Vikings lose 31-30 to the Titans
by Patrick P. Marek
If you can keep your head when all others are losing theirs … your name probably isn’t Kirk Cousins. In a typical Vikings’ performance, Minnesota was trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and was trailing the Tennessee Titans 31-30 with 1:45 remaining in what was a highly entertaining and infuriating game; Cousins had the ball on the 25-yard line with no time outs. It was the moment great quarterbacks live for. A foolhardy roughing the passer penalty from the Titans put the Vikings 30 yards from a potential Dan Bailey game-winning field goal.
Did Cousins face the chaos of an “everything but the kitchen sink” pass rush with calm precision and cool confidence? Are you kidding? He crumpled like an old Hamm’s beer can. When there is no pass rush, Cousins can throw a football through a car wash and it won’t get wet. Under heavy pressure, he has all the pocket presence of a Speedo.
Remember Case Keenum? He had half of Cousins’ natural talent, but he made up for it by being a natural leader. He also had an innate ability for making blitzing linebackers and unblocked defensive tackles miss. With the state of the Vikings’ offensive line over the last decade, that is a very valuable talent to have. Kirk Cousins has to go through traffic progressions before he drives through a green light. He is so petrified by the chance he’ll get blamed for a mistake that he gets a condition called paralysis by progressions. He literally can’t make a decision to save his life. Ask yourself this question. Who do you want to go to war with in a two-minute drill with the game on the line: Kirk Cousins or Case Keenum? I rest my case.
There is plenty of blame to go around after the loss that left the Vikings looking up at the rest of the league with an 0-3 record. Zimmer was quick to rip the offense after the “chaos” of one of the most depressing two-minute drills in the history of Vikings’ football, but his fingers and chapped cheeks were all over this debacle. He made the failed decision to go for two points after Kyle Rudolph’s brilliant acrobatic touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. Just a reminder … the Vikings lost the game by a point. Zimmer won a replay challenge in the first half and must have been feeling infallible, because he challenged another extremely dicey play in the second half, and lost, costing him a timeout and the ability to challenge for the rest of the game.
Dalvin Cook had a game for the ages, piling up a career high 181 yards rushing on 22 carries. He had two runs of 39 yards, one of which was a touchdown. He showed the kind of power, speed, and cutting ability that fans love, and that keeps defensive coordinators up late at night. Why was he on the sidelines during a critical three-and-out in the third quarter with the Vikings’ lead dwindling and after the Titans had just scored a touchdown? Zimmer said it was scripted in the game plan to give Cook a rest at that point of the game. Alexander Mattison is a good running back, but he is no Dalvin Cook, and this was one of Cook’s best days ever. This isn’t the first time the Vikings have lost an eminently winnable game because of Zimmer’s stubbornness and poor decisions, and unfortunately, it probably won’t be the last.
Obviously both Zimmer and Cousins did a lot of things right in a game where the offense scored 30 points and narrowly lost to an undefeated team with a very accurate quarterback and a monster running back. Cousins made some great connections with rookie sensation and Stefon Diggs replacement Justin Jefferson. Jefferson showed elusiveness, speed, and great hands while catching seven passes for 175 yards and a touchdown in his first NFL start. Only Sammy White and Randy Moss had bigger games in their rookie season. Nobody is saying “Stefon who?” quite yet, but if Sunday’s performance is a preview of coming attractions, Jefferson is going to be doing “The Griddy” in opposing endzones for a lot of years to come.
Although the injury decimated defense was held together with baling wire and chewing gum, they managed to hold Travis Henry, the Titan’s 247-pound wrecking-ball running back relatively in check, and forced Tennessee to attempt six field goals after stalled drives. Unfortunately, Stephen Gostkowski made all of his kicks, including a 55 yarder that was the eventual game winner. Dan Bailey made one field goal in the second quarter, but missed a 49 yarder (after dueling penalties) that could have changed the game.
So, ask yourself. Is it better to have your soul crushed by two games where the Vikings showed no life, and were blown out, or would you prefer having your heart ripped out by a last-second loss in a game Minnesota should have won?
I’ll take the exciting loss anytime, but this could be a long, frustrating season.
Stay purple my friends.