Vikings' late-game collapse spoils big day for Justin Jefferson, offense

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings finally found some offensive firepower three weeks into the season, but a day that featured a breakout performance by rookie receiver Justin Jefferson (7 catches, 175 yards) and a career-high day for running back Dalvin Cook was spoiled by a 55-yard field goal, resulting in a 31-30 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

According to Elias, the Vikings are the first team in NFL history to have one player record 175 rushing yards and another record 175 receiving yards in the same game.

The Vikings are off to their first 0-3 start since the 2013 season and have back-to-back road games coming up in Houston and Seattle.

Late-game collapse: The 2020 season is going to be a long one for the Vikings' defense, which allowed 444 yards, including 119 yards rushing to Derrick Henry. That ties the sixth-most yards put up on a defense coached by Mike Zimmer.

Minnesota was in bend-don't-break territory throughout the first two quarters, holding Tennessee to nine points at the half, but gave up big pass plays, including gains of 38, 44 and 61 yards that allowed for a shootout to ensue. The Vikings were again in the red in time of possession (28:28) because of the defense struggling to get off the field in the second half and the offense sputtering late in the game.

"We had those explosive plays," Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks said. "They landed us, I think, it was inside the 5 a couple times. It's hard to play defense when you're backed up on the 1-yard line, 2-yard line. We have to limit the explosives."

Minnesota couldn't overcome three turnovers, and the last drive for the offense with 1:44 left down by one, which Zimmer called a "complete disaster," was especially painful. Starting at their own 25-yard line, the Vikings were bailed out by a roughing-the-passer penalty and given a fresh set of downs. However, after the penalty Kirk Cousins threw an incomplete pass, fumbled the snap for a 14-yard loss, threw another incomplete pass and then an interception on his final play of the game.

"The thing I have to figure out right now is ... how to [get] this team to understand what's causing them to lose," Zimmer said. "We come out at the start of the second half by throwing an interception. They kick a field goal. We give up a big play on defense. The last possession, when you've got a chance to go down and win the game with a field goal, is a complete disaster. But those are the things that are causing us to lose, and until I can figure out a way to get it through their -- we've got a 1-yard run and we get a block in the back and now it's first-and-20. Things like that, that the good teams don't do."

Silver lining? The one positive Minnesota can take away from this loss is how strong the offense performed for most of the game.

Cousins struggled to connect with any of his playmakers outside of Adam Thielen in Weeks 1 and 2. While the Pro Bowl receiver helped the Vikings build up a first-half lead off a 16-yard touchdown, Cousins' connection with Jefferson set up that score (a 31-yard reception while lined up outside) and seemingly broke the game open. Jefferson's first NFL touchdown went for 71 yards in the third quarter, but he wasn't alone.

Minnesota leaned heavily on Cook, who rushed for a career-high 181 yards and the team's first touchdown. The Vikings' go-ahead score in the fourth quarter came when Cousins found tight end Kyle Rudolph in the back of the end zone. Uncovered, Rudolph made a leaping one-handed catch with his left arm, his third one-handed receiving touchdown since the start of last season. No other player has more than one in that same time frame, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"Just to see the opportunities that we left on the field and the big plays that we made on the field. It's a bright future," Jefferson said. "We just need to figure it out. Just some things that we're doing that are not right and we're making critical errors in the game, especially late in the game. We just need to fix it. We're 0-3. We need to start winning some games and get back on track."