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Vikings Defense Picks Jackson Twice but Struggles to Stop Run Threat

There aren't many things more defeating than forcing a turnover but seeing no points in return.

Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr arguably made the defensive play of the game when he tipped Lamar Jackson's pass to himself for an impressive interception.

Despite Barr's best efforts, though, Minnesota's offense didn't capitalize off the takeaway, and Baltimore ultimately prevailed 34-31.

"It was a huge play on Anthony's part. Gave us a chance to win the game," linebacker Eric Kendricks said. "That's all we can do on defense is give ourselves a chance, but yeah, you know, we weren't perfect."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer gave credit to his team's grit but reiterated that it simply wasn't enough to net a much-needed win.

"I thought we played hard, I thought we fought," Zimmer said. "We had some guys step in … but we didn't play good enough to win."

Minnesota was without Danielle Hunter (Injured Reserve), Patrick Peterson (Injured Reserve), Michael Pierce (elbow) and safety Harrison Smith, who was ruled out Sunday morning due to landing on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Bashaud Breeland was injured during the game and replaced by Kris Boyd, but he later returned.

Rookie safety Cam Bynum, who had played just nine defensive snaps prior to Sunday's game, started in place of Smith and made the most of his opportunity.

With under two minutes remaining in the first half, Bynum darted into the middle of the field to intercept a deep pass intended for Ravens tight end Mark Andrews. After the pick, Bynum returned the ball 27 yards to put the Vikings inside Baltimore's red zone.

Minnesota failed to score a touchdown but did earn three points off a 36-yard field goal by Greg Joseph to give the Vikings a 17-3 lead.

Bynum also totaled 12 tackles, second on the team behind Kendricks' 17, and a pass defensed. The rookie did commit a costly holding penalty late in the fourth quarter that gave Baltimore an automatic first down, wiping out a 9-yard sack of Lamar Jackson by Kenny Willekes.

Asked about Bynum's performance, Zimmer said, "Well, he made the interception and, for the most part, he was in the right place today. He had some mistakes, like the young guys do."

The Vikings recorded 3.0 sacks of Jackson and had eight quarterback hits. They worked to collapse the pocket and at times succeeded in rattling the dual-threat passer. But Minnesota still allowed Jackson to get free and run on multiple occasions. A sneak on fourth-and-1 was successful in the fourth quarter. A run on fourth-and-2 in the first quarter that was stopped for a loss didn't count because of a horse-collar tackle penalty.

The Ravens racked up 247 rushing yards Sunday, including 120 by Jackson.

"He's an active runner, as you saw today," Kendricks said. "He's a running back back there with the ball in his hands. So it gives them in an extra guy in the box."

Devonta Freeman recorded 79 yards on the ground, and Le'Veon Bell notched 48 yards and a fourth-quarter rushing touchdown. Freeman may not have scored in the run game but did catch a touchdown pass from Jackson with just 19 seconds remaining in the first half.

The score occurred after a pass interference penalty on Xavier Woods escorted the Ravens right up to the goal line.

Minnesota now has given up 45 points in the five two minutes of halves through the first eight games.

"We didn't do good," Zimmer said. "We had a chance to put the game away after the [Barr] turnover and didn't do good there, and then we haven't been good in the 2-minute drill on defense."

Jackson finished the game 27-of-41 passing for 266 yards, three touchdowns and the pair of interceptions to Barr and Bynum. His passer rating was 88.1.

Kendricks flew all over the field Sunday, notching a career-high 17 tackles (previous was 16 at New England in 2018).

Willekes led all defensive linemen with seven tackles and two quarterback hits in his second NFL game.

But at the end of the day, none of those stats truly matter when the team comes up short. The Vikings defense truly seemed to leave it all on the field in Baltimore, which makes it that much harder to fly home with the L.

The Ravens dominated time of possession, maintaining control of the ball for 46:04 of the nearly 70-minute contest. They also recorded 36 first downs to Minnesota's 13 and totaled an even 500 net yards.

Zimmer acknowledged the defense was gassed toward the end of the game.

"They started pounding us pretty good late in the game," he said.

"We were playing pretty good on defense, so for the first half, I thought we played really well on but then kind of got worn down," Zimmer later added.

Kendricks didn't use fatigue as an excuse.

"It is what is. We've got to do our jobs for sure on defense. There's only so much we can control," Kendricks said. "Stopping the run, containing what they've got going on offense is what we can do – making plays on third and fourth down. That's crucial, especially in a game like this where it comes down to the wire."

The Vikings gave up 116 receiving yards to Marquise Brown, after allowing the wideout only 13 in the first half. Brown had three catches for 43 yards in the second half and an overwhelming four catches for 60 yards in overtime.

Among the most costly plays for Minnesota was an 18-yard catch given up to Brown on third-and-15 in a fourth-quarter drive capped by a Devin Duvernay touchdown.

"We pressured them, and they threw a wide receiver screen," Zimmer said. "We had a guy jump inside the block who was in charge of contain and didn't do it."

Sunday's loss marked the seventh time in Minnesota's eight games that the outcome has been decided in the final seconds and by seven or fewer points. The Vikings have also gone into overtime three times before the midpoint of the season, and they now have to prep for a road game on the opposite coast, when they play the Chargers next Sunday.

It's wearisome, but the Vikings only have their sights set on one thing.

"There's only one thing to do, man, is to get back work. We've been fighting every single game," Kendricks said. "It seems like every single game we lose in overtime or by a field goal or something. But there's only one thing to do, and it's start on Wednesday, [feel] this hurt, come back to work with a new attitude and just do it again and just grind.

"It'll start coming for us, man," he added.