Justin Jefferson's historic first start gave Minnesota a much-needed dose of optimism, and so did a big game by Dalvin Cook (more on both below). They became the first teammates to have 175-plus receiving and rushing yards, respectively, in one NFL game.
Still, those big days by the rookie receiver and franchise running back weren't enough for Minnesota to avoid opening 2020 with a third consecutive loss.
1. Now he's Cookin'
After inking Cook to a contract extension just before the season opener, the Vikings seemed unable to get the star the football in the first two weeks as often as one would expect.
Minnesota fell behind in Weeks 1 and 2, and Cook combined for just 26 carries in those losses.
The Vikings led the Titans for parts of every quarter and all of the second, and they kept "The Chef" involved throughout the day. He rushed 22 times for 181 yards (averaging 8.2 yards per carry!) that was highlighted by a 39-yard touchdown, the second-longest score of his career.
Cook added another 39-yard run on a toss play that was creative with its formation and misdirection.
Analytics site Pro Football Focus noted that Cook led the NFL with seven runs that gained 10 or more yards in Week 3.
According to Next Gen Stats, Cook topped out at 20.70 mph on his touchdown scamper and reached 20.52 mph on a 15-yard reception (fifth- and eighth-fastest speeds by a ball carrier in Week 3, which does not include Monday's game).
2. Longest plays and racking the YAC
Jefferson covered 87.4 yards on his 71-yard touchdown catch that involved a deep crossing route and reversal back to the middle of the field. It was the third-longest play of Week 3, and he reached 20.13 miles per hour for the 12th-fastest speed by a ball carrier.
Next Gen Stats calculated that Jefferson gained 40 yards after the catch, which was 16 greater than the 24 that were expected on his first career score. That ranked eighth in YAC above expected in Week 3. He also ranked fifth in the category with 21 YAC above expected (gained 24 when only 3 were expected) during a 33-yard reception in the second quarter.
Cook covered a whopping 67.9 yards on his 39-yard rush in the third quarter for the ninth-longest play.
3. Passing comparison
Jefferson was able to do "The Griddy" — his touchdown dance — into the end zone after Titans defenders fell down.
The 71-yard score gave Minnesota a big statistical boost on passes thrown 20 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage, which also included a 16-yard reception that Adam Thielen reeled in during the second quarter.
The Titans, however, also were effective on passes 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage and found greater success between the line of scrimmage to 20 yards beyond it than the Vikings.
Tennessee QB Ryan Tannehill completed 18 of 27 passes for 216 yards on such passes. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins was 12-for-15 for 125 yards with a touchdown (3-yarder to Kyle Rudolph was in the back of the end zone) and interception (first play of second half).
Below is a chart that compares passing zones for Tannehill and Cousins.