-in every week, which is what makes football so compelling. If the Wild or Wolves lose a game they were supposed to win, or steal a victory in which they easily could have lost, the gloom or satisfaction is fleeting. It is one of 82, and unless the game has an immediate impact on whether the playoffs are made or missed, it is easily forgotten.
Baseball? The Twins get almost twice as many games to quickly cruise past wins or losses (more of the latter recently, of course, which is not to say they don’t add up).
It’s what makes the postseason in all three sports so compelling; when a sport used to a marathon pace suddenly becomes a sprint – every basket, goal or run magnified – the heightened sense of importance can be felt from players and fans alike.
But football, for better or worse, has that same type of feeling every week. NFL teams only get 16 chances to win or lose; college teams get even fewer. One botched opportunity or one game snatched from the fire can literally make or break a season.
As such, even though math tells us the Gophers are far from finished after taking a mighty tumble against a very bad Illinois team on Saturday, logic tells us that the loss has the potential to do massive damage to a promising season.
Minnesota had been teetering on the edge of this for a while – tied late at home with Northwestern, trailing late at home against Purdue before pulling those games out – so the loss to the Illini in some respects feels like the correct adjustment to our expectations. Maybe the Gophers just needed to lose one of these times to learn their lesson. Or maybe it is what it feels like: any chance for this to be a special season depended on not losing that game.
Similarly for the Vikings, who were full speed ahead on another miserable 2013-esque loss before first-rounders Teddy Bridgewater and Anthony Barr combined to force overtime and win at Tampa Bay, any chance for this to be anything but a lost season revolved around beating the Bucs.
Last week’s loss at Buffalo was the setup punch, but Sunday would’ve been the knockout. Instead, you look at the schedule: home next week against Washington, a bye, then at the imploding Bears, and you wonder if .500 is a realistic goal. And then you see there are three consecutive home games after that …
Must-wins, all of them; then again, what games aren’t in football?