It certainly wasn't the way the Minnesota Vikings drew it up on Sunday afternoon in Tennessee, but in the end it wound up being effective.
After falling behind 10-0 at halftime, the Vikings stormed back behind their defense and put up 25 unanswered points. . .without scoring an offensive touchdown. . .and defeated the Tennessee Titans in their 2016 regular season opener by a score of 25-16.
The Titans got on the board first in this one, as they pushed deep into Minnesota territory on their second drive of the game. They had to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Ryan Succop to stake themselves to an early 3-0 lead. Those were the only points of the first quarter, but the Vikings ended the quarter at the Tennessee 13-yard line. Minnesota had to settle for a field goal attempt of their own, but Blair Walsh came out and missed a 37-yard field goal wide to the left and kept the Titans ahead by that 3-0 score.
The game remained at that score until the very end of the first half, as the Titans pushed deep into Minnesota territory and ultimately set themselves up with first-and-goal at the Minnesota 6-yard line. On second-and-goal, Marcus Mariota hit running back DeMarco Murray from six yards out, with Ryan Succop's extra point making the score 10-0. The Vikings got themselves into position for another field goal, but Walsh badly missed a 56-yard attempt to send the Vikings into the locker room looking at a 10-0 deficit.
Minnesota got on the board on their first possession of the second half. Cordarrelle Patterson started the half with a big 61-yard kick return to put the Vikings into Tennessee territory, but the drive stalled and Blair Walsh came out again. This time, Walsh knocked it home from 50 yards out to cut the Tennessee lead to 10-3.
The Vikings forced the Titans to punt on their next possession, and Minnesota pushed into Tennessee territory once again. Unfortunately for the Vikings. . .say it along with me. . .the Vikings' drive stalled and the Vikings had to call on Walsh once again for a 33-yard attempt. Walsh connected on the kick, cutting the deficit to just 10-6 with about six minutes left in the third quarter.
The big play of the game came on the next drive. On a 2nd-and-3 from the Minnesota 24, Everson Griffen got pressure on Marcus Mariota and forced him to throw a short pass to his left. Eric Kendricks stepped in front of the receiver for his first career NFL interception. He then turned it into his first NFL touchdown, as he took it 77 yards for a score, giving the Vikings a 12-10 lead after Blair Walsh. . .of course. . .missed the extra point.
After another Walsh field goal, this one from 45, made the score 15-10 in favor of Minnesota, the defense stepped up again in a big way. There was some miscommunication in the backfield between Mariota and his running back, and the ball wound up on the ground. Defensive end Danielle Hunter picked it up and rumbled 22 yards for his first NFL touchdown! Walsh drilled the extra point, and suddenly the Vikings were ahead 22-10 with eleven minutes left in the game.
Minnesota's defense forced another turnover on Tennessee's next possession, as Shamar Stephen stripped DeMarco Murray and Andrew Sendejo recovered at the Tennessee 46-yard line. They didn't convert that turnover, but on their next possession they added to their lead with another field goal from Walsh, as he connected from 30 yards out to make the score 25-10.
Tennessee got a late touchdown pass from Mariota to DeMarco Murray to cut the score to 25-16. For some reason, the Titans attempted to go for two to cut it to seven rather than cutting it to eight with an extra point, but failed. Minnesota recovered the ensuing onside kick, and went to the victory formation to go to 1-0 on the season.
For all the controversy about the quarterback situation in this one, Shaun Hill didn't play a bad game. He completed 18-of-33 passes for 236 yards and, most importantly, didn't turn the ball over. Stefon Diggs had a big game, leading the Minnesota receivers with seven catches for 103 yards. The Titans stymied Adrian Peterson all day, as he gained just 31 yards on 19 carries and didn't have a run longer than nine yards.
For the Titans, Mariota completed 25-of-41 passes for 271 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. The Titans' running game didn't do much, as Henry and Mariota combined for just 45 yards on 18 carries. Tajae Sharpe led the Titans in receiving with seven catches for 76 yards, while DeMarco Murray had both of Tennessee's touchdowns on the afternoon, catching both of Mariota's scoring throws.
The big story in this one, however, was the Minnesota defense. After looking lethargic in the first half and going into the locker room 10-0, they came roaring back, forcing three turnovers and contributing Minnesota's only two touchdowns of the afternoon.
The Vikings move to 1-0 on the season, and will open up the first regular season at U.S. Bank Stadium next Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers. The Titans go to 0-1, and will play another NFC North team next week when they make a trip to the Motor City to take on the Lions.
The Minnesota Vikings win a bit ugly to start the regular season, taking down the Tennessee Titans by a score of 25-16. Thanks to everyone that got their coverage of this week's contest right here at The Daily Norseman!