Buccaneers vs. Vikings score: Tom Brady overcomes early struggles to hand Minnesota its seventh loss

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came out of the bye week on a strong note, beating the Minnesota Vikings, 26-14, at Raymond James Stadium. From the start, this game looked like it was going to go against Bruce Arians and company as the Vikings had a rather dominant first quarter with the Bucs struggling to get things going offensively. The problem, however, was that the hot start only produced six points for the Vikings, who are now back under .500 on the season at 6-7. 

Part of the reason why that strong start failed to produce points was due to the struggles by kicker Dan Bailey. After Cook was able to open up the scoring with a one-yard touchdown, Bailey missed the extra point and began a horrid day for the veteran. In all, he missed four kicks: That extra point and three field-goal attempts that would have equaled 10 points for Minnesota.

As the Vikings failed to create separation on the scoreboard, the Buccaneers were able to shake off the bye week rust. Tom Brady hit Scotty Miller on a 48-yard touchdown to take the lead and Tampa Bay never looked back, scoring 23 answered. Brady finished his day with two touchdowns and 196 yards passing. Meanwhile, Cousins had 225 yards through the air and one score along with a late fumble that clinched the game for Tampa Bay. Despite the loss, Cook found success on the ground and finished with 102 yards on 4.6 yards per carry. 

Why Tampa Bay won

Tampa Bay didn't get out to the best start in this game as they only held the ball for around two-and-a-half minutes in the first quarter. That said, they were able to hang around thanks to miscues in the Minnesota kicking game that allowed them to shake off some of the rust coming out of the bye week. Tom Brady hit Scotty Miller for a 48-yard touchdown that helped give Tampa Bay the lead and they essentially never looked back. That connection from Brady-to-Miller sparked the offense leading to 23 answered points that all but clinched them the win. Essentially, Bruce Arians' club just played turnover-free football and were able to capitalize on most of Minnesota's mistakes. After each of Dan Bailey's missed field goals, the Bucs were able to score in some capacity, totaling 17 points in all. 

Why Minnesota lost

The Vikings started the game off on as solid of a note as you could imagine. In the first quarter, Dalvin Cook was able to lead the way as Minnesota piled up 71 total rushing yards against this top-ranked run defense for the Bucs. That success on the ground opened things up in the passing game off play-action and Kirk Cousins was able to complete his first eight passes for 67 yards. Defensively, Mike Zimmer's unit was also able to force Tampa Bay to punt on their first two possessions, giving them a 10 minutes time of possession advantage in the first quarter. All good and dandy, right? Wrong. The Achilles heel to that strong start was that it only produced six points. That came thanks to veteran kicker Dan Bailey, who missed an extra point and a field goal try over that opening stretch, leaving four points on the board. In all, Bailey had a miserable day, missing all four of his kicks (three field goals and an extra points) that resulted in the loss of 10 points. That inability to add to their lead kept Tampa Bay in the ballgame and, after shaking off their bye week rust, ripped off 23 unanswered points leaving Minnesota in the dust. 

On top of Bailey's poor day in the kicking game, the Vikings were penalized five times for a total of 57 yards. The killer infraction game in the closing second of the first half when the Minnesota secondary was flagged for defensive pass interference in the end zone as Tom Brady chucked a Hail Mary to Rob Gronkowski in the end zone. That allowed Tampa Bay to get the ball at the one-yard line and kick a field goal, adding three unnecessary points. 

Turning point

When Dan Bailey missed the extra point attempt following Dalvin Cook's touchdown at the start of the second quarter, that started to set off alarms that this may not be his day. Remember, Bailey was coming into this matchup with Tampa  Bay after missing two extra points a week ago against the Jaguars. That proved to be a wise intuition as the veteran melted down the rest of the way, which allowed the Buccaneers to not only stay in the game but take over. Once Scotty Miller got Tampa Bay on the board with that 48-yard touchdown that also gave them the lead and the Vikings responded with a three-and-out drive that lasted 23 seconds, the tides shifted dramatically. 

Play of the game

Can't ask for much more than what Tom Brady and Scotty Miller did on this play. Brady showed that his 43-year old arm still can uncork a deep ball when he needs to and Miller flashed his speed and ability to catch the deep shot while under pressure. Not only was this the play of the day, but it was a huge turning point in the contest as it gave Tampa Bay the lead which they held onto throughout. While that may have been Miller's only catch of the day, he sure made it count.   

What's next

From here, the Bucs will begin a two-week road trip that will make stops in Atlanta and Detroit before wrapping up the regular season at home against the Falcons. As for the Vikings, they'll head back to Minnesota and await the Bears for an NFC North head-to-head in Week 15. 

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SUN 1:00 P
TB -7, o52.5
FOX
TB -7, O/U 52.5

Season Leaders

passing
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K. Cousins 4265 YD, 35 TDS, 13 INTS
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K. Cousins 4265 YD, 35 TDS, 13 INTS
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T. Brady 4633 YD, 40 TDS, 12 INTS
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T. Brady 4633 YD, 40 TDS, 12 INTS
rushing
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D. Cook 312 ATT, 1557 YD, 16 TDS
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D. Cook 312 ATT, 1557 YD, 16 TDS
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R. Jones 192 ATT, 978 YD, 7 TDS
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R. Jones 192 ATT, 978 YD, 7 TDS
receiving
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J. Jefferson 88 REC, 1400 YD, 7 TDS
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J. Jefferson 88 REC, 1400 YD, 7 TDS
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M. Evans 70 REC, 1006 YD, 13 TDS
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M. Evans 70 REC, 1006 YD, 13 TDS
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@Vikings via Twitter
December 13, 2020, 9:31 PM
@Vikings via Twitter
December 13, 2020, 9:19 PM
@Vikings via Twitter
December 13, 2020, 9:11 PM

Right on cue, Thielen comes up huge with a fourth down conversion.

Tampa Bay has done a solid job at silencing Adam Thielen today. Only has two catches for 30 yards and most of that damage was done earlier in this game.

That's what makes Justin Jefferson so special. Sure, there will be a bunch of big highlights from this rookie season, but being able to catch that type of pass in that big of a moment is unbelievable.

My goodness. What a horrible day for Dan Bailey -- Three missed field goals and a missed extra point.

@Vikings via Twitter
December 13, 2020, 8:26 PM
@Vikings via Twitter
December 13, 2020, 8:20 PM

Huge stop by the Vikings defense. Forces a quick three-and-out by the Bucs that lasts just 51 seconds. Kirk Cousins and the offense will get it right back with a chance to further cut into the Tampa Bay lead.

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