Upon Further Review: Vikings at Titans

Marcus Mariota is sacked by Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter for a 10-yard loss in the second half.

James Kenney/AP

Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner are likely taking a long look at their offense following a lackluster first half, but that defensive tape can probably wait.

The Vikings’ defense came through in the second half, forcing three turnovers, as Minnesota took control late in a 25-16 win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

Vikings 25, Titans 16

Quarterback Shaun Hill held serve in his first appearance as the Vikings’ starter, protecting the ball and racking up short completions where required.

Kicker Blair Walsh’s postseason struggles carried over to Week 1, while running back Adrian Peterson found himself bottled up at every turn against a stout Titans run defense.

SUNDAY SCHOOL

— Hill looked solid in his first start since Dec. 28, 2014. The veteran went 18-for-33 (54.6 percent) for 236 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 77.3.

— Walsh went 4-for-6 on the day, but his whiffs were particularly notable. He bookended the second quarter with a pair of missed kicks, both wide left: once from 37 yards out, and again from 56 yards.

— Peterson’s longest run went for just 9 yards, as he was continually stuffed by a stacked Titans front. He averaged just 1.6 yards per carry on 19 attempts.

— Stefon Diggs also had a big day, leading the Vikings with 108 receiving yards. It’s just the third time he’s ever passed the century mark in a game, and his third 100-yard performance overall.

— Hill looked shaky when asked to go deep, overthrowing Charles Johnson on a potential score, but he was solid for the Vikings in critical situations, going 6-for-10 on third down for 112 yards.

— Laquon Treadwell was active but didn’t play. Vikings fans shouldn’t read too much into his absence. The Vikings sat Diggs for three games last season before he made his pro debut in Week 4.

— The Vikings registered three turnovers on the day. Andrew Sendejo and Danielle Hunter each recovered a Titans fumble, while Eric Kendricks picked up a critical interception in the second half.

PHOTOS: Vikings at Titans

— Cordarrelle Patterson’s 61-yard kickoff return to open the second half was one of the biggest turning points of the game, jump-starting a run of 25 unanswered points for Minnesota.

— Safety Harrison Smith registered six tackles, the biggest of which came on the ensuing Titans drive. Smith forced a three-and-out on 3rd-and-1, tackling reigning Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry at the line for no gain.

— Despite a few big runs the Vikings held DeMarco Murray mostly in check, limiting him to just 42 yards on 13 attempts, and the Titans’ running game as a whole to 64 yards on 22 attempts.

DULY NOTED

— Despite plenty of talk in the offseason about getting Jerick McKinnon more involved in the offense, the third-year running was on the field for just 16 offensive snaps, logging one carry for six yards and one reception for three yards.

— Patterson was vocal throughout the offseason about his commitment to refining his receiving skills, but he didn’t see the field much in Week 1, playing just five offensive snaps. He made a big play in the fourth quarter on an out route, snapping up a 6-yard pass with cornerback Perrish Cox all over him.

— Cornerback Xavier Rhodes was a late scratch after aggravating a knee injury in warmups. He’s set to undergo testing this week.

— With Rhodes sidelined cornerback Trae Waynes got the start, leading the Vikings with 10 tackles. Waynes found out he was starting during warmups. He was routinely matched up against rookie Tajae Sharp, who picked up 76 yards on seven receptions.

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WHAT IT MEANT

Not only can the Vikings win without Bridgewater, but also apparently they can get it done without Peterson too. Sunday’s win was the first time Peterson has been held to fewer than two yards per carry since 2013, and just the sixth time in his career. The Vikings’ defense bailed them out, scoring a pair of touchdowns off of turnovers in the second half following a dismal first. The Titans’ offense ranked 30th in the NFL a season ago, and while the addition of weapons like Murray and Sharpe makes them more dangerous, the Vikings’ offense will need to figure things out in a hurry ahead of a Week 2 matchup with the Green Bay Packers.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

The Vikings did most of their damage during a wild sequence in the second half, as Walsh followed up Kendricks’ score with a 45-yard field goal, but it was Hunter who put the game out of reach. Hunter snatched up a bobbled snap that ended up on the ground, before outrunning wide receiver Andre Johnson to put the Vikings up 22-10. He followed it up with a big sack just two drives later on second-and-10, shrugging off guard Quinton Spain to down Titans QB Marcus Mariota on his own 5-yard line. The Titans were forced to punt from that spot, giving the Vikings a head start on their next drive, and another field goal that effectively sealed the win.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME

Between Patterson, Treadwell and German draft pick Moritz Bohringer, it’s been easy to forget about Adam Thielen, a special teams star and a versatile contributor offensively, but he made his mark in Week 1. Thielen hauled in one of the biggest receptions of his career in the fourth quarter, snapping up a 16-yard pass from Hill on 3rd-and-15 with the Vikings up by just two points en route to one of the most productive games of his career. The MSU-Mankato alum caught four passes on five targets for 54 yards. It’s just the third time Thielen has recorded more than three catches in a game, and just the fourth time that he’s topped 50 receiving yards.

THAT MOMENT

Hunter may have finished things off, but Kendricks’ pick six turned a 10-6 deficit into a 12-10 lead in the third quarter, following an anemic performance by the Vikings’ offense in the first half. Everson Griffen blew past Titans’ receiver Harry Douglas on a fake to running back Derrick Henry, forcing Mariota to throw off his back foot and into the arms of Kendricks. It was the turning point in a low-scoring affair, and kick-started the Vikings’ second-half turnaround.

THEY SAID IT

"The defense came through for us and made some big plays. They pretty much bailed us out today." — Adrian Peterson

"It shows the resiliency of this football team. They’ve been through a lot in the last 10 days, and the last couple years, and we’ve got some good fighters in this crew." — Mike Zimmer

"First game, things are always a little weird. You’ve just gotta tighten up at halftime, calm down, just play our football." — Harrison Smith

WHAT’S NEXT

The Vikings are set to make their regular-season debut at U.S. Bank Stadium in style, when they take on the Green Bay Packers at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday in what is expected to be quarterback Sam Bradford’s Minnesota debut.

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