The Vikings battled all game long and showed some positive signs on both sides of the ball, but still fell 31-30 to the Titans to drop to 0-3 on the season. A 55-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski, his sixth of the game, was the decider.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
Little things cost the Vikings
To win in the NFL, you can't make little mistakes and mental errors in big spots. The Vikings did exactly that. An illegal block above the waist penalty on Irv Smith Jr. stalled a crucial drive late in the game, and Garrett Bradbury snapped the ball too early – causing a fumble and a major loss of yards – to ruin the Vikings' last-ditch possession down by 1.
Those two plays were extremely costly. You can also question the Vikings' decision to go for 2 after taking a 30-25 lead, although it's understandable to want to take a seven-point lead. Two Gostkowski field goals from 50+ yards were enough for the Titans to stay undefeated.
Despite a few nice plays, defensive struggles continue
This was a very up-and-down performance by a beleaguered, banged-up Vikings defense. There were a couple nice moments: Harrison Smith had an interception, Yannick Ngakoue got a strip-sack for the second straight week, and Eric Kendricks was all over the place as usual.
But in the end, there were too many bad moments as the Titans rattled off 444 yards of offense. Ryan Tannehill threw for 321 and Derrick Henry ran for 119 and two scores. Vikings corners were burned deep on multiple occasions, including both Holton Hill and Jeff Gladney giving up huge gains to little-known speedster Kalif Raymond. Jonnu Smith and Corey Davis also had strong days in the passing game.
This is a defense that really misses Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr, unsurprisingly. They battled, but wound up falling just short in a shootout.
Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook go off
Last week against the Colts, the Vikings were held to 175 yards of total offense. They looked lackluster and lifeless.
That all changed on Sunday in Minneapolis. Behind huge days from star running back Dalvin Cook and rookie receiver Justin Jefferson, the Vikings put up 464 yards of offense. Kirk Cousins had his best game of the year, as did play-caller Gary Kubiak. It was a performance that showed what this offense was supposed to look like this year.
Cook helped the Vikings control the pace of the game, running for 181 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, also adding two catches for 18 yards. He got some solid blocking, but also did a lot of the work himself with sharp cuts and rapid acceleration. Highlighted by a 39-yard scamper for a touchdown in the first half, Cook showed why the Vikings gave him a big extension prior to this season.
But with all due respect to Cook, the story of the game was the rookie Jefferson. After catching just five balls for 70 yards in the first two games, the LSU product exploded for seven catches, 175 yards, and his first career touchdown. He was fed early and often, and made his first highlight-reel catch on a leaping 31-yard grab over Malcolm Butler. Then Jefferson took things to another level with a 71-yard touchdown grab in the third quarter.
Adam Thielen had just 29 receiving yards, although he did add his third touchdown catch of the season. That's a good sign for the Vikings' offense going forward.
This was clearly the Vikings' best all-around performance of the year, but it still results in a loss just like the first two.
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