NASHVILLE – If Sunday's season-opening win is any indication, the Vikings will need more to move the mountains.
Visions of last year's opener in San Francisco appeared in Nashville during the first half, when the Vikings struggled to run the ball and surrendered a few big gains to Titans running backs. Without Teddy Bridgewater under center, eight, sometimes nine Titans defenders crowded the line of scrimmage throughout the Vikings' 25-16 victory.
"We're not going to play a game this year where they ain't going to key in on Adrian Peterson," coach Mike Zimmer said.
Peterson was tackled for a loss on more than a quarter of his runs. He amassed only 31 yards on 19 carries for a 1.6-yard average that was his lowest in nearly three years.
The NFL's reigning rushing champion's longest run was 9 yards.
"I take my hat off to Tennessee, because they did an excellent job of cramming the run," Peterson said. "Offensively, the guys up front did good and we were able to pick up 4, 5, 2 or 3 here. It wasn't the prettiest effort, but it was enough to get us in position to score."
They escaped with a victory after the defense scored the Vikings' only two touchdowns on the day, though they'll need their most valuable player to be more effective. That starts with the line and tight ends creating more space. Offseason additions of left guard Alex Boone, whom Peterson's first three runs were aimed behind, and right tackle Andre Smith were made to shore up the line.
Improvements came in pass protection as quarterback Shaun Hill wasn't sacked and took just four hits on 35 dropbacks, though too often Peterson was hit behind the line of scrimmage, an indication of the struggles to clear the crowd.
"I'm sure I'll look back on film and see two or three that one extra push or a better read by me, from being a 70-yarder," Peterson said. "I understand that."
Thielen moves past Wright
Adam Thielen, in his fourth season after being undrafted, has passed Jarius Wright in the Vikings' three-receiver formation.
Thielen continued to capitalize on his chances in Tennessee, catching four passes on five targets for 54 yards.
"Adam keeps making plays," Zimmer said. "The more you make plays, the more you get a chance to play."
Wright, who signed a four-year, $14.8 million contract extension last year, was a healthy scratch as the Vikings rolled with five receivers. Between the six on the roster, including starting split end Charles Johnson and first-round pick Laquon Treadwell, Wright is one who doesn't play special teams. Treadwell did not play.
Second-year receiver Stefon Diggs carried over from an impressive rookie season as he led the way with 103 receiving yards on seven catches. One change is much of Diggs' work came in the slot, where Wright was a three-year starter.
Patterson in the mix
Cordarrelle Patterson, the enigmatic 2013 first-round pick, was also mixed in after seeing only 58 snaps on offense all of last season.
Patterson had two touches, one run and one catch, for 14 yards.
"He's earned playing time," Zimmer said. "It's not like, 'Let's just put him in there.' "
Patterson returned the second-half opening kickoff 61 yards. Titans kicker Ryan Succop kicked to Patterson at the 5-yard line, a strategy few might try moving forward after the NFL moved touchbacks up to the 25.
"Every time a kicker has the nerve to kick me the ball, I just feel like me and [special teams] coach [Mike] Priefer want to make them pay for it," Patterson said. "Every time they kick it to us, we want to make them pay for their mistakes."
Rhodes out with balky knee
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes was set to undergo a scan Sunday night after he was a late scratch before the game.
Rhodes was downgraded to questionable hours before kickoff because of an injured knee, which is a new ailment after he had been limited during the preseason and last week of practice with an injured hamstring. Zimmer said Rhodes felt "a pop" in his knee before the game.
It was Rhodes' first missed start since he took over the right cornerback job two years ago. Cornerback Trae Waynes made his second career start and a team-high 10 tackles.