(KMSP) - If defense wins championship, the Minnesota Vikings are a contender in 2016, no matter who’s playing quarterback.
The Vikings went into halftime down 10-0 to the Tennessee Titans, with Blair Walsh missing two first half field goals – both wide left – from 37 and 56 yards. Adrian Peterson also failed to spring loose, with just 18 first half rushing yards. Peterson would finish with just 31 yards on 18 carries.
But Mike Zimmer’s Vikings are built on defense, and the defense delivered in the second half. Eric Kendricks intercepted a Marcus Mariota pass in the third quarter and ran it back 77 yards for a touchdown. The pick six was the longest opening weekend interception for a touchdown since Vikings teammate Harrison Smith took one 81 yards in 2014.
In the fourth quarter, the Vikings defense struck again. Danielle Hunter scooped a Mariota fumble for a 24 yard touchdown.
Mariota and running back Demarco Murray connected for their second touchdown of the game in the final minute, but couldn’t close the gap.
Final score: Vikings 25, Titans 16
Shaun Hill: The veteran quarterback had a solid performance, completing 18 of 33 passes for 236 yards. Hill was named the Week 1 starter over newly-acquired Sam Bradford, who joined the Vikings in a trade from Philadelphia just one week ago.
Walsh’s woes: After a heartbreaking miss in last year’s playoff loss to Seattle, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh had a strong preseason, making 7 of 8 field goals and all 6 of his extra point attempts in 4 preseason games. On Sunday in Tennessee, Walsh missed his first two field goal attempts, from 37 yards and 56 yards. He actually missed the 56-yarder twice after the first kick was wiped away by a pre-snap timeout from the Titans sideline. Walsh also missed an extra point attempt following the Eric Kendricks interception. He finished the game with 4 made field goals on 6 attempts, including a 50-yarder.
Next up: The Vikings will host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night in Week 2 for the first regular season game at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Packers escaped Jacksonville with a 27-23 win over the Jaguars on Sunday. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers accounted for 3 touchdowns in the win.