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5 things that stood out in the Vikings' loss to Buccaneers

Did Ivan Pace Jr. take his foot off the gas when he had a chance to knock Baker Mayfield out of bounds on a critical play late in the game?
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The bar was set high for the Minnesota Vikings this season and stumbling out of the gate with a home loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is not how many envisioned the season starting, but that's what happened and the pressure is on as Minnesota has to win at Philadelphia on Thursday night to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole. 

The opener was ugly from start to finish. Here are five things that really stood out. 

1. Tale of two halves for Cousins, Jefferson

Kirk Cousins threw for 273 yards in the first half and Justin Jefferson had 138 receiving yards in the first half. They both went silent in the second half, with Cousins adding just 71 yards and Jefferson going for just 12 additional yards. 

The second half was a disaster for the offense, though they only had three possessions as the Bucs controlled the clock for about 20 minutes of the 30 minutes in the second half. 

For the half, Cousins was 11 of 16 for 71 yards, including two completions that went for negative yards to tight end T.J. Hockenson. Despite completing the majority of his attempts, the yardage wasn't there and Minnesota went 3-and-out on its last two possessions of the game. 

2. Throw the first quarter in the trash

The first quarter was a nightmare for Minnesota's offense. The first possession ended with a punt after a false start on right tackle Brian O'Neill. The second drive ended when right guard Ed Ingram knocked the ball out Kirk Cousins's hands for a fumble. The third drive also ended in a Cousins lost fumble when Antoine Winfield Jr. blitzed for a strip sack. And the fourth drive of the first quarter was a 3-and-out after Cousins threw short to Jordan Addison on 4th-and-3. 

3. Ugly offense, defense late in the first half

Late in the first half the Vikings had the ball with a chance to eat clock and add to a 10-3 lead. Instead, the offense went 3-and-out, with head coach Kevin O'Connell deciding to punt rather than get aggressive on 4th-and-1 from their own 23. After an ugly 38-yard punt, Tampa had the ball at their own 39 with 2:39 left on the clock. It took them 90 seconds to go 61 yards on seven plays before scoring on a 28-yard pass from Baker Mayfield to a wide open Mike Evans. 

The Vikings got the ball back with 1:09 to go and 42-yard catch-and-run by Jefferson set the Vikings up at the Tampa 13-yard line when Cousins threw behind K.J. Osborn and the pass was stolen from his hands by Christian Izien at the goal line for Cousins's third turnover of the first half. 

4. Backbreaking offsides leads to Tampa touchdown

With 6:44 left in the third quarter the Vikings were called for offsides that turned what would've been a field goal attempt (which Chase McLaughlin made) into a first down. Rookie safety Jay Ward was called for the penalty, though on the replay it looked like two or three players were lined up across the ball. 

The result of the first down was Tampa scoring on a touchdown pass from Mayfield to rookie Trey Palmer. Instead of trailing 13-10, the Vikings were down 17-10. Those four extra points were huge in a game the Vikings lost by three. 

Tampa's 16-play drive ate 8 minutes, 59 seconds off the clock to start the second half. 

5. Ivan Pace Jr. too soft on critical play?

The rookie inside linebacker was all hype during training camp and preseason, so much so that he made the team and was playing significant snaps in the season opener. But with the game on the line and a chance to deliver a blow to a scrambling Baker Mayfield, Pace let up and basically walked Mayfield out of bounds rather than hitting him to stop him short of a first down. 

That play was 3rd-and-10 after the two-minute warning. Had Pace knocked Mayfield out short of the sticks, the Bucs would've either been forced to kick a field goal or go for it on fourth down. One way or another, the Vikings would've had another chance. Instead, the first down allowed the Bucs to end the game with three kneeldowns and leave Minneapolis with a victory.