The Vikings simply don't lose games in the month of August under Mike Zimmer. However, it's September now, and the same invincibility didn't carry over into the final preseason contest.
For the first time in nine preseason games under Mike Zimmer, the Minnesota Vikings came out on the short end of the scoreboard. The purple and gold lost to the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night in Nashville by a final score of 24-17.
The scoring got started very early on, as the Titans took just over a minute and a half to get on the board. They did so courtesy of the first touchdown pass of the preseason for rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota. The #2 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft found Harry Douglas for a 59-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring, giving Tennessee an early 7-0 lead.
Things did not go nearly as well for the Vikings on their first drive, as things ended in a turnover. Taylor Heinicke. . .who got the start and played the entire game at quarterback. . .found rookie Stefon Diggs on a third down completion, but Diggs fumbled the ball and Tennessee safety Michael Griffin recovered to set the Titans up on Minnesota's 20-yard line. The Titans capitalized seven plays later to extend their lead. After six straight runs by Bishop Sankey, including a fourth-down conversion, Zach Mettenberger found Rico Richardson on a 3-yard pass for another touchdown and a quick 14-0 Titans lead.
The night continued to go poorly for the Vikings, as their next possession resulted in another missed field goal by Blair Walsh, this one from 48 yards out. Minnesota didn't get on the board until just before halftime, as Walsh put one through the uprights from 33 yards out to make the score 14-3 going into the locker room.
Minnesota got the offense going on their first possession on the third quarter, as Heinicke moved the Vikings downfield in eight plays, culminating in a 14-yard touchdown toss to running back Dominique Williams to close the gap to 14-10. The teams then exchanged a few punts, and one of those punts led to a turnover as Marcus Sherels muffed a return attempt deep in Tennessee territory that the Titans recovered. The defense held strong, and the Titans had to settle for a 40-yard field goal from Ryan Succop to make the score 17-10.
Tennessee extended their lead even further on their next drive, as backup quarterback Alex Tanney found backup tight end Phillip Supernaw on a 1-yard pass to push the Titans' lead to 24-10 midway through the fourth quarter. The Vikings punted away on their next drive, and forced the Titans to do so as well. On the Titans punt, however, linebacker Michael Mauti came crashing through to block Brett Kern's punt attempt, and the Vikings were set up at the Tennessee 26-yard line.
Heinicke and company took advantage of the short field, as the rookie found Diggs for a 7-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 24-17 with just under four minutes remaining in the contest, but they would get no closer. Minnesota got one more possession, and a fourth-down conversion from Heinicke to Diggs was negated by a penalty on rookie fullback Blake Renaud. Heinicke was sacked on the next play, and the Titans took a knee to finish the contest.
In his big audition, Heinicke had a fairly solid night, completing 27-of-41 pass attempts for 279 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target on the evening was Diggs, who hauled in eight passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Whalen chipped in with four receptions for 65 yards, and rookie tight end MyCole Pruitt returned to bring in three passes for 41 yards.
The running game for the Vikings was, yet again, a disappointment. Dominique Williams was the team's leading rusher, carrying nine times for 24 yards. Heinicke had two runs for 21 yards, and DuJuan Harris managed just 15 yards on seven carries.
The Vikings fall to 4-1 for the preseason, and will start the regular season by playing the last game of the opening weekend of the season, traveling to San Francisco to take on the 49ers in the Monday Night Football late game. The Titans finish the preseason with a mark of 2-2, and will start the season a week from Sunday when they travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers.