It had been 238 days since Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson was shoved out of bounds on the infamous 4th-and-8 check down throw from quarterback Kirk Cousins to lose the home playoff game against the New York Giants.
The taste in the mouths of Vikings fans, coaches, and players alike was as bitter as they come. U.S. Bank Stadium emptied slowly as thousands of fans trudged out into the Minnesota cold back to their cars as if they were the gallows. Those same fans, coaches, and players tasted a similar bitterness nearly nine months later.
Against the Giants, Minnesota got beat. The Vikings offense had to play a perfect game as the defense gave up scores like Halloween candy, allowing points on nearly every single New York offensive drive. However, on Sunday, Minnesota beat themselves, plain and simple.
The Vikings' offense accumulated a nice 369 yards, with 344 coming through the air, while the defense limited the Buccaneers to only 246 yards of total offense. Minnesota could not get out of the way of their own mistakes despite outplaying the Bucs for the majority of the game.
Two fumbles, an interception, and an offsides penalty on a field goal attempt that gave Tampa Bay a new set of downs and, ultimately, a touchdown were the recipe to the Vikings starting this season 0-1.
As Americans crave visual stimulation more than ever, with several screens showing several games at once, Red Zone's octobox, fast-paced cuts between games, and fans siphoning through their various fantasy teams, access to NFL games has never been in such abundance.
That being said, fans witnessed sloppy play across the entire league this past weekend - nothing out of the ordinary for Week 1 of the regular season, as players are still getting up to game speed. They don't call it "mid-season form" for nothing.
The Vikings looked far from mid-season form in Week 1. Fans may have had high expectations for Week 1 following last year's opener, which saw the dismantling of the Green Bay Packers at the hands of Justin Jefferson and company.
Minnesota's first drive of the season was a quick three-and-out, which saw a miss in pass pro from running back Alexander Mattison and a false start penalty on 3rd-and-3 where it seemed the entire offense was on the wrong page.
Kirk Cousins lost two fumbles on back-to-back drives. The first came on the Bucs' 25-yard line, which surely took points off the board for the Vikings, and the second on a strip sack by Tampa defender Antoine Winfield Jr. to give the Bucs the ball in Minnesota territory.
On the first fumble, it looked as though Vikings right guard Ed Ingram knocked the ball out of Cousins' hands as he was getting out of his stance, a freak play that normally would be addressed in the film room and repped until it does not happen again, but we have seen Ingram and Cousins get tied up in the past.
Against the Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys last season, Cousins fell down immediately upon the snap after it appeared Ingram had stepped on his foot, tripping the quarterback. Ingram has been the weak link of Minnesota's offensive line by far, from letting up pressure to causing them himself.
The second fumble was a creative blitz design by Tampa Bay head coach Todd Bowles. The Bucs were aligned in an odd-stack front, meaning they had three down linemen with the Mike linebacker stacked over the center.
On 3rd-and-6, the Bucs sent pressure after Cousins, with Winfield blitzing from his safety position. Because he was blitzing from depth, he was completely unaccounted for as far as the protection goes, which gave him a free shot at Cousins.
Tampa also sent linebacker Devin White on a blitz as well, who was picked up by fullback C.J. Ham. Pre-snap, it looked like both Lavonte David and Shaq Barrett were going to be bringing pressure as well, but on the snap, they both dropped back into coverage which fooled Cousins and caused him to hesitate, making him vulnerable for the strip sack.
It was a nice design by the Bucs, and it will be a pressure look that the Vikings will often see this year as a result of the strip sack. It's on Minnesota head coach Kevin O'Connell and Cousins to address that in the film room and correct it on the practice field.
The interception before the half was a critical error by Cousins. In that situation, the only thing a quarterback can't do is turn the ball over, and that is just what he did. Cousins was rightfully furious on the sideline after the play.
The reason why it was a bad decision to try and fit the ball into Vikings receiver K.J. Osborn at the goal line was because the margin for error on the throw was so small, and it was an unnecessary risk.
Cousins had to put the ball right on the numbers for Osborn. If it's too far in front, the ball could be picked off by the safety, and if it's too far behind, the ball could end up in the hands of the corner.
On second down with a timeout still available, there was no reason to put the ball in danger. It was a missed opportunity for the Vikings to get points before halftime.
Perhaps the worst mistake of the day for Minnesota came on the offsides penalty on a Tampa Bay field-goal attempt that gave the Bucs a new set of downs and set them up for the go-ahead touchdown on the first drive of the second half. A play that resulted in a four-point swing in a game the Vikings lost by three. Even that mistake is the result of the Week 1 jitters.
It is not time to hit the panic button just yet for Minnesota fans or the organization. Cousins put together a solid outing, throwing for 344 yards and two touchdowns - one to rookie Jordan Addison and the other to Mattison, who displayed his physical running style all afternoon.
Justin Jefferson looked dominant as well, racking up 150 receiving yards. The Vikings' defense dominated in the first half, but they were put in bad situations by the offense's turnovers.
There is plenty to be excited about with this football team. It was a bad loss and not how anyone in purple wanted to start the year. However, everyone needs to quickly regroup for Thursday's big road matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.