Donovan McNabb was better than he was in Week 1, but the new Vikings quarterback was still left talking about what could have been had he only played better in critical situations.

A week after going 1-for-6 for 2 yards in the second half of the season-opening loss at San Diego, McNabb completed 11 of 17 first-half passes for 153 yards and a 93.5 passer rating as the Vikings took a 17-0 lead in their 24-20 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Metrodome.

McNabb looked comfortable rolling out and completing passes to six different receivers. He threw deep passes and even got some chemistry going with tight ends Visanthe Shiancoe (two catches) and rookie Kyle Rudolph (one). But another second-half collapse had McNabb thinking more about two missed opportunities in the red zone.

McNabb bounced a pass incomplete to Shiancoe in the end zone on third-and-goal from the 4-yard line in the second half. In the fourth quarter, he was pressured on an incompletion to running back Lorenzo Booker on third-and-goal from the 11.

"We have proven what we can do from end zone to end zone," said McNabb, who directed scoring drives of 90, 72 and 75 yards on Sunday. "I think now it's just getting the red zone corrected. Red zone is something I look forward to, and when we have that opportunity again, next time we'll take full advantage."

Why no timeout?

The Vikings had all three timeouts left but let the Bucs run the clock down before scoring the game-winning touchdown with 35 seconds left. By the time the Vikings offense got the ball back, only 31 seconds were left.

There was 1:17 left on the clock when the Bucs lined up for the second-to-last play of the game-winning drive.

"I really thought that we were going to stop them on defense, I really did," coach Leslie Frazier said. "Make them kick a field goal or come up with a turnover. We had a chance for a turnover in that drive at the goal line, and I really had confidence that we would defend it, force a field goal or get a turnover."

Frazier was referring to strong safety Tyrell Johnson dropping what should have been an interception on first-and-10 from the Vikings 16 with 1:56 left.

"I did think about [calling timeout]," Frazier said. "But with where they were at around the 2-minute mark and below, I thought, you know what, we're going to stop them."

E.J. plays, Cook hurt

The Vikings defense got a boost when middle linebacker E.J. Henderson was able to play despite missing two days of practice and being listed as questionable on the injury report because of a swollen left knee. However, the defense was dealt another blow when nickel cornerback Chris Cook went down in the first half with a strained groin. He did not return, which forced Asher Allen to play for the first time since suffering a toe injury in the preseason opener.

Henderson finished with six tackles, including one for a loss.

Booker brings it out?

Tampa Bay had drawn within 20-17 midway through the fourth quarter. Booker took the ensuing kickoff 6 yards deep in the end zone, then decided to run it out. He got only as far as the Vikings 9-yard line.

The Vikings drive stalled, forcing a punt, and Tampa Bay got good field position to mount its eventual game-winning drive.

"We know that if it's 5 or 6 yards deep we can come out," Booker said. "We have an explosive unit. I know I can make plays back there. It seemed like we needed a little boost, and I thought I could do that. Bottom line was it was a deep kick, and Tampa is fast and it didn't work out the way we wanted it to. But I wouldn't take it back."

Percy Harvin had two touchbacks before getting a chance to return the last kickoff. He fumbled the ball and gained only 2 yards.


• The Vikings have back-to-back 0-2 starts for only the second time in their 51 seasons. It also happened in 2001-02.

• The Vikings continue to rotate starter Jamarca Sanford and backup Johnson at strong safety. "We're still trying to evaluate the two of them and see if there's any separation," Frazier said. "Right now, they're so even, both deserve to play."

• Husain Abdullah picked up his first interception of the season and the fourth of his career. It came in the third quarter when he stepped in front of Josh Freeman's pass for Kellen Winslow in the end zone. He returned it 32 yards to the Vikings 30. "[Freeman] looked at the front side first, then he came back," Abdullah said. "By that time I was able to get to it."

• Backup running back Toby Gerhart had a 31-yard run and a 42-yard reception off a screen pass. They were the longest plays of his career. Gerhart had 78 yards from scrimmage.

• Everson Griffen got his first career sack. Griffen got it playing left end. He also played tackle in some of the nickel defense snaps.