NASHVILLE – There was hardly a breeze on a warm Thursday at Nissan Stadium, but the struggles of Vikings kicker Blair Walsh continued nonetheless in a 24-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Walsh, who had already missed five field goals in his first four preseason games along with an extra point, lined up for a 48-yard field goal late in the first quarter. The orange flags atop the uprights on the north end of the stadium hardly fluttered.
But Walsh pushed the long attempt to the right, prompting Vikings fans on Twitter to question whether Walsh needs to be replaced.
Late in the second quarter, Walsh was successful on a 33-yard field goal.
Walsh made just five of his 11 preseason field goals, including the 48-yard miss against the Titans. But coach Mike Zimmer still stands behind Walsh.
"Blair is our kicker, OK?" Zimmer said. "He needs to make them, but Blair's our kicker."
The Vikings have opted to let Walsh kick his way through his preseason struggles instead of bringing in competition. It doesn't help that Walsh signed a four-year, $14 million extension before the start of camp that would force the Vikings to eat a $3.7 million salary cap hit if they release him before or during the season.
After an All-Pro season as a rookie in 2012 and another strong one in 2013, Walsh made just 74.3 percent of his field goals last season. That was the lowest accuracy rate among qualifying NFL kickers.
The Vikings held nearly two dozen players out Thursday.
Injured players John Sullivan (back), tight end Chase Ford (undisclosed) and nose tackle Shamar Stephen (knee) did not suit up against the Titans.
The Vikings also chose not to play healthy starters such as quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, running back Adrian Peterson, safety Harrison Smith and outside linebacker Chad Greenway for precautionary reasons.
Mariota's final tuneup
While the Vikings kept their franchise quarterback out of action, the Titans wanted their rookie starter to get a little bit more work.
Marcus Mariota, the electric dual threat out of Oregon whom the Titans drafted with the second overall pick, played one series against the Vikings.
He completed two of his three attempts for 74 yards and a touchdown. His numbers were inflated by his 59-yard touchdown pass to receiver Harry Douglas, who caught the pass just a few yards downfield and took it the distance.
Rookie offensive lineman Tyrus Thompson was knocked out of the game in the first quarter with a head injury. He was evaluated for a concussion and did not return.
"He's going through the protocol," Zimmer said, referring to the league-mandated concussion protocol.
Thompson, a sixth-round pick, is on the roster bubble. The Vikings must trim their roster to 53 players by Saturday at 3 p.m.
Diggs has big night
Rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs bounced back from a first-quarter fumble to record a game-high eight catches for 85 yards. He scored his first career touchdown in the fourth quarter as the Vikings tried to rally from a two-touchdown deficit.
"I knew Taylor [Heinicke] was going to be on me based on the coverage that they were in," Diggs said. "He just threw a great ball and I tried to make a play for him."
Exum likes his play
Safety Antone Exum tied for the team lead with six tackles against the Titans. Exum, who missed a week and a half of training camp with a hamstring injury, feels he has tackled better in the two games since returning to the lineup.
"Early on, I wasn't tackling as well. I was trying to play too fast," Exum said. "I'm aggressive on the field, and I was maybe being a little too aggressive. That past two games, I've gotten back to what I do, is tackle well.