Winless Vikings to pound the rock, not panic button, against Titans
The Minnesota Vikings are 0-2 to begin the season for the first time since 2013.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins believes he has a pulse on the way to spark a turnaround when the Vikings welcome the 2-0 Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
“The urgency is there every week, but what we certainly need to improve on in addition to just having urgency is to have production,” Cousins said. “That’s where my focus is. The urgency is there, but we need the production to go with it.”
Cousins admitted he needs to improve. Minnesota lost its season opener 43-34 to Green Bay, falling behind with Cousins playing a bit part in the first half, and dropped its Week 2 game at Indianapolis 28-11.
A Pro Bowler in 2019 after throwing for 3,603 yards with 26 touchdowns, six interceptions and a career-best 107.4 passer rating, Cousins has struggled to begin 2020. His passer rating was 0.0 late in the third quarter at Indianapolis, but Cousins ultimately raised it — to a sparse 15.9 — after finishing 11-of-26 for 113 yards and three interceptions.
To keep heat off of Cousins, the Vikings are looking to establish the ground game and take a page out of the Titans’ book with multiple tight ends plowing on an eight-man line on occasion. Dalvin Cook brings big-play flair but cutback lanes have been clogged as defenses dare the Vikings to push the ball downfield.
Cousins has been sacked in the end zone for a safety in consecutive games. According to Pro Football Reference, Minnesota has allowed safeties in back-to-back games only one other time in franchise history, in December 2007.
Now comes a quick Tennessee front seven that includes defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, a late addition to the team who is looking to make his mark with the Titans.
“Clowney, they move [him] around quite a bit,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “Sometimes he’s on the right, sometimes he’s on the left, sometimes he lines up over the center. So, they move him around. Identification will be big for us.”
Tennessee is 2-0 for the first time since 2008 and rolling behind efficient quarterback play from Ryan Tannehill as well as clutch heroics from placekicker Stephen Gostkowski, who has hit game-winning field goals against Denver and Jacksonville. Gostkowski has all but erased memories of his four missed field goals at Denver.
“We’re 2-0 and you would think in this locker room that we’re 0-2 with the way we’re focused, which I think is different than I’ve seen in past years,” Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan said. “Guys are definitely like, ‘We know how much better we can be.'”
Tannehill completed 18-of-24 passes for 239 yards in a 33-30 home win against Jacksonville. He had four touchdowns and zero interceptions. It marked the third time Tannehill had four touchdown passes in a game in his career and first since Oct. 25, 2015, when he led the Miami Dolphins past the Houston Texans.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel said the run game has experienced too many plays halted at or behind the line of scrimmage, but running back Derrick Henry remains second in the league with 200 rush yards.
Tennessee cornerback Johnathan Joseph suffered a calf injury in the second half Sunday and did not return, but was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice. Cornerbacks Malcolm Butler (quad) and Chris Jackson (hamstring) didn’t practice, and neither did receiver A.J. Brown (knee).
Four-time Minnesota Pro Bowl linebacker Anthony Barr was placed on injured reserve Monday with a torn pectoral muscle and will miss the rest of the season. Barr sustained the injury in the first half at Indianapolis and didn’t return.
“AB is a beast,” Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson said. “He’s very good at a lot of things. … He calls the plays for our defense, so we’ve got to make adjustments there.”
Cornerbacks Cameron Dantzler (rib) and Mike Hughes (neck) missed Wednesday’s practice for Minnesota, as did running back Mike Boone (concussion) and linebacker Troy Dye (ankle). Offensive tackle Riley Reiff was limited with an ankle injury.
–Field Level Media