|Doug Benc / Getty Images|
|The Titans defense held the Vikings in check, sacking Gus Frerotte twice and forcing Minnesota into four turnovers.|
NASHVILLE -- As the Titans dissected the Vikings this week, they found a defense that was just as big, just as brawn, just as bullying as their own. Psssst -- that Vikings defense, some among the Titans quietly thought, might be better.
So, the bodacious defenses rolled out on Sunday at LP Stadium with the Vikings gaining the first crack.
The Tennessee defense was strapped and on the sidelines and ready to pounce as soon as the Vikings forced a punt.
The Titans' offense ran it right. They passed it short. They ran it right again. They tossed it short. Then they threw it deep. Then they ran off left tackle. Another short pass, another run around right end, another toss, a timeout and, whoa, the Titans had held the ball for nine plays and were at the Minnesota 9.
"Now, that was a pleasure," Titans safety Vincent Fuller said of looking for a fight and -- watching the Tennessee offense do the clubbing.
"You can't tell me fatigue didn't set in for them coming from cooler Minnesota and starting the game off in 80-degree heat like that," Fuller said. "We were hot. I know they were hot. And as the game went on, that first drive probably knocked them back on their heels for the rest of the game."
The Vikings for most of the game looked like a team that practiced last week by running a few plays here and there and then showed up and tried to call a few of them. There was little cohesion in their effort.
Of course, four fumbles -- three of them lost -- and an interception served by the offense will make a team look unglued.
Toss in seven penalties, costly ones that kept drives going for Tennessee or forced Minnesota's offense too frequently off the field, and it was easy to see that though the Vikings won in many of the overall numbers, that they were, in essence, an absolute jumble.
"It's disturbing," said Vikings coach Brad Childress, who must know that for Vikings brass it is much more than that. If Childress eventually does not last in Minnesota, we can all point to this game as one checkpoint on his list why.
Big game, big moment on the road against an undefeated team and the Vikings looked, well, poorly coached. They looked ridiculously sloppy.
"That was just undisciplined football and you can start with me," Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said. "I mean, they didn't have a ton of big, long passes or big, long runs. They did score 21 points off us on turnovers. But just as important for our defense, it was a methodical game by them. Just enough quick hits and off-balance stuff that kept us at bay."
It was 34 Tennessee runs and 35 Tennessee passes.
It was Kerry Collins throwing for 199 yards without a pick. It was rookie back Chris Johnson showing his explosion on the edges with touchdown runs of 1 and 6 yards.
It was the Titans winning on special teams and winning in execution and sticking with their running game despite averaging 2.2 yards per carry.
Minnesota (20 runs/43 passes) did not do that.
Adrian Peterson carried 18 times and scored twice on blazing jaunts of 28 and 3 yards. But the Vikings tried to win the game as much with quarterback Gus Frerotte (two sacks, one pick, 18 incompletions) as with Peterson.
"That was frustrating," Peterson said of the final results. "That hurts. It's hostile here and we kept giving their fans and their team a spark. We dug ourselves into a hole. I know we have fighters on our team. I see us as a team that will keep fighting."
The Vikings must.
They play on Monday night at New Orleans.
A showing like this one on that bright stage could further expose the Vikings in ugly ways.
"We can't have that," Vikings safety Darren Sharper said. "We've got veteran guys who are proud on this team and they are not going to let that happen. We've got to take more shots and bigger shots on both sides of the ball. We've got to understand that we can't keep thinking, 'It's early, it's early, it's early ...' The next thing you know, we'll look up and it will be November and we will be wondering what happened."
Some Vikings were already doing that.
"I looked up at the scoreboard," Allen said. "And I'm wondering, 'What happened here?' Turnovers can really change a game."
Tennessee did its part in forcing them.
"They depend on their running game and we did a good job of keeping it in check early," Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse said. "We did the job up front. We enjoy being 4-0."
The Titans have never been 4-0.
"I respect the Vikings and their plan today and if you look at the numbers overall, they had a good and interesting plan," Titans linebacker David Thornton said. "But the difference in our effort today was that no one wanted to be the weak link. On offense, defense and special teams we found a collective way to beat them. That's great for us."
And lousy for the Vikings.
"Nothing's for sure," Vikings center Matt Birk said of his team's inconsistent execution. "You just work at it, be conscious of it. You practice good habits. Some things are going to happen, you're never going to be perfect. But certainly too many miscues today."