Vikings quarterback Gus Frerotte left the game when it was essentially over with blood squirting from his non-throwing hand. It was a fitting and graphic conclusion to a game in which the Vikings lost the battle of the trenches.
The Vikings and Titans were considered nearly identical teams. Both had veteran quarterbacks in their late 30s who have at least temporarily replaced the younger, struggling starters at the beginning of the season. Both teams love to run the ball and win with stout defenses, calling on their offensive and defensive lines to lead the way.
On Sunday, Tennessee's lines were simply better.
The Titans were the fortuitous benefactors of four turnovers that helped them score all three of their touchdowns, and with the lead in hand they weren't forced away from their strengths – controlling the game with their rushing attack and bullish defense. On offense, that meant 20 of their 34 rushes were in the first half and 58 of their 76 rushing yards came in the first half to soften up the Vikings defense. They also had the majority of their passing yards in the first half – 147 of Kerry Collins' 199 yards were in the first 30 minutes. After that, they only needed to shorten the game by keeping the clock running.
The result on the Titans defensive line was more impressive, as the Titans registered four sacks – including consecutive sacks on Tarvaris Jackson on the Vikings' final series after he had replaced the bloodied Ferrotte. Albert Haynesworth, who was called a "beast" by his college teammate and current Vikings offensive lineman Anthony Herrera, had half of Tennessee's sacks while fellow defensive tackle Tony Brown had 1.5. Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch shared a sack with Brown and also temporary sent Frerotte to the sidelines with a helmet hit below the belt.
Frerotte wasn't happy about the spear from Vanden Bosch, but the defensive end defended his actions.
"You've got a small window where you can hit a quarterback. I did not hit him below the knees. I hit him in the thigh," Vanden Bosch said. "That's where the rulebook tells me to hit the quarterback. I'm not a dirty player."
Dirty or not, the Titans defensive line was simply effective.
"We try to be a fast, aggressive defense, try to get everybody to the ball and try to get some big hits. We forced some fumbles. That's what this defensive is built upon, making big plays when we have to," Vanden Bosch said.
"We try to apply as much pressure as we can in the first half and we feel like that's going to help us in the second half."
In turn, the Vikings' vaunted defensive line had nary a sack and were credited with only three quarterback hurries. Kevin Williams finished with six tackles and a quarterback hurry. Pat Williams also had six tackles, and Jared Allen had three tackles, a quarterback hurry and a pass defensed.
The Titans, meanwhile had nine hurries, no small statistic in helping them to their first 4-0 record in franchise history.
NO RIGHT TIME FOR PENALTIES
Not surprisingly, penalties also aggravated Frerotte. The Vikings had seven penalties for 50 yards, and several of them negated good gains and turned what are often termed "manageable down and distances" into yardages that proved too difficult to overcome.
"It's a tough game without all that stuff, so when you make those mistakes it makes it even harder," Frerrote said.
Those were especially apparent in the Vikings' opening drive of the second half. They began the half with an illegal formation and compounded that with a false start. Those essentially ended that opportunity to establish early second-half momentum.
The Vikings finished the game converting a very respectable 7 of 15 third-down attempts, but they made it hard on themselves with too many third-and-long situations. Their efficiency decreased at the start of the second half, at a time when they were looking to establish momentum.
Their first two third-down attempts of the second half, on third-and-8 and third-and-1, were incomplete passes. Their third one needed to gain 6 yards and a pass to Peterson netted only 3 yards.
The Vikings' first third-down conversion of the second half came late in the third quarter on a 15-yard completion to Bernard Berrian on third-and-9, but two plays later the offense gave the ball back to the Titans on muffed snap.
The Vikings were 3-for-5 in the first half on third-down conversions.
After two leaping tackles last week that were described as "Superman"-like in style points, linebacker E.J. Henderson was held out of the opening drive for disciplinary reasons.
Henderson returned for the Vikings' second defensive series of the game, but he injured his foot in the second quarter. He was taken to the locker room on a cart and returned to play later in the quarter. Eventually, however, he was kept out of the game for good in the second half. David Herron replaced him in all of those instances.
Earlier in the week, Henderson was getting praise from several angles.
"(He is a) downhill player, very smart player," Titans quarterback Kerry Collins said. "Obviously he is very physically gifted. (He) is an attacking guy. I think he fits really well with what they try and do on defense. I don't know if we will play too many better linebackers this year. The guy has all the tools. It seems like he has a great feel for the game. So (he is) definitely a great player."
HAMMIE HOLDS UP
Last week, Adrian Peterson was limited in the amount of carries he received because of a sore hamstring. In that game against the Carolina Panthers, he carried the ball 17 times for 77yards while Chester Taylor assisted with 11 carries for 44 yards.
Against Tennessee, Peterson carried the ball 18 times for 80 yards, but he wasn't held under 20 carries because of his hamstring. The Vikings didn't have enough good running opportunities as they fell behind early once again. Taylor carried only once on Sunday.
Notebook: Lost on the lines
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