Another week, another loss for the Minnesota Vikings as they drop a 31-30 decision to the Tennessee Titans at U.S. Bank Stadium in Week 3. While it was their most competitive effort of the young season, the Vikings stole defeat from the hands of victory.
Paging Dr. Hawkeye Pierce
The Vikings came into this one very short-handed on defense. Linebacker Anthony Barr is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Cornerbacks Cam Dantzler, Mike Hughes, and Kris Boyd all sat this one out with injuries. Troy Dye did not play with an ankle issue, and Danielle Hunter missed his third game with a herniated disc in his neck. Hunter’s return next week is still in question, as the injury may be more severe than the Vikings have reported.
A Titanic Battle
Tennessee took advantage of the Vikings ‘depleted secondary right away with a 44-yard completion from Ryan Tannehill to Kalif Raymond on the second play from scrimmage. Raymond would end the day with 118 yards on three catches, marking the third consecutive week with a 100-yard receiver against Minnesota. A Tennessee holding penalty stalled the drive, and a Stephen Gostkowski 39-yard field goal put the Titans ahead 3-0. A Dalvin Cook fumble later in the quarter set up Gostkowski’s second field goal that extended the Titans’ lead to 6-0. Cook would redeem himself on the next drive with an electrifying 39-yard touchdown run that put the Vikings on top, 7-6, after Dan Bailey’s extra point. A solid Titans drive ended on a brilliant Harrison Smith interception, his first of the season. The Vikings went 88 yards after the pick, led by Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. The pair combined for 73 receiving yards on the drive, with Thielen picking up the final 19 on a great throw from Kirk Cousins and a better catch by Thielen. An exchange of field goals put the Vikings up 17-9 at the half.
And Then the Defense Disappeared
The Vikings took the ball to begin the second half and Kirk Cousins promptly threw an interception on the first play that originally looked like a pick-six. A Jadeveon Clowney blindside block nullified the touchdown, but the Titans were set up in great field position. Yannick Ngokoue came up with a big sack and the Titans came away from the turnover empty. The ensuing drive ended in a missed 49-yard field goal by Dan Bailey, his first miss in 22 tries. It would turn into a six-point swing when Gostkowski hit a 51-yard field goal, his fourth of the game, to cut the Vikings’ lead to 17-12. The Vikings would answer back two plays later when Cousins threw a bomb to Jefferson for a 71-yard touchdown strike, electrifying the approximately 250 members of the Vikings staff in the stands, and increasing the lead to 24-12. Vikings fans know we can’t have nice things, and less than seven minutes later, Tennessee had 13 points thanks to a pair of Derrick Henry one-yard touchdown runs, taking a 25-24 lead. Dalvin Cook would have no touches during this stretch for some unknown reason. Cook would have 31 yards on five carries in the drive following the Henry touchdown. The drive culminated in a spectacular three-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone by tight end Kyle Rudolph. The extra point was missed but the Vikings had recaptured the lead at 30-24.
Kicked to the Curb
Tennessee marched 39 yards on its next possession and Gostkowski would nail a 54-yard field goal to cut the Vikings’ lead to 30-28. An illegal block and a sack on the Vikings next drive led to a punt. Tannehill would move the Titans to the Vikings 38-yard line setting up Gostkowski for his sixth field goal of the game, this time a 55-yard bomb, that gave Tennessee the lead. Gostkowski, who had five missed field goals and a missed extra point in his first two games, was a perfect 6-of-6 on the day, including three from over 50 yards. The Vikings would still have 1:44 to move into field goal position, but after a roughing the passer penalty moved them to their own 40-yard line, Garrett Bradbury would have a horrible shotgun snap that led to a 2nd-and-24 situation. An incomplete pass then a desperation heave that ended in an interception sealed the Vikings’ fate.
Smell What Dalvin is Cookin’
Cook would have his best rushing day in the NFL, amassing 181 yards on 22 carries and his fourth touchdown of the season. The Vikings receiving corps was led by rookie Justin Jefferson, who had 175 yards on seven grabs. Cousins ended his day with 16 completions on 27 attempts for 251 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Ryan Tannehill would not have a touchdown pass but completed 23-of-37 passes for 321 yards. Derrick Henry broke the 100-yard rushing barrier for the first time on the season with 119 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. Raymond’s 118 receiving yards led the way for Tennessee.
The Vikings head to Houston to face the Texans in a battle of 0-3 teams. Tennessee heads home for a match-up of unbeatens when the Steelers head to Nashville.