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Vikings Defense Has Up-and-Down Performance in Loss

MINNEAPOLIS — There were plenty of positives for a youthful and banged up Vikings defense on Sunday.

But there were also too many miscues made, and big plays allowed, for a unit that couldn't make a game-changing play in the second half of a 31-30 Vikings loss.

The end result was a defense that allowed scoring drives on Tennessee's final five possessions — save for a kneel-down on the final one — as the Vikings coughed up a halftime, third- and fourth-quarter leads on the way to their third straight loss.

"Most of the game we gave ourselves an opportunity to compete, to fight, do all those things," said Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. "And then with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter we're up by five. That's one of the points of emphasis that we always talk about — winning the last 10 minutes of the game."

Added Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks: "You don't want to lose, man. We've got to take care of those games, especially when we're up with a nice lead. We've got to strap up on defense and put more points up on the board, that's the name of the game."

The Vikings led 17-9 at the half, and Minnesota's defense actually made a stand and forced a punt after Kirk Cousins was intercepted on the first play of the second half.

But for the next five possessions, the Vikings allowed three field goals and two touchdowns.

It didn't help that Titans kicker Stephen Gostkowski seemingly couldn't miss at U.S. Bank Stadium. He made three field goals in each half, with all three in the second half coming from 50-plus yards.

Gostkowski made a 51-yarder in the third quarter, followed by 54 and 55-yard kicks in the final stanza. His final make came with just 1:44 remaining.

Along the way, the Vikings were victimized by lengthy pass plays. Of the five longest plays allowed by the Vikings defense Sunday, three of them came in the third quarter.

With Minnesota up 24-12, the Vikings allowed a 61-yard pass play that set up a score. The Vikings also allowed plays of 38 and 21 yards on passes by Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill during the period.

"Obviously they made a couple pass plays, but yeah, field goal kicker kicked a lot of solid kicks today," Kendricks said. "We gave up like three explosive plays that I can remember. We've got to limit the explosives on defense, obviously.

"But I felt like everyone was into it. I felt like our energy was high. We were very physical today," Kendricks added. "We held them to field goals in the red zone for the most part, except for on some of those explosive gains. We've got to start putting more of the pieces together. It wasn't enough."

A frustrated Zimmer lamented the big plays, including the 61-yarder when rookie Jeff Gladney was in coverage.

Even on a bright spot of the day — a Harrison Smith interception — Zimmer said there were miscues.

"The big plays, you can't do that. You just can't do that, and sometimes guys try to make plays that they shouldn't be trying to make," Zimmer said. "Actually, Harrison Smith made an unbelievable interception. He was the back-side safety, but the front-side safety should have been there.

"Then on the bomb, on Gladney, we had two safeties bite," Zimmer added. "These guys have got to do what they're supposed to do, too."

The Vikings surrendered 444 yards to the Titans, including 119 to Derrick Henry on the ground, as the Titans held the ball for 31 minutes and 32 seconds.

The patchwork defense was valiant on third downs, limiting Tennessee to just three conversions on 13 total tries on third downs.

Gladney and Kris Boyd started for injured cornerbacks Mike Hughes and Cameron Dantzler, while Hardy Nickerson was the third linebacker in the base defense. He stepped up after Anthony Barr was ruled out for the season with a torn pectoral suffered in Week 2.

Minnesota is still without Danielle Hunter, who is eligible to come off Injured Reserve this week and play in Week 4. We'll know more about his status when practice begins this Wednesday.

View game action images as the Vikings take on the Titans ton Sunday.

Yannick Ngakoue had a strip-sack for the second straight game, although the forced fumble was once again recovered by the offense.

But for all of the positives, the Vikings couldn't make a signature play over the final 30 minutes as they dropped to 0-3 for the first time since 2013.

"Well, we're playing with a little bit of a short deck," Zimmer said. "I thought there was times we played really well today on defense."

The Vikings will visit the 0-3 Texans in Week 4.