Every once in awhile, an NFL team will have one of those games where everything clicks. These games are a blast for the fans but they also make an analyst’s job difficult because they have to really reach to find some areas of improvement. Monday night’s Viking win was one of those games.
For week one’s choices in Ups and Downs, we are going to go outside the box. There are several obvious ups for Minnesota: Sam Bradford playing like an MVP; Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs making a legit one-two dynamo; Dalvin Cook looking legit; The line protecting; and the defense playing well in every facet. But in here it is all about the things that are perhaps not at the top of the average fan’s mind.
Waynes’ playing time in 2016 was mostly at the nickel with the occasional outside coverage and in that time he was iffy. He finished tied for seventh in the league in pass interference calls and his youth was consistently on display. He earned the starting outside corner spot entering 2017 due to an excellent preseason and against a good New Orleans offense, he was outstanding. Waynes got beat downfield on a play early but from there on out, his coverage was impeccable. On top of that, he led the team in tackles, a rare feat for a corner. His play was a very good sign for the Viking defense.
For a four drive sequence in the second quarter, Shurmur had one of the best play-calling performances fans will see. The Saints brought the blitz on multiple occasions but due to good blocking schemes, smart route combinations and short dropbacks, Bradford was able to get the ball out. And not just with check downs but plays down the field, as well. Yes, Bradford and the line deserve all the credit in the world for dramatically exceeding expectations and on top of that, the Saint defense is bad. But Shurmur’s gameplan was perfect.
Three rookies got starts for Minnesota and all performed more than adequately. Clearly, Dalvin Cook looks like an instant star with his combination of finesse and power and he has the debut rushing record to show for it. But rookie center Pat Elflein did a lot to make Cook look good. Elflein is an exceptional athlete for a guy his size and he along with the rest of the line kept Bradford clean and opened up holes for Cook. There was a screen pass in the second half where Elflein led the way 40 yards downfield, out-running several linebackers along the way.
The other rookie, linebacker Ben Gedeon, had a less obvious performance. The Vikings use nickel around 70 percent of the time and Gedeon comes off the field in those packages but when he was on, he was far from a liability. He showed a nose for the ball and a surprising savvy in pass coverage for a rookie. Needless to say, the Vikings are poised for sustained success with their youth playing so well.
Yes, the kicker is a down. That is how low-reaching this has to go. Forbath hit on all three field goal attempts but he missed an extra point with no outside interference. That goes in line with his 2016 where he also made every field goal but missed three PATs. Something likely needs to change if he wants to hold placekicking duties.
Fan Memories of Adrian Peterson
Ask any Packer fan who the quarterback was before Aaron Rodgers. They will not be able to tell you. “Brett who?” they say. Why is that? Because they found someone who is arguably better. That is what Viking fans are hoping for at the running back position. Peterson is a legend not only in Minnesota but in the entire NFL to be sure but he sat on the sideline while Dalvin Cook tore apart the Saint defense in the second half. And now, expectations for him are on a level not seen since 2007, Peterson’s rookie year.
Teddy Bridgewater’s Future in Minnesota
This conversation will get bandied about like crazy in the near future and we will go further into depth on it soon. But quite simply, it is possible, perhaps even likely that Bridgewater’s Viking career is over. If Bradford plays the rest of the year even close to how he did Monday and Shumur stays in as offensive coordinator, Bradford is the quarterback.