You can’t ask for much more in a football game than the effort the Vikings put forth this past Sunday. Things started going in the right direction from the very beginning. Linebacker Anthony Barr sacked the Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan on the first play of the game. Shortly thereafter, the Vikings blocked Atlanta’s punt attempt.
Two plays later, Minnesota was already up 7-0 after a 23 yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Adam Thielen. The Vikings would never look back.
Minnesota would use a combination of an effective running game and a stifling defense to seize control. Up 28-0 going into the 4th quarter, there was no threat of a comeback brewing with the Falcons.
With a statline that will make you think this game was played in the 1950’s (and that might be an insult to the 1950’s), Cousins finished going 8-10 with 98 yards and two touchdowns, one rushing and one passing. Dalvin Cook looked incredibly impressive going for 111 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Even the rookie runner didn’t miss a beat as Alexander Mattison ran for 49 yards on only nine carries.
The Vikings defense was also phenomenal, intercepting Matt Ryan twice and forcing one fumble, all accumulated by safety Anthony Harris. The front four looked like they had returned to their former greatness as Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter and Linval Joseph all tallied a sack in the game.
However, despite an impressive all-around performance, (and yes, even the kicker and punter had good games), the Vikings are still flying under the radar nationally. Most NFL insiders are still worried about the quarterback position.
While it is true that I don’t think we will see another game where Cousins only throws 10 times, I do think we saw the formula of how Minnesota is going to be successful. The three most important factors for this team are as follows.
First, they need to play great defense. Mike Zimmer has always had a top ten defense in his time in Minnesota and if the Vikings are going to make the playoffs, this has to continue to be true.
Second, the Vikings need to run the ball effectively. Cook, and Mattison for that matter, looked explosive in the first game of the 2019 season. In the NFL, most of the time it takes two years for a player who tore his ACL to fully return to the level they were at before the injury. Cook ran fast (20.17 mph to be exact), made defenders miss, and looked like the old Dalvin that Minnesota needs.
Third, Minnesota played turnover free football. I know it was unusual circumstances and Cousins is going to throw 20-30 passes in an average game. However, Cousins made the right plays, looked confident and didn’t make any stupid mistakes. The reality is that the Vikings are paying $84 million for a slightly above-average game manager in a QB, but with the makeup of this team, that can be enough to win a lot of games.
This Sunday, the Vikings take their show on the road to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers. The Packers looked impressive in a 10-3 win over the Chicago Bears. Their defense looked much better than in previous years, although it does help to play the hapless Mitchell Trubisky.
However, the Packers have not beaten the Vikings since Christmas Eve of 2016. I was still a college student the last time the Packers beat the Vikings. Barack Obama was still president of the United States the last time Green Bay toppled Minnesota.
Vikings win a close one to go to 2-0.