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Vikings Defense Struggles to Stuff Colts

The Vikings suffered from a little bit of defensive déjà vu against the Colts.

Minnesota looked to bounce back on the road after allowing Green Bay to rack up the yardage in Week 1, but the execution largely was lacking in Indy.

When all was said and done, the Vikings allowed the Colts 354 total yards, including 151 rushing in a 28-11 loss by Minnesota.

The Colts were without starting running back Marlon Mack, but it didn't seem to matter. Jonathan Taylor, whom Indianapolis drafted 41st overall out of Wisconsin, effectively chipped away. His longest run was just 13 yards, but the rookie stockpiled 101 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.

"They did a good job of running the ball today," safety Anthony Harris said postgame. "We obviously have to go back and look at the tape and figure out how they were able to be successful. 'Was it something that they did or something that we did, and how can we improve?'

"Giving up 150 yards on the ground, that's not something we pride ourselves on here. So that's something that we have to fix," he added.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he had adjusted the coverage some going into the game to "help the corners out a little more" than is typical.

"I didn't want the ball going over our head, and [I didn't want us] beating ourselves by giving up big plays, so we're playing a little bit more conservative with the coverages, so that meant a few less guys in the running game," Zimmer said. "And then obviously they've got a good offensive line."

In addition to Minnesota having an exceptionally young cornerbacks group this season, the team was without starting rookie Cam Dantzler, who was sidelined with a rib injury.

Zimmer was asked if some of the issues Sunday can be attributed to "growing pains" of young players who weren't afforded the luxury of preseason games.

"I think some of it can be, but we've got a pretty veteran offensive group. So that is concerning to me," Zimmer said. "These young guys [are] trying to come in here and learn in a short amount of time. But that's no excuse. The game plan was simple enough for them this week that there shouldn't be very many mistakes." 

In the passing game, tight end Mo Alie-Cox made big catches time and time again. The 27-year-old recorded five receptions on the day – all of them for double-digit gains – and led the Colts in receiving with 111 yards. Rookie receiver Michael Pittman had the next-highest total with 37.

Indianapolis converted just 3-for-11 on third downs, but the AFC South squad succeeded on first and second downs. Although the Vikings limited the Colts to two touchdowns, a generally admirable number, they allowed them to continue moving the chains and get in field goal range. Rookie Rodrigo Blankenship made field goals of 28, 38, 38 and 44 yards.

"We've got to be better on first and second down – limiting their gains and putting ourselves in better situations for third down," Harris said. "We didn't do very well. We've got to continue to execute our job at a high level on first and second down to be successful and get off the field."

On one third down in the first quarter, the Colts went for it on fourth-and-1 and picked up three yards. On another that same drive, Vikings rookie cornerback Jeff Gladney was flagged for illegal contact, giving the Colts a first down. Cornerback Holton Hill was called for the same penalty on third-and-7 in the second half.

"You know, those are all – I hope – correctable mistakes," Zimmer said.

A bright spot for the Vikings defense was forcing one turnover and nearly getting another. 

Eric Wilson notched his first career interception on the opening play of the second quarter when Rivers threw to Alie-Cox on second-and-8 from the Minnesota 11-yard line.

Safety Harrison Smith tipped the pass, and Wilson corralled it to end Indianapolis' first drive at the 5-yard line.

Early in the third quarter, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, whom the Vikings acquired via trade from Jacksonville in August, had a strip sack of Rivers. The play resulted in an 11-yard loss, but the loose ball was recovered by Colts tackle Braden Smith.

A second sack of Rivers was credited to Hill.

The splash plays, however, weren't enough to make up for other struggles.

Anthony Barr left the game with a shoulder injury, and fellow linebacker Troy Dye dealt with an ankle injury.

Zimmer emphasized that the team needs to get back to work after starting the season 0-2.

"I've been telling them, 'We can't start winning until we stop losing.' And right now, we are doing things to beat ourselves," Zimmer said. "I'm just not going to deal with it anymore."