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Sunday, Dec 17, 2017
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Bucs' 34-17 loss to the Vikings was all about pain and frustration

MINNEAPOLIS — Late in the Bucs' egg-laying 34-17 loss to the Vikings, linebacker Lavonte David had his leg rolled up from behind by an offensive lineman and injured his left ankle. The game was paused and a cart summoned onto U.S. Bank Stadium to carry David to the locker room.

The Bucs could've filled it with many more passengers.

X-rays on David proved negative but he was on crutches after the game.

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had a walking boot on his right ankle.

Defensive end Noah Spence dislocated his right shoulder, the one that required surgery in the off-season for a torn labrum.

At one point or another, defensive end Robert Ayers and cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves and Ryan Smith left the game due to injury but finished the contest. Three other starters — cornerback Brent Grimes (shoulder), linebacker Kwon Alexander (hamstring) and defensive tackle Chris Baker (flu) — were too hurt or sick to play.

"Regardless of how bad I was hurting, I could not stay off the field," McCoy said dressing slowly. "I had to go. ... They needed me out there. I'll be honest, I was in a lot of pain."

After Sunday's defeat, doctors may be needed for all the Bucs fans injured jumping off the bandwagon.

Pain and frustration was what the Bucs' lopsided loss to the Vikings was all about. For the third time in as many seasons, the Bucs made career backup Case Keenum look like Brett Favre in his heyday.

Keenum, who beat the Bucs in each of the past two seasons while playing for the Rams, bombed away again Sunday with a career-high 369 yards passing and three touchdowns. He had completions of 45 yards, 47 yards and 59 yards, the last one for a touchdown to Stefon Diggs.

Since the start of 2015, Keenum has five TD passes of 43 yards or more against the Bucs.

The rest of the league has three during that stretch.

More damning is the fact that Keenum's record is 3-0 versus Tampa Bay and 7-16 against everyone else.

The Bucs offense didn't help. It was 1-for-6 on third down. After falling behind 28-3, Jameis Winston played a little better to finish with 328 yards passing and two touchdowns. But he was intercepted three times, twice in the fourth quarter.

After the Bucs had closed to 31-17 in the third quarter, Winston misfired to DeSean Jackson and was picked off by safety Andrew Sendejo. Receiver Mike Evans promptly lost it. He kicked over a bin full of ice and drinks on the Bucs sideline.

"It was very frustrating," Evans said. "I lost my cool in the third quarter after a turnover. I can't do that. I'm a captain. Playing with passion is cool but I've got to fight my emotions better than that and I've got to understand it's just one game. I wanted this one bad. I wanted us to start out 2-0. But it's football. It happens."

The Bucs' performance a week after beating Chicago in their home opener was eerily similar to their 40-7 defeat at Arizona after being Atlanta in the 2016 opener.

"Think we got beat in every way you can get beat today," coach Dirk Koetter said.

"We couldn't really stop the run, we couldn't cover and we had no pass rush. I mean, there wasn't much good. They did a good job of mixing. Case Keenum has been lights out every time we've played him. He looked like the best player in the NFL again today. He hit those deep balls and gave his receivers a chance and they made the plays."

Nobody made more plays than Diggs (eight catches, 173 yards, 2 TDs) and rookie running back Dalvin Cook, the player the Bucs had targeted in the NFL draft until tight end O.J. Howard fell to them. Cook, the former Florida State star, rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries and five catches for 72 yards.

Let the record show Howard had one catch for 11 yards.

"They beat our butt," David said. "Point blank."

The hole the Bucs dug Sunday could only get deeper. Tampa Bay hosts the Eli Manning and the 0-3 New York Giants next Sunday. Four days later, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots come to town.

"I don't what's going to have to be done but something," McCoy said. "If we don't fix it, it's like history is repeating itself."

Contact Rick Stroud at [email protected] Follow @NFLStroud

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