It wasn't just four turnovers that did in the Vikings. They had questionable timeouts and too many penalties. See the key plays that were ruined by those blights and get 40 notes that help tell the tale of the game.
For anyone who didn't see the Vikings 30-17 loss to the Titans, it would appear as though the game was rather lopsided in Tennessee's favor. But a closer look showed that there were about a dozen mistakes that could have changed the game in the Vikings' favor. Turnovers happen, but it was mental mistakes – on both the part of players and coaches – that turned the game sour on the Vikings.
Aside from fumbles, interceptions and penalties, a coaching decision made what could have been a pivotal difference in the first half. With four minutes to play in the first half, the Titans faced a fourth-and-2 from the Vikings 3-yard line. To the naked eye, it appeared as though the ball never got the required distance, but, after looking at replays, it seemed clear that the ball came loose and was recovered by the Vikings before any official blew a whistle. The Vikings burned one of their timeouts, apparently to discuss whether or not to challenge the ruling.
Keep in mind that if you challenge and lose, you lose a timeout, so even if the challenge wouldn't be overturned, the timeout the Vikings coaching staff called would have been used on a failed challenge. Instead, the Vikings challenged the spot, at least according to the referee, and apparently not possession. The officials are supposed to review the totality of the play, but not only did they not give the Vikings possession, they also awarded the Titans a first down. All that referee Peter Morelli announced was that the ruling on the field stood.
"Damn disappointing. You can't fumble the ball forward on fourth down was one of my contentions and have somebody else recover it. The ruling was, when they finally got over there, that they had ruled progress, that his progress had stopped. From what I was seeing, his progress didn't make it to the line," Childress said after the game. "And then I got some kind of something about, ‘We don't have that many cameras at the game.' Clearly, that wasn't a first down and you're not going to convince that it was a first down. It's disturbing. If you're getting beat physically, you're getting beat physically.
The play was upheld and the Vikings lost two timeouts. That left them with none in the final minute when the Vikings got a turnover and had to try a time-consuming sideline pass to get out of bounds for a field goal attempt. That attempt hit the right upright and was no good.
Down by 10 points at halftime, the Vikings were hoping for a momentum boost like they got around the halftime break of the Carolina game. Taking the opening kick on their own 31, an illegal formation on the first play backed the offense up five yards and a false start on Visanthe Shiancoe
cost them another five yards, effectively killing the drive.
After the Vikings defense recorded its first three-and-out on the next drive, the Vikings got charged with a delay of game prior to the first snap coming out of the change-of-possession break. The next two plays gained 14 yards, but, because they needed 15 due to the penalty, a third-down incompletion brought the punt team back on. The inability to keep the drive moving allowed the Titans to pick up a pair of first downs and be in position to kick a long field goal to take a 23-10 lead and force the Vikings to need two touchdowns to come back.
Following the field goal, the special teams, which had allowed a 21-yard punt return on the scoring drive, was burned again when Robert Ferguson
was called for holding and pinned the Vikings on their own 15. Adrian Peterson
got them out of trouble with a 21-yard run and, on the next play, scampered 14 yards to the sideline to get the Vikings to midfield. But a holding call on Bobby Wade
brought it back and, after again gaining 13 yards on the next two plays, because of the walk-off, it result in another punt.
When the Vikings scored in the fourth quarter to cut the Tennessee lead to 23-17, momentum was finally on the Vikings' sideline. That lasted about nine seconds, as the special teams allowed Chris Carr
to bring back the ensuing kickoff 52 yards, setting the Tennessee offense up in Vikings territory. They didn't score on the drive, but pinned the Vikings on their own 2-yard line – setting up Frerotte's game-ending interception.
In a game the Vikings needed to win, the numerous mental lapses did as much to contribute to the Titans win as anything. Players fumble balls. Passes get intercepted. Passes get dropped. But too many mistakes in one game makes it virtually impossible to win and the Vikings did their best to prove that point Sunday.
GAME DAY NOTES
Gus Frerotte injured his non-throwing hand on his interception throw in the fourth quarter and was taken off the field with the medical staff holding the hand away from his body and having it steadied by a member of the training staff. He reportedly received stitches for the cut.
Linebacker E.J. Henderson was taken off the field in the first half on a cart with a foot injury. He returned to play in the second half, but aggravated the injury and did not finish the game.
The Vikings finished the game with a total yardage edge of 333 to 275. The Vikings had 253 yards passing (their most of the season) and 80 yards rushing (their least of the season).
For two of the league's most prolific rushing attacks, the teams combined for 34 first downs – 24 passing, nine rushing and one by penalty.
The Vikings actually held the edge in third-down conversions for the game. Minnesota converted on 7 of 15 third-down attempts, while Tennessee made good on just 6 of 17 – including only one of eight in the second half.
The Vikings run defense did its part, limiting the Titans to just 76 yards on 34 carries – a 2.2-yard average. The Vikings ran just 20 times as a team, gaining 80 yards for a four-yard average.
The Titans registered four sacks, two coming on the final two offensive plays by the Vikings. The Vikings never sacked Kerry Collins.
The 44 pass attempts by the Vikings were the most since Brad Johnson threw 44 passes in the 10th game of the 2006 season – a loss to Miami.
The Vikings got in the red zone only once and scored a touchdown. The Titans got in the red zone five times – scoring three TDs and kicking two field goals.
Frerotte did something Tarvaris Jackson hasn't done in 16 NFL starts – throw for more than 250 yards in a game. Frerotte threw for 266 yards, completing 25 of 43 passes.
The Vikings had just 20 rushing plays – 18 by Peterson for 80 yards and two TDs, and one for no gain by Chester Taylor and one for no gain by Frerotte.
The Titans ran the ball 34 times and had a long rushing attempt of just 9 yards.
Over the last two games, Bernard Berrian had 79 and 78 yards receiving and leads the Vikes with 195 receiving yards. Although he had a drop of what could have been a touchdown pass in the first half, Berrian made an incredible one-handed catch on a 28-yard pass the set up the Vikings' final score.
Bobby Wade took over the team lead in receptions with 11 after catching seven passes for 75 yards, including a spectacular catch on a third-down fling from Frerotte to keep a Vikings' scoring drive alive to cut Tennessee's lead to 23-17. His seven receptions Sunday were a career high.
The Vikings did a number on the Titans tight ends. Bo Scaife and Alge Crumpler have combined to be a key part of the Titans' game plan, but they combined for just three catches and 17 yards Sunday.
Maurice Hicks replaced Chester Taylor as the kick returner and had a pair of nice returns. He averaged 27 yards on four returns.
Chad Greenway finished the game with 11 tackles (seven solo). Of those, nine came in the first half.
Tennessee interior linemen Albert Haynesworth and Tony Brown combined to record 3.5 sacks.
Aside from his hand injury, Frerotte was the recipient of a painful blow delivered by the crown of DE Kyle Vanden Bosch's helmet just slightly south of Frerotte's belt buckle. He was down on the field for a moment but stayed in the game – only to be replaced by Jackson after his hand injury.
With as humid as it was in Tennessee, it was surprising to see the Vikings in their road white jerseys. Typically teams in hot-weather cities will make their opponents wear their dark colors to absorb heat. The Titans opted not to.
In the 49-year history of the Tennessee/Houston franchise, the 2008 team is the first to ever start a season 4-0.
The Vikings are 1-3 out of the gate for the second consecutive year.
When Henderson was out in the second half, linebacker Ben Leber donned the helmet that signals in plays from the sidelines for the defense.
The Vikings' special teams got burned by Chris Carr in the return game twice. Charles Gordon missed a tackle that sprung Carr for a 21-yard gain. After the Vikings scored to cut the Tennessee lead to 23-17, Carr had a 52-yard kick return to suck the momentum away from the Vikings in a heartbeat.
The Titans would have kicked themselves had the Vikings made a full comeback. With 11:07 to play, the Titans, who had thrown just two fourth-quarter passes in the last two games, opted to go away from the running game with disastrous results. Collins threw a completion out of bounds on first down and two more incompletions. As a result, their drive lasted just 54 seconds. The Vikings took advantage of the extra time and drove for their final TD of the day.
After three quarters, the Vikings had 30 pass attempts (including a sack and a scramble) and just 13 rushing attempts.
The Vikings were going to go for a first down on a fourth-and-3 play with 4:10 to play in the third quarter, but Tennessee called a timeout. The Vikings re-thought that plan and punted. Had the Vikings converted, it could have changed the game, so hats off to Jeff Fisher for calling the T.O.
Chris Johnson got a rude welcome from Cedric Griffin on a second-half pass play when he drilled him in the flat on a pass attempt and nearly removed his head from his shoulders. Griffin was targeted all day. He had four tackles in the first drive of the game and finished with seven solo tackles.
The Vikings defense didn't have a single three-and-out of the Titans offense in the first half.
The Titans dominated time of possession in the first half, holding the ball for 19:34 – including an even 10 minutes of the second quarter.
Collins completed 13 of 21 passes in the first half for 147 yards. Johnson had 10 carries for 44 yards and a TD. LenDale White also had a touchdown but gained just 9 yards on eight carries. Justin Gage was their leading receiver with four catches for 73 yards in the first half.
For the Vikings, Frerotte completed 12 of 19 passes for 127 yards in the first half. Peterson was the only rusher with nine carries for 50 yards and Shiancoe was the leading receiver with four catches for 47 yards. Sidney Rice didn't have a reception in the first half and caught just one pass for the game.
In the first half, Tennessee ran the ball 20 times, as opposed to just nine for the Vikings.
David Herron replaced Henderson to the start the game, then in the second quarter when Henderson injured his foot and again in the second half when E.J. finally succumbed to the foot injury.
Collins was 6 of 9 passing for 67 yards in the first quarter, while Johnson ran seven times for 30 yards and a TD.
Frerotte was 5 of 7 passing for 45 yards in the first quarter and Peterson ran five times for 16 yards.
Sunday was the second straight game in which the Vikings fell behind 10-0 in the first half.
In the first 11 minutes of the game, the Titans had a total yardage advantage of 102-9.
The Vikings nearly got a break on the first touchdown by Tennessee when LenDale White fumbled into the end zone and it was ruled a touchback and Vikings ball. The Titans challenged and it was overturned. Johnson scored on the next play.
Otis Grisby replaced Ray Edwards as the starting right end, but the Vikings rotated him with Ellis Wyms and Brian Robison most of the game.