The Vikings turned in one of the more impressive all-around week one performances Monday night with a 29-19 at home over New Orleans. Here are my knee-jerk reactions to what I saw at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Pretty much everything looked good for Minnesota. Fans expected the defense to be near the top of the league in terms of dominance and they were. The pass rush was come and go but the secondary played lights out all game and there was absolutely no room for Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson to run. The only Saint touchdown came just after the two-minute mark in the fourth quarter when the game was already in hand.
The real surprise was how explosive the offense was. Sam Bradford was absolutely lights out from the word go, delivering strike after strike, moving around in the pocket, showing poise he never has before. To the shock of many, he easily outplayed Drew Brees.
His weapons came to play, too. Stefon Diggs got the ball rolling with a couple first half touchdowns while Adam Thielen dominated the second half. Rudolph caught a touchdown. Jerick McKinnon and Dalvin Cook had three catches apiece. Cook set the Viking rookie record for rushing yards in a debut. Everything clicked for Pat Shurmur and the Viking offense.
Who Stood Out
The obvious individuals, Bradford, Thielen, Diggs and Cook, would all be good choices here but I will go off the board a bit. The offensive line was sensational in pass protection. Bradford was only hit twice the entire game and seemingly had weeks to throw the ball each drop back. Coming into the season, the narrative was that they were a patchwork unit with five new starters but that was not at all apparent tonight.
While they struggled a bit early on opening up holes in the run game, Cook finished his NFL debut with 127 yards on 22 carries. 33 of that came on his final carry but he was still around five yards a pop by the fourth quarter. Pat Elflein and Riley Reiff especially stood out, Reiff for his pass protection and rookie Elflein for his overall athleticism in the run game.
No one of real consequence stood out in a negative way. The guys who needed to contribute did so. For the sake of a name in this section, Latavius Murray was a non-factor in his first game in purple. Despite signing a three-year, $15 million deal in the offseason, he had no role in the gameplan and fumbled on his first carry. He only got one more the rest of the way. McKinnon was the primary spell back and he was significantly more impactful than Murray.
Every rookie who got playing time looked good. Cook and Elflein shined on offense while linebacker Ben Gedeon made several plays in big spots. Diggs and Thielen look like a legit one-two dynamo and if the offensive line holds up, this could be a scary team. With the second half road schedule looming, the Vikes need a real good first eight games to keep their postseason hopes going. This was a great start but a bigger test looms in week two as they travel to Pittsburgh to take on another good two-way team in the Steelers.
Read Clayton Brooks’ game recap here.