One week after completely demolishing the Chicago Bears, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were supposed to affirm their position as NFC South title contenders by beating the Minnesota Vikings, who were forced to field Case Keenum at quarterback. Instead, the Vikings embarrassed the Bucs 34 to 17, with Keenum having a field day.
Keenum had been there before: this is the third straight year he’s beaten the Bucs, though never this comfortably. He made minced meat of a secondary that looked unbeatable the week before, finding Stefon Diggs deep again and again and again. Keenum finished the game with 369 passing yards and three touchdowns, while Diggs had a ridiculous 173 yards and two of those scores.
The Bucs defense was missing three starters in linebacker Kwon Alexander, cornerback Brent Grimes and defensive tackle Chris Baker—but that’s no excuse for this poor a performance. Starting cornerback Vernon Hargreaves was repeatedly embarrassed, for instance, while pass-rush was all but absent and the secondary, aside from T.J. Ward, struggled to make any kind of impact.
To make matters worse, the Bucs defense kept suffering seemingly minor injuries throughout the game. Hargreaves had to leave the field repeatedly, Ryan Smith got looked at, T.J. Ward left the field in the fourth quarter, Gerald McCoy had to be helped off the field at one point, Noah Spence missed a good chunk of play, and Lavonte David had to be carted off with an ankle injury late in the game. Even though most of those players returned to play, they weren’t 100% and their temporary absence hurt—and David’s injury seems to be a huge blow for the team.
The Bucs could have survived the defensive collapse had the offense not completely imploded in the first half, too. The running game was nowhere to be found, with just seven carries for 20 yards all game long. Jameis Winston struggled too, throwing one poor interception on an underthrown deep ball and once again failing to connect with DeSean Jackson or Mike Evans on deep throws.
Winston fixed that in the second half, finding Cameron Brate and DeSean Jackson for touchdowns in the third quarter—but it was too late at that point, and two fourth-quarter interceptions ended what little hopes the Bucs had left. The referees forgetting that hits to the head of defenseless receivers are illegal didn’t exactly help, either.
In the end, the Bucs were dominated throughout the game, and injuries or no, this is not a great sign for their performance going forward. Mike Evans perfectly showed the fans’ feelings after that game, I think.
Mike Evans showing his frustrations on the sideline pic.twitter.com/4FUWXIifeT— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) September 24, 2017
The Buccaneers are now 1-1 and are hosting the New York Giants next week.