Throughout Vikings history, kickers have played key roles, and not in a good way.
Last Sunday, another chapter was added in a 26-14 loss at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The defeat dropped Minnesota to 6-7 on the season and put their playoff hopes on life support. Tampa improved to 8-5 with the win.
SO MUCH TIME, SO LITTLE ACCOMPLISHED
The Vikings took the opening kickoff and ate almost five minutes off of the clock, but a sack of Kirk Cousins on third down moved them out of field goal range, which we will later see really wasn’t a thing for the Vikings in this game.
Minnesota’s defense forced a Tampa punt, then drove 84 yards in 14 plays, taking just over eight minutes off of the clock. The drive ended on a Dalvin Cook one-yard touchdown run, but a missed extra point by Dan Bailey kept the lead at 6-0. Cook would have eight carries for 32 yards on the drive.
Another defensive stand led to a second Tampa punt. Minnesota moved the ball 49 yards in eight plays. Unfortunately, Dan Bailey’s 36-yard FG attempt was wide-right and the lead stayed at 6-0. A team can only waste so many chances against Tom Brady before he makes them pay. He would do so after Bailey’s missed field goal. In just four plays, the Buccaneers hit paydirt when Brady found Scotty Miller for a 48-yard touchdown strike. Ryan Succop would make his extra point and Tampa had a 7-6 lead.
It looked like Minnesota would bounce back after the Tampa touchdown as they moved to the Buccaneers 37-yard line, but Dan Bailey would yet again whiff on a field goal attempt, this one from 54 yards out, and Tampa’s lead remained intact. They would add to the lead after the missed field goal set them up at their own 44-yard line. Ten plays and 56 yards later, Ronald Jones bulled in from a yard out and the Bucs’ lead bumped to 14-6 with just 44 seconds left in the half. Minnesota went three-and-out, taking a mere 23 seconds off of the clock.
Bruce Arians wasn’t content to take the eight-point lead into the locker room. With no timeouts, Brady completed two passes for 25 yards. As they raced to the line of scrimmage after the second completion, it looked like the half would run out. A funny thing happened on the way to the locker room. Maybe the clock operator was a bit quick on the trigger, because it looked for sure like Brady got an extra second to clock the football.
With one second left, he heaved a prayer towards Rob Gronkowski in the end zone. The ball fell harmlessly to the turf, but inexplicably, Vikings linebacker Todd Davis was whistled for pass interference and the ball was placed at the one-yard-line. Succop would make a 19-yard field goal on the untimed down and Tampa carried a 17-6 lead to the half.
THIS BAILEY’S LIFE WASN’T WONDERFUL
Tampa took the second-half kickoff and moved 75 yards in nine plays. The drive culminated in a Brady to Gronkowski two-yard touchdown pass. This time, Succop would miss the extra point and the Bucs’ lead stayed at 23-7.
In the past few weeks, early scores by the opponent seemed to light a fire under the Vikings. This week was no different. A long 15-play, 75-yard drive of over eight-and-a-half minutes was topped off with a Cousins to Irv Smith, Jr. 14-yard touchdown pass. With confidence fading in his kicker, Mike Zimmer opted for the two-point conversion and got it when Cousins hit Justin Jefferson for the deuce.
The momentum shift continued as the Vikings’ defense held Tampa to a three-and-out. Kirk and Co. chewed 6:45 off of the clock and drove 50 yards in the process. Tampa’s defense came up with back-to-back sacks of Kirk that pushed the ball from their 13 back to the 29-yard line. Minnesota fans cringed as Dan Bailey set up for the 46-yard field goal, then felt the knife to the chest when he had the missed field goal hat-trick. The Buccaneers took over and drove 34 yards to set up a Ryan Succop 48-yard field goal and a 26-14 lead.
Minnesota would convert two fourth downs on its last drive. but on 4th-and-13, Cousins would be sacked and fumbled. Jason Pierre-Paul recovered with 2:04 left and Tampa ran out the clock to seal the win.
BY THE NUMBERS
Tom Brady did just enough, completing 15-of-23 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns. Ronald Jones II led the ground game for the Bucs with 80 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. Mike Evans caught three passes for 56 yards, and Antonio Brown added 49 yards on five catches.
Kirk Cousins had a gritty performance throwing for 225 yards and a touchdown on 24-of-37 passing. He added 41 rushing yards on five attempts. Dalvin Cook put together another solid game with 102 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. With no Kyle Rudolph due to a foot injury and no time to do much downfield, Irv Smith, Jr. and Ty Conklin led the way. Smith, Jr. had 63 yards and a touchdown on four catches. Conklin added 50 yards on five catches.
Tampa will travel to Atlanta to face the 4-9 Falcons. The Vikings return to Minnesota for their final home game to face the division rival Chicago Bears.