The Vikings started each of their first two drives with explosive deep shots. The first was unscripted as Sam Bradford bought time in the pocket and, after about six seconds, found Kyle Rudolph behind the coverage for a 44-yard gain to the Jacksonville 31-yard line on the first play from scrimmage. However, after that, the Vikings could only pick up 6 yards and brought on Kai Forbath for a 43-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead only 2:35 into the game.
After a Brian Robison sack forced a Jaguars punt, Bradford found Adam Thielen deep for a 41-yard gain to the Jacksonville 18-yard line. But, once again, that was about all they could muster, settling for a 32-yard Forbath field goal after trying to draw the Jaguars offside on fourth-and-1. As the first quarter closed after an exchange of punts, the Vikings held a 6-0 lead.
The Vikings allowed the Jaguars into Minnesota territory for the first time on the last play of the first quarter, a 15-yard pass, and gave up another first down on a 12-yard T.J. Yeldon run, but Xavier Rhodes shut down the drive when he knocked a pass away from Allen Robinson on third down, setting up a 45-yard field goal from Jason Myers to shrink the lead to 6-3.
This time, Cordarrelle Patterson provided the punch into Jacksonville territory with a 53-yard kick return to the Jaguars 48. The Vikings picked up one first down with a 5-yard pass and a questionable unnecessary roughness call on Jalen Ramsey on the tackle put the ball on the 24-yard line. Two missed pass attempts forced another field goal, this one from 40 yards, and a 9-3 lead.
The Jaguars countered with a 31-yard drive, thanks mostly to a 22-yard pass to Marqise Lee on the first play of the drive, and Myers nailed a 55-yarder to cut the lead to 9-6.
The Vikings countered with a 74-yard drive, starting with a strange play in which Bradford was stripped of the ball, picked it up and completed a 15-yard pass to Jerick McKinnon. But the big play was a diving 45-yard catch by Stefon Diggs to the 14-yard line. However, they couldn’t convert after starting with first-and-goal on the 3-yard line, including two failed runs of no gain from the 1-yard line to come away without points.
The Jaguars went 92 yards in 10 plays after starting from their 1-yard line. However, they, too, settled for a field goal to tie the game 9-9 at the half.
STATS: The Vikings were 0-for-5 on third downs, the killer of the first half for them, and failed on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Bradford finished the first half completing 10 of 14 for 167 yards, but the running game regressed once again. McKinnon had only 9 yards on six carries and Asiata had 6 yards on four carries. Combined with 3 yards from Bradford, it meant only 18 yards rushing for Minnesota.
The theme of the first half – field goals! – continued in the third quarter. The Jaguars drove into Minnesota territory with a 34-yard pass to Lee, but this time Myers missed from 41 yards out and the game remained tied.
The Vikings broke that tie with a nine-play drive that got across midfield with a 26-yard pass to Thielen. But, once again, once in scoring position the drive ended with a Forbath field goal. After he hit a 46-yarder, the Vikings had a 12-9 lead midway through the third quarter.
However, a penalty-filled drive handed the Jaguars their first lead of the game. Three penalties on the Vikings on two snaps put the Jaguars inside the red zone. Xavier Rhodes was called for a defensive holding, then after that was flagged he got an unsportsmanlike conduct after saying something to an official. On the next snap, his replacement, rookie Mackensie Alexander, was flagged for pass interference at the 17-yard line. Two plays later, Bortles hit Bryan Walters for a 14-yard touchdown and the Jaguars had their first lead of the game, 16-12 with 3:50 to play in the third quarter.
The Vikings responded with a strong drive that worked them once again to the 3-yard line as the third quarter came to a close, thanks a 23-yard catch from Thielen and some slippery moves by McKinnon.
The Vikings were finally able to punch it in from 1 yard out with an Asiata dive, but after a false start on Rhett Ellison on the first point-after try, Forbath badly struck the next attempt and it sailed well wide left to keep the reclaimed lead for the Vikings at two points, 18-16, less than a minute into the fourth quarter.
The teams traded different punting plays on the next two possessions. Jayron Kearse partially blocked the Jaguars attempt, and then Jeff Locke was run into on his attempt, giving the Vikings an automatic and fortuitous first down. After Asiata ripped off a 23-yard run to the 1-yard line, he fumbled three plays later and the Jaguars recovered in the end zone.
The Vikings defense stood tall and forced a three-and-out and got better field position after an initial good punt came back with an illegal touch by the Jaguars. The next punt had the Vikings setting up on their own 46.
Minnesota picked up first downs on consecutive plays – a 6-yard pass to Charles Johnson and a facemask penalty on a McKinnon run. Patterson picked up another first down with an 11-yard reception on third-and-10 and Kyle Rudolph got another with an 11-yard catch to the 6-yard line. One play later, Rudolph found the end zone on a good play-action fake for a 3-yard touchdown and a nine-point lead, 25-16, with 2:13 to play.
When the Jaguars got into Vikings territory, they elected for a 61-yard field goal try and Linval Joseph blocked it to seal a road win for the Vikings.
STATS: Bradford finished the game completing 24 of 34 passes for 292 yards and a touchdown for a 106.5 rating, with Thielen catching four passes for 101 yards. Bradford wasn’t officially sacked, although he had the ball stripped from his hands on one play, picked it up and completed the pass to McKinnon. Rudolph had four catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. The Vikings averaged only 2.9 yards on 29 rushing attempts, and that was helped along by Bradford’s 15-yard scramble and a 23-yard run by Asiata. What kept the game close, however, was the Vikings converting only three of 11 third-down attempts.
Bortles completed 23 of 37 attempts for 257 yards and a touchdown, but he was sacked four times – twice by Everson Griffen. The Jaguars averaged 3.5 yards per rush, led by T.J. Yeldon’s 59 yards on 17 carries. The Jaguars committed 14 penalties for 114 yards.