Teddy Bridgewater was coming off one of his better weeks of practice, so Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer had a good feeling about the way the rookie quarterback might play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"I told him before the ballgame: 'Now let's take it out to the game and let's play like you can,'" Zimmer said after the Vikings beat the Bucs 19-13 in overtime Sunday. "I thought he stepped up and played much better."
The first-round draft pick threw for 241 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, cutting down on mistakes that have undermined his performance since taking over the starting job earlier than expected with the injured Matt Cassel out for the rest of the season.
"He was up and down. He took good care of the football, which we asked him to do. He was only sacked one time, so those things are important, too," Zimmer said.
"We're definitely having a hard time scoring points. We have to do a better job there, but I think his composure was very good today. He took some shots down the field, which we have to do," the first-year coach added. "We've got to be able to take some, and we missed them. But if we keep throwing, we'll hit some."
Bridgewater led a nine-play, 61-yard drive in the final 2 minutes of regulation to extend the game on Blair Walsh's 32-yard field goal. Another rookie drafted in the first round, linebacker Anthony Barr, forced a fumble on the first play from scrimmage in overtime and returned it 27 yards to win it just 17 seconds into the extra period.
"It feels good. It's a momentum booster for me," Bridgewater said. "All we can do is continue to build off it."
Bridgewater completed 24 of 42 passes, including a 17-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings for a 10-0 lead midway through the third quarter.
The Vikings (3-5) improved to 2-2 in those games, with both wins coming on the road.
Tampa Bay (1-6), playing for the first time since allowing Joe Flacco to throw five touchdown passes in the first 16 minutes of a 48-17 loss to Baltimore, fell to 0-4 at home. The Bucs have lost 16 straight games in which the opponent scored first.
Coach Lovie Smith hoped last week's bye would help his team return with a more competitive effort.
"Ideally that's not how we wanted to start it, as simple as that," Smith said. "We let one slip away. But after the disappointment, you still analyze where we are, and looking at our division we're still in it. At the end when you have a lead, you've got to be able to close it out, especially at home. Late in the game we needed someone to step up."
Barr also had eight tackles and a sack for Minnesota, which had been held to 10, 3 and 16 points during its three-game skid.
"I'm thinking win, score, get out of here," the linebacker said about the winning play.
And to think, the whole sequence began with the rookie being out of position, much to Zimmer's consternation.
"I was a little late to get there, but I was able to get my hand on the ball and strip it, and fortunate enough to pick it up and score," Barr said.
Barr ran down Bucs tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins after a 10-yard gain that would have given Tampa Bay a promising start to the extra period.
"Initially, I was a little bit upset with him because he didn't widen with the tight end enough, and he let him catch the ball," Zimmer said. "But now that it's over, I'm glad he did."
Reasons the Vikings stopped their losing streak and the Bucs remained winless at home:
STALKING THE QB: Bridgewater had one TD pass, threw five interceptions and was sacked 13 times in Minnesota's two previous games. Besides not turning the ball over, he was only sacked once Sunday. Meanwhile, the Vikings sacked Mike Glennon five times and had one interception.
SLOW START: The Bucs trailed 3-0 at the half and only had 97 yards through three quarters. They've scored 27 points in the first half all season.
QB QUESTIONS: Glennon directed two field goal drives before giving the Bucs a 13-10 with a 7-yard TD pass to Seferian-Jenkins with just over 2 minutes remaining in regulation. Glennon finished 19 of 28 for 171 yards. No word on whether that's good enough to keep the starting job he has held since Josh McCown injured his right thumb on Sept. 18. McCown did not play, but was active Sunday for the first time since getting hurt.
WOEFUL RUNNING ATTACK: The Bucs were held to 66 yards rushing. Doug Martin was limited to 27 on 10 carries before departing with a sore ankle in the third quarter.
GOOD 'D: The Vikings' defense allowed a season-low 225 yards. The Bucs were 1 of 12 on third-down conversions.
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