It remains to be seen whether or not it’s going to be sustainable, but if this keeps up, some folks might have to find a nickname for Sam Bradford other than “Checkdown Sam.”
Hopefully everyone is okay with that.
Behind Bradford’s three touchdown passes, two to Stefon Diggs, the Vikings raced to a big victory in their season opener, winning by a score of 29-19 to get the 2017 season off to a positive start.
New Orleans got the ball first, and pushed the ball into Minnesota territory. It looked like the drive would be a three-and-out, but the Saints got a first down on a play that they appeared to lose yards. Ultimately, they had to settle for a 43-yard field goal by Will Lutz to take an early 3-0 lead.
Minnesota answered with a field goal of their own, converting several third downs and getting a couple of penalties against the Saints to push deep into the red zone. However, they stalled out as well, and picked up a 24-yard field goal from Kai Forbath to tie the game at 3-3 late in the quarter.
The Saints retook the lead midway through the second quarter, as Lutz connected on another field goal, a 21-yarder, to make the score 6-3. The drive appeared to be a three-and-out that concluded with a sack of Drew Brees, but it was waived off because of a very questionable roughing the passer call on defensive tackle Tom Johnson.
Minnesota responded immediately and put up their first touchdown of the season. Sam Bradford started the drive with a 35-yard connection to Adam Thielen, and followed it up with a 21-yard pass to Jarius Wright. To finish things off, Bradford found Stefon Diggs from 18 yards out for a touchdown, and the extra point by Forbath gave the Vikings their first lead of the season at 10-6.
The Vikings put together one of their best drives in a long time to close out the first half, as they went 95 yards in ten plays in a minute and forty seconds. Diggs found himself in the end zone again, as he caught a 2-yard pass from Bradford to cap the drive. Forbath missed the extra point, however, and the Vikings took a 16-6 lead into the locker room.
New Orleans cut into the Minnesota lead late in the third quarter, as Lutz connected on a 24-yard field goal to make the score 19-9 in favor of Minnesota.
Minnesota extended the lead once again early in the third quarter, as Bradford racked up his third touchdown pass of the evening. This time, he found Kyle Rudolph in the front left corner of the end zone for a 15-yard score. The play was set up by a big 32-yard run by rookie running back Dalvin Cook, and the Forbath extra point made it 26-9 with a little under thirteen minutes remaining.
Lutz added his fourth field goal of the evening midway through the fourth quarter, connecting from 20 to make the score 26-12. Minnesota made it a three-score game on the ensuing possession, as Kai Forbath connected from 45 to make it 29-12 with four minutes remaining.
Brees took the Vikings down the field and got a meaningless late touchdown pass to Coby Fleener to make the score 29-19, but the Saints failed to recover an onside kick, and that’s the way the game ended.
Sam Bradford was absolutely outstanding on the evening, as he completed 27-of-32 passes for 346 yards and three scoring passes. Many of the incomplete passes that Bradford was credited for were drops, with Bradford having very few misfires on the evening.
Though Diggs found the end zone twice, it was actually Thielen that led the Vikings in receiving yardage, as he hauled in nine catches for 157 yards. Diggs also threatened the century mark, as he had seven catches for 93 yards. They did most of the damage on the evening, as the next-highest receiving total was Jerick McKinnon with 32 yards on three catches. Bradford also found Rudolph three times for 21 yards, Jarius Wright once for 21, Dalvin Cook three times for ten yards, and Laquon Treadwell once for seven.
The rushing game started off slow, but picked up some steam in the second half. Cook finished with 127 yards on 22 carries. That represents the most rushing yardage for a Viking in his first game, breaking the record set by. . .Adrian Peterson in 2007. Latavius Murray had just two carries for six yards (and one fumble that the Vikings were fortunate enough to fall on), while McKinnon had three carries for five yards, and Diggs lost six yards on one end-around attempt.
And, in his much ballyhooed return to Minnesota, Peterson had just 18 yards on six carries, half of which came on one run. He didn’t look much different than he did in Minnesota last year. I know, I’m as surprised as you are.
The Vikings start the 2017 NFL season 1-0, and will face a very stiff test next week as they take to the road to battle the Pittsburgh Steelers next Sunday afternoon. The Saints fall to 0-1, and get the good fortune to host the New England Patriots next Sunday.
Minnesota wins their season opener, trouncing the New Orleans Saints by a score of 29-19. Thanks to everyone that got their coverage of this week’s game right here at The Daily Norseman!