In a game that’s probably at least a bit surprising to both teams’ fan bases, the Minnesota Vikings defeated the Green Bay Packers 23-7. The score doesn’t really do the game justice, because from the outset this game was Minnesota’s to lose. As a Vikings fan who knows all too well how often the team can collapse (see game vs the Pittsburgh Steelers last season), I was on the edge of my seat for the entire match, just waiting to cope through another blown lead. To my suprise, it never happened. This team is a brand new type of beast with the new additions to the roster, as well as the playbook and formation changes.
Wow. Really, wow. Of all possible ways this could’ve gone, this one wasn’t what I expected. Let’s start with what went right on the offensive side of the ball. Coach O’Connell’s more spread, pass-heavy scheme worked like a charm. Justin Jefferson racked up more yards in week one than any other Vikings receiver ever in the opener with 189 yards, along with two touchdowns. In my article about Kirk Cousins, I mentioned that KOC wouldn’t just let Dalvin Cook rot in the backfield. I was absolutely right, he ran for 90 yards on 20 carries. Speaking of Kirk Cousins, he was absolutely dealing today. 23/32, 277 yards and two touchdowns is a strong way to build trust. The mix of shotgun-snap, empty backfield slinging and speedy, gashing runs was too much for the Packers’ defense to handle. On the defensive side, the new large-cushion, umbrella-esque scheme gave the Wisconsinites fit after fit. After Christian Watson beat his man (and then dropped the ball) on the first play of the game, any targets more than even 10 yards down field were almost unheard of. The new additions showed out, like linebacker Jordan Hicks leading the team in tackles with 14 and adding a sack. Za’darius Smith has already made a good first impression, managing to drop his former quarterback once in his first contest with the Vikings. Even in his age 33 season, Harrison Smith continues to prove he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer with seven tackles, a pass break-up, and an interception.
There’s Always Room to Improve
As much of a showstopper of a season debut this was, there are still things that Minnesota can look to clean up. The most glaring issue I noticed was the run defense. Going against a top five running back room proved the biggest difficulty for the norsemen, with Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon being the only life Green Bay’s cadaverous offense showed. The only scoring drive the Packers put together was made possible by a concerning amount of limp, nonthreatening tackling (or attempts at tackling). On offense, the only thing that irked me was that similar feeling that they started coasting, taking their foot off the gas so to speak. Last year’s squad had a major issue with finishing the job, so I’m hoping this doesn’t become prevalent when Minnesota gets caught in a back-and-forth contest.
It’s not a stretch to say this game was quite the display for a team that desperately needed a fresh start to a new identity. Mike Zimmer, in terms of tone of play and talent in general, was a massive weight dragging down squads of the past. This point was shown in the very first drive of the game, where an offense largely unchanged from last year completely dismantled the Green Bay defense. If this type of performance repeats throughout the season, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Minnesota Vikings playoff football for the first time since 2019.