1. Thielen shows off speed, control and concentration
The catch of the year came on the third play of Sunday’s game 34-17 win over the Buccaneers at U.S. Bank Stadium. With Adam Thielen lined up wide left across from cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur called a “go route” for the deceptively fast receiver who went into the game with a league-high five 20-yard catches. Thielen used a clean release and a subtle but effective inside head fake to get past the cornerback. Then came the hard part. Right before the ball arrived on the 45-yard gain, Hargreaves raked Thielen’s right arm. “Not the best thing to happen when the ball is three feet away from you and someone grabs your arm,” Thielen said. No flag, no problem. “I just stuck one hand out there,” said Thielen, who freed his right hand quickly enough to secure the reception.
2. 34-year-old B-Rob still has a role
He doesn’t start anymore. He’s 34. And his stat line Sunday was all zeros except for a single hit on Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston. But Vikings defensive end Brian Robinson had a tone-setting play early in the game. The Vikings led 7-0 when the Bucs got the ball for the first time. They quickly moved 54 yards to the Vikings 21-yard line. But on third-and-3, Robison ended the march with a young -man’s inside burst past left guard Evan Smith. From his standing position as an inside nickel rusher, Robison pressured Winston, who threw the ball up for a completion of minus-1 yard. “In that situation, I’m able to stand up and see everything,” Robison said. “Then, it’s the guys covering so I can make a move and get back there.” The Bucs settled for a field goal and trailed the entire game.
3. Quick snap, quick thinking
The Bucs played the game without three starters on defense: linebacker Kwon Alexander, cornerback Brent Grimes and defensive tackle Chris Baker. They also played outside linebacker Kendell Beckwith out of position at middle linebacker. So maybe it’s somewhat understandable that they gave up 494 yards. But there were times when they were sloppier than they should have been. The Vikings’ 59-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs was one of those plays. The Bucs had not one, but two defenders scrambling for the sideline when Keenum called for a quick snap. The move, which is something you see routinely from the fella over in Green Bay, gave the Vikings a free play. “Yeah, well, it was Pat [Shurmur],” coach Mike Zimmer said. “Pat made that call. Pat told him what to do. It was part of the plan.” And it was executed quite well.
4. Waynes needs to tighten things up
Zimmer often mentions how cornerback Trae Waynes needs to play more aggressively. And yet the young corner continues to play too soft for the coach’s liking. In the first quarter alone, Waynes was targeted three times and gave up three completions for 52 yards. Tampa Bay’s opening drive resulted in a field goal in part because of easy back-to-back completions of 18 and 12 yards against Waynes. Late in the third quarter, Waynes was pulled for a series after playing a part in a miscommunication that resulted in a 16-yard completion on third-and-14. Waynes did notch an interception when he grabbed an underthrown ball at the goal line. “It was nice for him to get that interception,” Zimmer said. “He was playing a little cautiously early in the ballgame, so he just needed to take a breather, get back in there and go.”
5. Four TD drives, no penalties!
The Vikings have played two home games. They have 10 penalties for 103 yards while going 2-0 in those games. They’ve had one road game and had 11 penalties for 131 yards in a loss. A week after the flagfest in Pittsburgh, the Vikings had only five penalties for 53 yards against the Bucs. The flags we normally see that destroy scoring drives didn’t come at the rate they normally seem to come. In fact, the Vikings had four touchdown drives. Those drives covered 302 yards in 29 plays. And there wasn’t a single flag thrown on the offense in those four drives. The offense was called for illegal use of hands (Riley Reiff) and holding twice (Thielen, Nick Easton). “Each week is different,” Zimmer said when asked about the execution. “Different schemes, different things. … The offense, obviously, played outstanding.”