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Instant reaction: Vikings’ offense steamrolls Saints

The Minnesota Vikings couldn’t have asked for anything more from their offense on opening night as they thrashed the New Orleans Saints 29-19. Here are several observations from the Vikings’ Monday night victory:

Big-play Bradford

Late in the second quarter, the Vikings’ deep passing game made an appearance as Bradford led a three-play, 74-yard touchdown drive on back-to-back-to-back explosive passes. Both Bradford’s 21-yard throw to Jarius Wright and 18-yard touchdown toss to Stefon Diggs were set up by play-action. Even with zero running game last year, the Vikings were one of the league’s better teams on play-action plays and it appears that will continue this season.

The biggest criticism of Bradford last season was that he checked down too often. Early in the game that was the case, but when he was given protection in the second quarter, the Vikings hit five throws over 15 yards, including a 44-yard throw with time running out in the half.

The Vikings’ quarterback did not slow down in the second half, opening up with a 30-yard throw to Stefon Diggs. He also hit Adam Thielen on several throws down the field.

Bradford finished the game 27-for-32 with 346 yards and three touchdowns.

Diggs and Thielen are one of the league’s best combos

Last year, Pro Football Focus ranked both Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen as top-20 receivers. They may not have received their due credit because the Vikings’ offense struggled. On Monday night, Diggs and Thielen reminded the league how dangerous they are.

Diggs caught two touchdowns in the first half, including an outstanding contested grab in the corner of the end zone. He made another terrific catch down the sideline in which the DB was called for pass interference but he nabbed the ball anyway. Diggs ended with seven catches for 93 yards.

Thielen has a knack for getting open downfield and he showed that on multiple occasions on Monday, finishing with nine catches for 157 yards.

Strong debut for Dalvin Cook

During training camp and preseason, Dalvin Cook convinced the Vikings that he could be a true No. 1 running back. He showed all the signs of that on opening night. Not only did Cook effectively run the ball, finishing with 127 yards on 22 carries, he also was very good in pass protecting, picking up blitzes on several occasions.

Elflein and the O-line with a solid start

Sam Bradford was sacked one time and was protected exceptionally well throughout Monday night’s game. He routinely sat back in the pocket and worked the ball downfield – which he was not able to do at all last year. Both tackles played well. Mike Remmers gave up one sack and had a (questionable) holding penalty, but Bradford was rarely touched.

In the running game, Pat Elflein was solid at center and the Vikings put on a much better display on the ground that at almost any time in 2016.

Don’t forget the defense

Leading up to the Vikings/Saints matchup, Mike Zimmer praised Drew Brees for his ability to handle the rush and effectively read defenses. But on Monday night, Brees, who has led the NFL in passing five of the last six years, struggled to find open receivers. He was consistently under pressure and rarely had time to work the ball downfield. The Vikings’ defense had several huge red zone stops, forcing the Saints to kick three field goals.

Where’s Adrian?

Adrian Peterson’s return to Minnesota was one of the NFL’s most hyped stories, but outside of AP’s 9-yard run to open the game, he was a ghost. At one point, the broadcast showed Peterson yelling toward head coach Sean Payton. Peterson caught a pass inside the red zone late in the game and failed to punch the ball in. The Saints appeared to favor rookie Alvin Kamara over the former Viking. Peterson finished with 18 yards on six carries.

  • Wilbur One

    Not bad for starters, but I wanna see more!!!

  • Wilbur One

    Bradford haters; exit stage right!!!

    • Matthew Rowe

      He’s very talented. We still need to see him down in the 4th quarter, game winning drive situation success, though

      • MarkWattsUp

        Is “4th quarter, game winning drive situation success” when you get the go ahead TD with seconds left on the clock but your head coach doesn’t know how to manage the clock therefore the defense gives up 50 yards in a few seconds and they put you into overtime.

        See Detroit last season.

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  • Talltales08

    Not to be a wet blanket, but this was the Saints defense Bradford shredded. Still, I enjoyed every second of the game. SKOL!!!

    • DollarsManBigfootBrokeArm

      Totally valid point, but truthfully, doing the things they did last night against any pro defense is really nice to see. Also, pretty impressive to hold Saints to 19 points when there were no turnovers. No turnovers also meant no short fields, so all of Vike’s points were fully earned on long drives.

  • Gordon Guffey

    I dont know why sports reporters or anyone else would be shocked over the play of Bradford’s play ~ Some people still dont get it ~ What he was able to do last year behind a bunch of backup offensive lineman is still shocking to me ~ He had no running game because of the same reason ~ And in some cases it was the backups of the backups ~

    Cook was unreal for a rookie ~ He did have a couple of drops passes or he could have had a even bigger game ~ I chalk it up to the nerves ~ He also knew AP was on the other sideline ~ I dont see how AP couldn’t have been impressed ~

    Elflein did have a fine job for a rookie ~ Easton looks like a fine replacement for Boone ~ Berger had a solid first outing after being move to right OG ~ I thought Reiff was outstanding seeing how he missed most of TC and the preseason ~ And while Remmers did get beat a two time he held up well the rest of the time ~ Plus he was going up against the Saints best pass rushed who is no joke ~ For their first full game together I thought they did outstanding ~ I still look for the to get better ~

    Lastly it was fun watching a healthy Diggs play ~ However Thielen is still being over looked as the best WR on the roster ~ Also for all of those who thing Wright should be cut ~ I hope you saw his play last night ~ When he was on the field and the ball came his way he caught it if it was catch-able ~

    Defense did its job ((( outstanding ))) vs a team that throws a bunch of different looked at it ~ I mean a lot ~ There is a reason why their offense is always at the top or near the top in offense over the last 10 years or however long Brees has been there ~

    The only thing that shocked me was the pass blocking ~ I didn’t think it would be all that good ~ What a nice shock to have ~ However the is a lot of room to improve as this unit gels ~

    • Troy Ricklefs

      I have to agree about Bradford. He has been excellent since arriving in Minnesota. Sports writers seem to feel the need to make excuses for his stats because they don’t want to call him elite, but that percent completion record takes elite level arm skill.

  • Topgunn

    Bradford made a side-armed throw under pressure to Thielen that was a thing of beauty. Very impressive start.

  • Topgunn

    And Peterson was the non-factor I expected him to be. He was a great player for the Vikings, but it’s pretty clear his time as a productive RB is over.

  • Troy Ricklefs

    I still have concerns about the right side of our line… And when Rhoades is off the field we’re pretty weak in pass defense. Cook had some drops. Treadwell and Rudolph only had 1 target each. Definitely room to improve, but still a solid win with a lot to be happy about.

    That Saints offense was the best in the league last year and should have gotten better. Vikings D made them look pretty bad.

    • MarkWattsUp

      Rudolph had more then 1 target hence he had 3 catches.

      That 1 in the red zone where he avoided contact to run OB over trying to score and another where he

  • David Prestin

    Sammy….Sammy……Sammy…..come on now, chant it with me. Sammy…..Sammy……Sammy


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