For most of Sunday afternoon’s contest, it appeared that the Minnesota Vikings would avoid the sixth 0-3 start in franchise history. Unfortunately, they gave the Tennessee Titans enough opportunities, and they took advantage.
Behind six field goals from Stephen Gostkowski and a pair of touchdowns from Derrick Henry, the Titans overcame a breakout performance from Justin Jefferson and escaped from U.S. Bank Stadium with a 31-30 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
Tennessee got on the board first in this one, courtesy of a 39-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski to take a 3-0 lead. After the teams exchanged punts, the Vikings appeared to have something going, but a fumble by Dalvin Cook was recovered by Rashaan Evans and taken deep into Minnesota territory. Minnesota limited the damage, though, forcing the Titans to settle for a 31-yard field goal from Gostkowski to make the score 6-0.
Minnesota got a touchdown late in this first quarter, courtesy of an outstanding 39-yard touchdown run from Dalvin Cook. Dan Bailey connected on the extra point and made it 7-6 in favor of the home team with just over two minutes left in the first quarter.
Dalvin Cook is GONE.— USA TODAY NFL (@usatodaynfl) September 27, 2020
(Via @NFL) pic.twitter.com/NVdnzgCnCS
That’s how the first quarter ended, and the Titans went for the end zone on the first play of the second quarter, but Ryan Tannehill’s pass was intercepted by Harrison Smith to stop the drive.
The Hitman.#Skol pic.twitter.com/r3iTVqbOc6— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) September 27, 2020
The Vikings turned that drive into points, as Kirk Cousins found Adam Thielen for a 16-yard score. Rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson was key on the drive, making several big catches to set up Thielen’s score. Dan Bailey’s extra point extended Minnesota’s lead to 14-6.
.@KirkCousins8 with the strike to @athielen19— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) September 27, 2020
: @NFLonCBS pic.twitter.com/kLdsLd5wVj
The Titans got a third Gostkowski field goal near the end of the second quarter, this one a 30-yarder to cut the Minnesota lead to 14-9. Minnesota got a field goal of their own just before the half, as Dan Bailey connected from 41 yards out to give the home team a 17-9 lead going into the locker room.
The third quarter got off to an ugly start, as Cousins threw an interception to Johnathan Joseph that appeared to be a pick-six, but an illegal block on the Titans took the points off the board. A strong defensive stand by the Vikings resulted in no points off the turnover for Tennessee, as they were forced to punt it away.
The Titans did add a field goal midway through the third quarter, as Gostkowski connected from 51 to cut the Minnesota lead to 17-12. On the first play after the field goal, Justin Jefferson happened. Again.
#Vikings rookie 1st round pick Justin Jefferson with a 71-yard TD for his first career score.pic.twitter.com/zQcxZKYzmW— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 27, 2020
Cousins found Jefferson on play-action, and Jefferson did the rest for a 71-yard touchdown, his first in the NFL. That made the score 24-12 midway through the third quarter.
The Titans answered on their next drive, getting Derrick Henry into the end zone from a yard out to cut the lead to 24-19 late in the third quarter. After a quick three-and-out for the Vikings, the Titans quickly scored again, with a 62-yard pass from Tannehill to Kalif Raymond leading to a second 1-yard touchdown from Henry to make the score 25-24 in favor of the visitors.
Minnesota needed an answer, and they got one on Cousins’ third touchdown pass of the day, this one coming from a ridiculous catch by Kyle Rudolph in the back of the end zone. The Vikings went for two and did not succeed, but they did take the lead back at 30-25 with just over ten minutes left.
What a snag, @KyleRudolph82!#Skol— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) September 27, 2020
: @NFLonCBS pic.twitter.com/WpKeooEmGV
The Titans cut the lead to two thanks to Gostkowski’s fifth field goal of the afternoon, this one a 54-yard blast that made it 30-28 with six and a half minutes remaining in regulation.
Minnesota was forced to punt on the ensuing possession, and the Titans maneuvered down the field and got Gostkowski into position again, this time for a 55-yard attempt. Gostkowski was true again, and the Vikings once again trailed, 31-30 with 1:44 remaining in the game and no timeouts.
The final drive can generously be summed up as a disaster, featuring a misplayed snap between Garrett Bradbury and Kirk Cousins and the interior of the Vikings’ offensive line getting decimated. Cousins had to throw up a prayer from Thielen on 4th-and-24, but it was intercepted and that ended the game.
Justin Jefferson was the big story of the afternoon for the Vikings, as he caught seven passed for 175 yards and a touchdown after seeing very few touches in the first two games of the season. Dalvin Cook also had a big afternoon, rushing for a career-high 181 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Still, it was not enough for the Vikings to avoid their third consecutive loss.
The Vikings fall to 0-3 on the season, and will travel to take on the Houston Texans next Sunday afternoon. The Titans move to 3-0, having won their three games by a combined total of six points, and will take on the Pittsburgh Steelers next weekend.
The Vikings lose a heartbreaker to fall to 0-3 on the year, as they lose 31-30 to the Tennessee Titans at U.S. Bank Stadium. Thank you to everyone that got their coverage of this week’s game right here at The Daily Norseman!