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The Minnesota Vikings gave up just 225 yards to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, but their special teams handed over nearly another 100 yards of field position, thanks to an ongoing penalty problem and a few poorly-placed punts from Jeff Locke.
Both cornerback Jabari Price and safety Antone Exum -- two of the Vikings' repeat offenders on special teams -- were flagged for holding on punt returns. Price's penalty wiped out a 42-yard return from Marcus Sherels, taking the Vikings back to their own 35 after Sherels' runback put Minnesota at Tampa Bay's 26. The Vikings also had a penalty for a horse collar tackle on the opening kickoff in overtime, though that penalty was offset by a Buccaneers holding penalty.
Locke, meanwhile, boomed punts to the end zone from 49, 50 and 41 yards out, missing three chances to pin the Buccaneers deep in the end zone and finishing the day with a meager 35.1-yard net average.
One of the things that led the Vikings to Locke was his ability to pin opponents deep, especially with the Aussie-style kick he's used from less than 50 yards out. The fact he wasn't able to do it on Sunday cost the Vikings 60 yards, but coach Mike Zimmer sounded more irked about the penalties than the punts after the game.
"(The touchbacks were) disappointing, but it's even more disappointing the penalties that we've had in the kicking game," Zimmer said. "(It's) all these young guys, and I'm just about fed up with it."
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said he would think about making changes to special teams units if the same players were being penalized, and it will be interesting to see if the Vikings look to pull Price or Exum off any units this week. Both rookies have been among the leading culprits in the Vikings' special teams penalty problem, and Zimmer's comments on Sunday might provide the fuel for a change."
In case you missed it on ESPN.com:
Our Rapid Reaction looks at the Vikings' 19-13 overtime victory -- their first ever at Raymond James Stadium.
ESPN Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas and I awarded our game balls to Barr and Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Best of the rest:
Barr is turning into a breakout star as a rookie, writes Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The rookie linebacker has provided something for the Vikings to build on in a season that hasn't gone according to plan, according to Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.