1. Ward told he wasn't offsides

Rookie safety Jay Ward had the most easily avoidable gaffe among the many blunders the Vikings made during Sunday's 20-17 season-opening loss to Tampa Bay at U.S. Bank Stadium. So, Jay, why didn't you check with line judge Mark Stewart before lining up offsides on the Buccaneers' 31-yard field goal attempt on fourth-and-2? "I looked over and got the thumbs up from [Stewart] before the snap," Ward said. "He said I was good. Then when I looked back after they made the field goal, they said I was offsides." The Bucs took the field goal off the board and scored a touchdown three plays later to take a 17-10 lead. Fellow Vikings rookie NaJee Thompson was dressing nearby when he said, "Ooh, man, criticizing the refs? Fined your first week in the NFL?" Ward shook his head and said, "Not criticizing. Just saying what happened."

2. Jones' ill-timed jump turned tide on third-down dominance

The Bucs were 0-for-6 on third downs — all coming third-and-4 or longer — when Pat Jones II jumped offsides on third-and-7 late in the first half. "That's part of the game," Jones said. "You're always trying to get a jump on the ball." The Bucs converted the third-and-2 en route to a game-tying touchdown. "That's on me," Jones said. "Sometimes, you jump. I have to do better." Throwing more quickly in the second half, the Bucs converted 5 of 7 on third-and-4 or longer. The Vikings' defense faced 12 third downs of 4 or more yards 12 times in Brian Flores' first game as coordinator. Flores rushed three men six times, including four with a seven-man pre-snap front. He rushed four men three times, six twice and five once. A key third-and-8 stop in the fourth quarter was a six-man rush from a four-man pre-snap look. The Vikings offense then went three-and-out to set up the Bucs' winning field goal.

3. Be it Ed D or B-Flo, zero takeaways doom the Vikings

Danielle Hunter may have summed things up best when he said, "I think this defense confuses offenses, offensive linemen, quarterbacks. It's designed to do that. But you lose the takeaway battle 3-0, you still lose." The Bucs got three takeaways, turning them into 3 points and a red-zone stop. Meanwhile, Flores' defense had zero takeaways, something his beleaguered predecessor, Ed Donatell, didn't experience until Week 10 a year ago. As bad as Donatell's defense was, it did rank eighth in takeaways while helping win four one-score games with turnovers in the final 1:19 of regulation or overtime. The 2022 Vikings were 12-1 when they had a takeaway and 1-4 when they didn't. Counting last year's playoff upset to the Giants, the Vikings have now lost two straight one-score games while failing to produce a takeaway. "We need to correct that," Hunter said.

4. Hunter one step closer to $3 million incentive

Weeks after his "hold-in" forced the Vikings to bump his pay with a one-year deal worth up to $20 million, Hunter showed why the Vikings had no other choice but to pay da man. The Bucs' first snap was a tipped pass by Hunter. He followed with a game-high two tackles for loss, seven tackles and the only sack of Baker Mayfield, which came on third-and-6 and held the Bucs to a field goal after the Vikings' first turnover. Hunter dropped into shallow coverage only twice on a couple third-and-short situations but spent most of his day charging forward like the edge rusher the team pays him to be. "I was a little gassed at the end," he said. Hunter sat out some first- and second-down situations in the first half. "I was over on the sideline cramping up," he said. "But it's all good." Hunter's contract guarantees him $17 million. He gets another $1 million for 11 sacks, $2 million for 12 ½ sacks or $3 million for 14 sacks.

5. KOC 1-0 in challenges, but Bowles wins with new kicker

After going 2-2 in challenges as a rookie head coach last year, Kevin O'Connell won his only challenge Sunday when replays reversed a Bucs catch for a first down midway through the first quarter. That led to a punt following a Vikings turnover. Bucs coach Todd Bowles went 0-for-1, failing to overturn the spot of the ball on a failed third-and-1 try on the game-winning drive. The Bucs converted fourth-and-1 en route to showing why Bowles wanted to sign Chase McLaughlin to replace Ryan Succop as his kicker. Succop made 2 of 7 field goals of 50-plus last year. McLaughlin made 9 of 12 in Indianapolis and 17 of 21 for his career before tying his career-long of 57 yards for the winning field goal with 5:10 left against the Vikings.