It’s September 12th and Vikings fans should feel great following a statement win vs the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football. The 29-19 final score makes the game seem closer than it was as Sam Bradford and the Vikings were firing on all cylinders from late in the first quarter to the final whistle. In addition, former Vikings star Adrian Peterson was held to just 18 yards on 6 carries in his Saints debut. Not only did this team dominate the Saints in every facet of the game, they excelled in areas that were huge concerns in the offseason which has to be a relief for a fan base that feels they could be an offensive line away from a NFC title.
The game started out looking like last year; the pocket would collapse early and Sam was forced to make short quick passes, often to receivers who weren’t ready for the ball. After the team’s second drive, the entire offense started to play cohesively for the first time since 2009. That 3-play 74-yard touchdown drive is something Vikings fans haven’t seen in a long time out of an offense.
Rookie Pat Elflein and the offensive line had a better showing than all of last season which did wonders for Bradford, who threw for 346 yards and 3 touchdowns, completing 84.3% of his passes. These weren’t like last year’s completions that earned him an NFL record either. Bradford went 10 of 11 on passes 20+ yards downfield. These passes included a few beautiful throws to Diggs, two of which were touchdowns. He also made use of dark horse deep threat Adam Thielen who racked up over 150 yards receiving last night. Diggs finished the night with 2 touchdowns and 93 yards on just 7 receptions, not to mention some wet touchdown dances, lets take a look.
I would break down every position group and why they played well but the whole team came to play last night so I’m just gonna throw out a few of my takeaways from last nights game.
- The receiving core had one of its’ best showing in recent memory, accounting for two touchdowns and well over 250 yards. Not a lot of balls were dropped and Stefon Diggs made two or three spectacular catches. Laquon Treadwell even had a catch for a first down matching his entire last season’s performance. Fantasy owners beware.
- Sam Bradford looked like a guy who was taken number 1 overall. He was on fire last night, every throw was perfect and he had the offense in control pretty much the whole game. We only had to punt twice last night and Bradford is a bug reason for that. I’m not gonna compare his stats to Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers after one week (I’ll let ESPN do that for instagram likes) but if the season ended today, Sammy Sleeves would be your league MVP.
- Dalvin Cook seemed to be everything he was advertised as. The rookie had 127 rushing yards on 22 carries including a 33 yard run to the outside in garbage time. His ball catching abilities have yet to be put on display as Bradford didn’t have to check down nearly as much as anyone expected. Cook did drop one easy pass that could have gained a first down.
- The Offensive Line impressed as they did a good job keeping Sam on his feet the entire game except for one sack and a couple early knockdowns early one. No one expected much out of this unit as they have been the achilles heel of the team for two seasons now. Playing Pittsburgh next week will determine if this line can play, or if last night’s performance was the result of playing against an awful defense.
- Rookies played a big part in last night’s win. Dalvin Cook, the second round pick out of Florida State had big numbers in the run game. On the quiet side were center Pat Elflein and LB Ben Gedeon. Elfen played phenomenal and looks to be a future top center in the NFL. Gedeon played a solid game, getting two tackles and not letting up any big plays.
- Trae Waynes had 11 tackles, broke up a few plays and besides one big play, wasn’t out there getting picked on like he usually is. It seems Trae is finally finding his place in Zimmer’s defense, now we just need the same from Mackenzie Alexander.
Although the team played well overall, a few things need to be pointed out going forward as we start to play better teams.
- Kicking wasn’t perfect. And in the NFL, you need kicking to be perfect. Kai Forbath went 3 for 3 on field goals but missed an extra point early on. In addition, one of his kicks barely squeezed the inside of the post and would have gone wide had Forbath been any further away. In the NFL, you need a guy you can rely on to drill mid range kicks and make most of his long ones. I don’t know if we have a better option but I don’t see Forbath being a mainstay on this team for long. On the bright side, rookie punter Ryan Quigley was spectacular and we only had to use him twice.
- Turnover margin was zero, which I can’t really complain about but if the offense starts to regress, which is likely, we’re gonna need to see some turnovers by our linebackers and secondary. I don’t see this team beating Pittsburgh next week without intercepting Big Ben once or twice.
- Defending the deep ball was a problem last night. Although one or two of the plays were in garbage time, the Saints pulled off a few big plays that got them deep into our territory. Luckily for those instances in the first half, the defense was able to buckle down and hold New Orleans to a field goal.
Overall the team looked great as a unit and I’ll give this weeks performance a B+. Through one game, my initial season predictions are correct. However, following training camp I was very pessimistic coming into this season. I’ll give credit where it’s due, the Vikes proved me wrong, for one night at least, about every negative take I had coming into this season. Lets keep it going.
Just for fun:
Additional congratulation to Randy Moss for being inducted to the Vikings ring of honor at halftime. We should just bring him in for every home game going forward. Straight cash, homie.