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It was the beginning of a new era in Minnesota as the new(ish) look Vikings took the field against the Green Bay Packers in Minneapolis this afternoon. With more new starters on the team than anytime in recent seasons under the recently extended Mike Zimmer, all eyes were on US Bank Stadium to see how the youthful defense would perform against rookie corner slayer Aaron Rodgers.

The result? Not great. 

The Vikings fell 43-34, and while they did hold the lead after the first quarter, the game was otherwise never really within their grasp as the Rodgers and the Packers moved the ball with impunity in front of the opposite of a sold out crowd in downtown Minneapolis. 

The Vikings won the toss and chose to defer, as a sign of confidence by head coach Mike Zimmer in his young defense. The move seemed to backfire as the Packers quickly made their way down the field, but the Vikings defense did the bend-don’t-break thing and held the Packers to a Mason Crosby field goal. 

After a touchback and some nice passes from Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins to now elder statesman Adam Thielen, the Vikings were also in Packers territory, capitalizing with the first of two Dalvin Cook touchdowns. Cook, who signed his coveted extension yesterday, finished the day with 49 yards rushing on 12 carries (for a 4.1-average) and one grab for -2 yards. His backup, Alexander Mattison had half the carries with 6 but more yards (just barely) with 50. Mattison also had 4 grabs for 30 yards through the air. 

The rest of the game was defined by the Packers offense, with Aaron Rodgers doing what some expected (I’m referring to me, on my podcast Morning Joes) he’d do against the young and inexperienced corners the Vikings have on their roster. Rodgers had 4 touchdowns on the day and connected with receiver Davante Adams 14 times, which tied a franchise record in Green Bay. 

Rodgers finished 32-of-44 for 364 yards and a 127.5 passer rating. Adams had two touchdowns, with the other two Rodgers TD passes going to Marquez Valdes-Scantling (who ended his day with four catches, 96 yards) and receiver Allen Lazard (who had 4-63). 

Green Bay had a 22-10 lead at half-time.

On the ground, Packers star Aaron Jones had 16 carries for 66 yards and 1 TD, and Tyler Ervin had 38 yards on 3 carries. 

Davante Adams’ numbers were nearly matched by Thielen, who had 2 touchdowns and 110 yards receiving (vs. the over 150 yards that Adams had) on the day (although Thielen’s per catch average of 18.3 dwarfed Adams’ average). 

Olabisi Johnson had 3 grabs for 56 yards, also with an average over 18 yards per grab (18.7). Rookie receiver Justin Jefferson had two grabs on the day, as well, with the first 26 yards of his career being notched today. The tight ends did little, with Kyle Rudolph having 2 catches as well (for 28 yards), and Irv Smith Jr. grabbing 1-for-12.

Kirk Cousins went 19-of-25 for 259 yards with 2 TDs and 1 pick for a 118.6 passer rating. He was sacked twice including once for a safety in the second quarter on a corner blitz that worked perfectly (which cut the Vikings lead to 7-5 at the time). 

The Vikings are now behind the Packers and Bears, with the Bears coming back to best the Lions today. 

The Vikings travel to Indianapolis next week to play the Philip Rivers helmed Colts. Stay tuned to and all week for more in-depth analysis of Sunday’s “action”.

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Roger Dier
12 days ago

Hello Joe Johnson!

The Good News is that it’s only Week 1.

Random thoughts that will magically coalesce into a salient point follow: The young defensive backs, especially the rookies, had zero preseason game snaps to play to the speed of the NFL. The offensive line continues to be a soft spot. Management and the coaching staff have not built any depth into the defensive line. The tackling was very poor. 

The questionable deep drop into the end zone, which led to a safety, turned into a tone-setting play. The low-percentage pass on 4th-and-3, when the Vikings last had a realistic change to stay with Green Bay, was ill-conceived and iffy from the moment the ball left Cousins’ hand. 

To help the young corners the Vikings are going to have to find a way to get at least occasional pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Zimmer’s speciality is defense. Let’s see if he can slowly solve that challenge by the time we get into the second four-game segment of the season. Didn’t the Vikings experiment with Anthony Barr at right defensive end in the 2019 preseason? Necessity is the mother of invention; might be game time for that. 

The management of the team, including the coaching staff, not only have to answer for the spotty play of the offensive line. They have to fix it on the fly with the people they have. The Vikings have some good linemen, but they don’t have enough of them who can work together to manage the other team’s defensive line. That has to be fixed within the first four games, which is this year’s version of the preseason. 

The coaching staff has to design a game plan that, cliche coming, puts their people in the best position to succeed. It is easier to run block than pass block. Offensive lines deliver hits when run blocking. Defenses have to react to pulling guards, jet sweeps, etc. When pass blocking, offensive lines must react to the charge of large and focused human beings trying to get by them. The Vikings run blocked better than they pass blocked against Green Bay. Going forward, the Vikings have to run the ball more than they throw, and they have to be successful at it to prevent their defense from being on the field for 41 minutes and change, like they were against Green Bay. And…they can’t wait until Week 7 to rediscover Kyle Rudolph is good at catching short passes. 

Few things break the will of a defense than the inability to stop the run. It seemed like the Packers had big-chunk gains against the Vikings when they ran the ball. The Vikings have to be willing to make the other team pay when they come inside on the run. The middle of the defense has to play nasty. I didn’t see much of that type of physicality from the interior of the defense Sunday against the Packers, who created a physical advantage when their defenders were on the field. Playing nasty and pissed off has to become a partial solution to the Vikings problem on run defense. Other teams might make five yards, but the ball carrier and the linemen blocking for him are going to suffer physically for it. Zimmer has to build that characteristic into his defense within the first four games of the season. 

By no means has this writer given up on the 2020 Vikings. I do understand, however, that it is not likely that the 2020 edition of the Vikings is going to be among the top defenses in the league, but they can get better, they should get better, they have to get better. Giving up a fat 43 points to Green Bay, or any opponent, is not a sustainable solution. 

Sunday was odd. No fans. Not much fire from the defense. Just enough mistakes by the Vikings to be lethal. Covid-19 continues to rage, virtually unabated and ignored by the people who shouldn’t ignore it, so we’re going to continue to see empty or near-empty stadiums until we don’t. This is all so bizarre, but I have to tell you, it was so much fun to watch the Vikings play again. 

They stumbled Sunday. The Good News is there is 15 games left.