The Minnesota Vikings kicked off their 2018 campaign on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium versus the San Francisco 49ers with a 24-16 victory, in a game marked with big plays.
The Vikings defense came out strong in the first quarter, holding the 49ers to just 13 yards on 8 offensive plays. The Vikings offense was like a classic car coming out of storage after a long winter - chugging, sputtering, revving up and sounding mean, then popping and clanking through most of the first quarter, and rookie Daniel Carlson’s 48 yard field goal was the only scoring.
Early in the second quarter, the offense began to find its rhythm and after Cousins and company took advantage of a short field, ending a six play, 53 yard drive with Cousins dropping an absolutely beautiful pass into the arms of Stefon Diggs to give the Vikings a 10-3 lead.
Later in the quarter, Niners rookie linebacker Fred Warner punched the ball out of Dalvin Cook’s grip. San Francisco recovered the fumble, and began a 14 play, 69 yard drive. Once the 49ers had the ball inside the 5 yard line, the Vikings defense took their play to another level. Alfred Morris was held to just two yards on four carries on a beautiful goal line stand, before Linval Joseph ripped the ball loose and Harrison Smith recovered it.
Coming out of halftime with the Vikings leading 10-3, the two teams exchanged punts to start the third quarter. On the 49’ers second drive, after tight end George Kittle failed to catch the ball on a wide open play, Jimmy Garoppolo threw an absolutely awful pass, which fell into the hands of Vikings rookie Mike Hughes, who raced 28 yards for the first pick-6 of his career.
After a 33-yard Robbie Gould field goal, the Vikings marched 75 yards on nine plays and once again, Cousins threw an absolutely flawless pass for a touchdown, this time finding Kyle Rudolph, giving the Vikings a 24-6 lead.
San Francisco then went on a seven play, 75-yard drive, and Garoppolo capped the drive with a 22 yard touchdown pass on a scramble play to rookie wideout Dante Pettis, drawing the Niners to within eleven points through three quarters.
The new “Aaron Rodgers Rule”, designed to protect quarterbacks, reared its ugly head mid-way through the fourth quarter, as Sheldon Richardson was flagged for landing on Jimmy Garoppolo with his full body weight, allowing the 49ers to extend their drive, which resulted in a 22-yard field goal, making it a one possession game at 24-16.
After the two teams exchanged punts, Harrison Smith capped off the Vikings’ first win of the season with a beautiful interception.
Kirk Cousins debut as Vikings quarterback wasn’t flashy, but he certainly showed beautiful touch on several passes. He finished the game 20/36 for 244 yards and two touchdowns. The offensive line didn’t help much, though, allowing the Niners to sack Cousins three times.
Latavius Murray led the team in rushing with 42 yards on eleven carries, and Dalvin Cook added another 40 yards on sixteen carries. Cook added another 55 yards receiving. Adam Thielen led the way with six catches for 102 yards, and Stefon Diggs added three catches for 43 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, the Vikings held Jimmy Garoppolo to just 15/33 passing for 261 yards and a touchdown, while picking him off three times. Harrison Smith was the biggest story of the day, racking up eight tackles, including two tackles for loss, one sack, one fumble recovery and the back-breaking interception. While he didn’t have that type of day statistically, Sheldon Richardson - with the exception of the sack penalty - was all over the 49ers backfield making plays. Richardson ended up with six tackles and a half a sack.
All in all, a pretty good start for the Vikings, who travel to Green Bay next weekend to take on the Packers. Thanks for turning to the Daily Norseman for all of your Vikings gameday coverage.