Hunter, Defense Lead Vikings to Week 1 Win Over Titans
After zero points and two missed field goal attempts by the enigmatic Blair Walsh in the first half, the Minnesota Vikings (1-0) looked far from the 2015 team that won 11 games and an NFC North division title. But something happened at halftime (likely Mike Zimmer losing his voice and making up new ways to use certain four letter words) and the Vikings scored 25 unanswered points in the second half on their way to a Week 1 defeat of the Tennessee Titans (0-1) by a score of 25-16.
Propelled by two defensive touchdowns from Eric Kendricks and Danielle Hunter, Minnesota did not need any scoring help from their offense against the Titans. Which worked out, because Minnesota’s offense did not score a single point on Sunday.
The momentum switched to the Vikings’ side of the ball late in the third quarter after Kendricks picked off an erratic pass by Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota and returned it 77 yards for a touchdown to put Minnesota up 12-10. Kendricks finished the day with a total of six tackles for the Vikings as well on Sunday.
After a 42-yard field goal by Walsh (we will get to him later) early in the fourth quarter, Hunter picked up a Tennessee fumble and returned it 24 yards the other way to put six more points on the board for Minnesota. Two drives later, the Vikings’ second-year defensive end was in the Titans’ backfield again, this time dragging Mariota down for the sack.
After allowing Tennessee to rack up 194 yards in the first half, including 145 yards passing, Minnesota only gave up 122 yards to the Titans offense in the game’s final two quarters. 74 of those yards came on Tennessee’s final offensive drive of the game.
Walsh accounted for 13 (4/6 FGs and 1/2 XPs) of the Vikings 25 points on Sunday, but he began the day missing two field goals in the first half and left Minnesota fans ripping their eyebrow hairs out wondering what was going on in the mind of their kicker. But he pulled it together and did not miss a field goal attempt in the second half (just an extra point), certainly playing a large part in the Vikings’ victory.
Minnesota went with Shaun Hill as their starting quarterback against the Titans and even though he did not blow anyone away with his stats, he did not turn the ball over once. In a game where Tennessee’s offense coughed up the ball three times, Hill holding onto the ball throughout the day proved to be extremely valuable.
Hill’s day was made a little easier by the play of his pass catchers against the Titans. Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Kyle Rudolph combined to haul in 15 passes for 222 yards. Diggs tied his career high with seven catches in Tennessee and looks on his way to have a very impressive season.
Running back Adrian Peterson certainly did not have his best day on Sunday. Peterson finished with only 31 yards on 19 carries and saw the Titans basically bring in everything, including the kitchen sink, to prevent him from having a productive afternoon.
Minnesota will more than likely need some better production from their offense (perhaps some points even) when they play their first home game of the 2016 regular season against the Green Bay Packers in Week 2. The Packers picked up their first win of the season as well on Sunday after squeaking by the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-23.
All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise stated.