The Vikings defense had to make some last-minute adjustments before Sunday's 27-24 overtime victory against the Jaguars when linebacker Eric Kendricks "tweaked" his injured calf minutes before kickoff, according to coach Mike Zimmer.
The All-Pro linebacker had missed only one defensive snap this season before Sunday. He entered the game nursing an injured calf muscle that kept him from practicing Wednesday, but he was a full participant by Friday and had no gameday injury designation.
Kendricks was seen on the CBS broadcast grabbing his left calf during a grapevine warmup drill.
"Then they were trying to get him ready to play," Zimmer said, "and he couldn't answer the bell."
Linebacker Todd Davis, former Broncos leading tackler who signed in September with the Vikings, stepped into Kendricks' three-down role. Rookie Troy Dye played middle linebacker in the base defense, while the Jaguars offense ran through its running backs and tight ends.
The Vikings defense overcame a rocky start, falling into a 9-0 deficit off Jacksonville's 162 yards in the first quarter. The Jaguars averaged 6.3 yards per run in the opening quarter, and that average dropped to 4.3 rushing yards per attempt in the final three quarters.
Just an aberration?
Kicker Dan Bailey entered Sunday's game having made 26 of 27 extra-point attempts this season, and he doubled his misses against the Jaguars. Two botched extra points — one hooked wide left, another pushed wide right — preceded Bailey's missed 51-yard field-goal attempt with 13 seconds left in regulation.
Bailey's misses left Zimmer baffled about the otherwise consistent veteran kicker.
"I don't have any idea," Zimmer said. "I couldn't tell if he just missed them. I mean, the snaps looked fine, the hold was fine. I don't know. Really, Bailey's had a great year, so I hope this is just an enigma."
Special teams woes included rookie K.J. Osborn fumbling another punt return, but this time he recovered the gaffe. Replacing Chad Beebe, Osborn managed 21 yards on three returns to more than double the Vikings' NFL-low 13 punt return yards entering the weekend.
Brailford's busy debut
Defensive end Jordan Brailford had a busy NFL debut for the Vikings. The former 2019 seventh-round pick by Washington came off the bench, helping to replace injured defensive end D.J. Wonnum (ankle/back), and forced and recovered a fumble from Jaguars quarterback Mike Glennon.
Brailford later aided defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo in sacking Glennon for a safety in the fourth quarter, although Odenigbo got the credit for the sack. Signed by the Vikings in October, Brailford's debut was delayed, in part, by a three-game absence for personal reasons.
Cook has 38 touches
Running back Dalvin Cook's 38 touches against the Jaguars are a career high, and the most by an NFL player in a regular-season game since Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott's 40 touches in Week 14 of 2018, according to Pro Football Reference. This came after Zimmer said he wanted to be "smart" with Cook's workload, but a close game and backup running back Alexander Mattison's appendicitis surgery on Saturday altered any plans of relieving Cook.
"[Jacksonville] did a good job," Zimmer said. "They were overloading a lot, bringing a lot of pressure from the inside and outside. Mattison was out [Sunday], so that was part of it."
• Cornerback Jeff Gladney hobbled off the field in the fourth quarter because of a calf injury and did not return. Vikings trainers looked at the right leg of Gladney, who spent the rest of the game on a stationary bike.
• Tight end Brandon Dillon, elevated from the practice squad with Irv Smith Jr. (back) ruled out, was knocked out of the game because of an ankle injury.
• The Jaguars lost receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (finger) and center Brandon Linder (ankle) to injuries during the game.