With two teams heading in opposite directions, you kind of figured that the Titans would get a good effort from the Vikings today. That’s exactly what happened, complete with a bounceback game from Kirk Cousins.
Dalvin Cook put his team in an early bind, fumbling and setting Ryan Tannehill up with field position, but made up for it almost immediately with a 39 yard touchdown run. That score gave the lead to Minnesota for the first time at 7-6.
Momentum shifted rather quickly in this one, even more so when left tackle Taylor Lewan exited the game with a shoulder injury. Ryan Tannehill, who wasn’t sharp to start this one, tossed a pick in the endzone right after that, giving the Vikings a chance to take control — which is exactly what they did.
Kirk Cousins worked the ball down the field to rookie Justin Jefferson, then Adam Thielen worked past Johnathan Joseph in the endzone to score.
The following Titans drive offered the same result — a field goal. It was the theme of the first half as Arthur Smith’s offense continued to sputter when it mattered the most.
With the state of the secondary and the struggles of the offense, the Titans felt fortunate to be down just 17-9 at the halftime break.
Tennessee needed a spark, and they immediately got it. Johnathan Joseph picked of Kirk Cousins and scored, but an illegal blindside block on the return forced the offense into action at the Minnesota 42. That penalty turned out to be a massive one, as the offense once again couldn’t get anything going and was forced to punt.
After the Titans’ defense got another stop, they added — yep — another field goal. The positive of the day was that Stephen Gostkowski was 4-4 on the day. The negative? Rookie receiver Justin Jefferson had himself a day.
Cousins found Jefferson on a 71 yard catch and run for the rookie’s first career touchdown. The Tennessee secondary was being torched once again — a sight all too familiar so far in this young season.
The Vikings lead moved to 24-12. If the Titans were going to come back, it was time for a few touchdowns. Finally, the offense answered. A big play from Corey Davis set the Titans up inside of the ten, then Derrick Henry went to work. Henry got to the one, and finally punched it in to bring the score back to 24-19.
A quick three and out from the Vikings and another long pass to Kalif Raymond flipped this game on its head. Derrick Henry punched in another, and just like that, the Titans led at 25-24.
Now it was on the Vikings to respond, which they did rather quickly. Dalvin Cook kept piling up the yards, gashing the Titans’ front time and time again. He got Minnesota to the redzone, while Cousins did the rest. Kyle Rudolph made a spectacular grab in the back of the endzone, grabbing the lead right back for the Vikings.
Cousins misfired on the two-point conversion, keeping the score at 30-25.
For Tennessee, it was Derrick Henry time, or so we thought. Five yards at a time, Henry chewed on the clock and kept the sticks moving. Just past midfield though, the drive stalled as Arthur Smith went to the air.
Gostkowski was good from 54 yards out, however, which brought the Minnesota lead down to just two points.
Tennessee got the stop they had to have on the following drive, giving Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry 3:42 to win it. Down just two points, they needed about 45 yards to land inside of Gostkowski’s range.
Henry got the ball rolling, and then Tannehill found Jonnu Smith on back to back plays. The Titans were quickly at the 50 yard line with a little over two minutes to play. Once again, Arthur Smith went away from Henry, and the drive stalled. Three straight passes from midfield forced a 55 yard attempt from Gostkowski, who nailed another one.
Gostkowski was now 6-6, including a 54 and a 55 yarder. The Titans led at 31-30 with 1:44 left to play.
The Vikings were immediately assisted on a bad roughing the passer call on Jeffery Simmons, but all of that was undone with a fumbled snap two plays later. The Titans’ pass rush was getting home, and making life difficult on Cousins.
Tennessee forced a 4th and 24, and Cousins’ final attempt was picked off.
Somehow, some way, the Tennessee Titans improved to 3-0 today. They’ll return home to face the Pittsburgh Steelers next week in Nashville.