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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 24: Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is hit by defender Anthony Barr #55 of the Minnesota Vikings as he throws the ball in the first half of the game on September 24, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

By Leo Haggerty
It’s Sports Magazine

A lot of people, including myself, saw the outcome of the contest between the Bucs and the Vikings in Minnesota last Sunday hinging on the availability of Vikes QB Sam Bradford. When #8 was ruled out for the tilt on Friday afternoon that seemed to scream “advantage Bucs” to anyone that was interested. On paper, the Pewter Pirates looked to have a decided edge having to go against backup signal-caller Case Keenum at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Well, now you know why they play the game. Minnesota took the opening kickoff and, after seven plays that traversed 75 yards, scored on a 1 yard plunge by RB Dalvin Cook and never looked back.

Tampa Bay answered with a 40 yard field goal by Nick Folk to make the score 7-3. That’s the closest the Buccaneers would get as the Vikings reeled off the next 21 points and won 34-17. Minnesota moved to 2-1 on the season and the Bucs are now 1-1 after Week 3.

What happened, you ask? In my opinion, a combination of factors all came together leading to a Buccaneer loss with three of the four effecting the defense.

The first was LB Kwon Alexander had to be scratched due to a balky hamstring. For whatever reason, Tampa Bay is a much better team with #58 in the game. The former LSU product is the one who calls the alignments for DC Mike Smith and is the acknowledged captain of the group. Basically, he’s the heart-and-soul of the Pewter Pirates and his absence left a huge hole in the defense not just physically but mentally as well as emotionally.

The second was the flu bug. Two more starters, DT Chris Baker and CB Brent Grimes were stricken and had to be inactivated.

The third was the in-game injuries. CB Vernon Hargreaves and LB Lavonte David both go down with leg injuries and had to be replaced by backups.

The fourth, and final, factor was that QB Jameis Winston had a less-than-stellar performance. #3 was 28 for 40 for 328 yards and a couple of touchdowns. That’s not bad but the three interceptions he threw were damaging to say the least. Every one occurred while the Pewter Pirates were on the Vikings side of midfield and cost Tampa Bay a possible 21 points.

Roll all four together and you get the “perfect storm” that led to the Bucs demise in the Twin Cities. Plus, Keenum played like a Pro Bowler going 25 of 33 for 369 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions. To add to that, Cook didn’t play like a rookie with 97 yards on 27 carries.

Keep this in mind, Bucs fans. There’s an old adage in football that goes, “You’re never as bad as you looked when you lose and you’re never as good as you looked when you win.” The Pewter Pirates may just have validated that saying with their performances in their first two encounters.