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Vikings Lament Not Finishing Final 10 Minutes Better

When the Vikings received the ball with 1 minute and 44 seconds left in the fourth quarter Sunday, they were down by a point and needed to get in field goal range.

NFL Next Gen Stats had the game essentially at a coin flip, with the Vikings having a 46 percent chance to win.

Those odds swayed in the Vikings favor after just one snap — a roughing the passer call on the Titans — lifting Minnesota's chances to 55 percent as the ball moved from their own 25-yard line to the 40.

But the Vikings only went backward from there, as an incomplete pass preceded a wayward snap that lost 14 yards. Another incompletion, and a Kirk Cousins' interception on a last-gasp pass eliminated hope.

And after having a lead at halftime, in the third quarter and with 10-plus minutes to go, the Vikings found themselves in a 0-3 hole.

"Those are the moments that you want as an offense, to be able to go down and kick a field goal to win the game," Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen said of the final sequence that netted just 1 yard thanks only to the penalty. "Obviously, we didn't make the plays, we didn't do the little things to make that happen.

"It's frustrating when you feel like you played a really good game, and then you have a big moment and it kind of looks sloppy," Thielen added. "Obviously, something to be able to learn from to make those corrections moving forward."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said of the final drive: "I think it was more of a disaster than chaos. I mean, guys knew what they were doing. The first play, Kirk got pressured, and then the second play, I think it was the bad snap. Or maybe it was the third play. But he had a lot of people in his face at that time, so it was hard to get the ball down the field."

Over the past few seasons, Zimmer has preached about how important the final 10 minutes of the fourth quarter are.

Play well and execute, Zimmer has said, and you likely leave with a win. Mistakes and miscues down that stretch usually result with an L in the win-loss column.

The final 10 minutes of Minnesota's Week 3 loss won't sit well with a Vikings team that was so successful in that area a year ago.

In 2019, Zimmer's squad was 9-0 when entering the fourth quarter with a lead. And although they didn't have one Sunday, they had a halftime lead, and were also ahead on the scoreboard late in both the third and fourth quarters.

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

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Minnesota had a 79-percent chance to win at halftime when they led 17-9. An interception on the Vikings first play of the third quarter knocked that percentage to 67, but a defensive stand on the ensuing possession pushed the probability back up. Minnesota's win likelihood was still at 70 when the Vikings were up 30-28 and got the ball back on offense.

That ensuing drive gained 14 total yards on the first two plays, but the Vikings soon imploded with a 10-yard penalty and a sack that went for a loss of seven yards that put the offense in a tough spot.

"I believe we had gotten a first down and we got a 10-yard penalty that made it first-and-20," Zimmer said. "Then we got a sack, so it was second-and-[27], and then third-and-[15].. So that was the next-to-last drive, I believe."

While the offense couldn't muster any insurance points, or help bleed the clock, on their final two drives, the defense tried to do their part.

And even though that unit didn't allow the Titans to get into the red zone, Tennessee still took the lead on a pair of 50-plus yard field goals in the final half of the fourth quarter.

With the Vikings now staring at an 0-3 hole to start the season, Zimmer knows how much a win would mean for his team as it continues to battle and compete each week.

"That's the disappointing thing," Zimmer said. "What I told them in the locker room last night was we work our butts off to do that and probably should have won the game [Sunday] and didn't win it.

"We work hard, and we don't have anything to show for it right now," Zimmer added. "It's disappointing, it's frustrating, it's all those things that you want to say, but we've got to keep grinding and hopefully the ball bounces our way and we'll get a win here this next week."

In order to get their first win Sunday against the Texans, who are also 0-3, the Vikings will need to make plays when they count the most — in the final 10 minutes of the fourth quarter.

"Those final 10 minutes are when you really start to feel the pressure, when teams really want to make their move, so it's important," said Vikings safety Anthony Harris. "You want to be a good closer. They say, 'It's not how you start. It's how you finish.'

"If you can get to those last 10 minutes and have yourself in a good position to win it," Harris added, "then ultimately it's just about handling the situations, executing, making plays, not hurting yourself and coming away with a victory."