In what was a tale of two halves, the Vikings got it right in the second half and were able to find a way to get out of Nashville with a win over the Tennessee Titans. There was much to observe from the Vikings 25-16 win and it will all be digested on vikings.com over the next few days. For now, though, here are 10 observations from the Vikings opening-day win.
1. Defense stepped up and carried the day
The Vikings season-opening victory was a team win and we'll get to how the offense and special teams contributed in a bit, but it was the defense that carried the day for the Vikings. After allowing 10 points in the first four possessions, here is how the Vikings defense got off the field on the following six series: punt, interceptions, punt, fumble, fumble, punt. In total, the Vikings defense forced three turnovers and scored two touchdowns. Eric Kendricks struck first when he intercepted a Marcus Mariota pass and returned it 77 yards for a touchdown. Two drives later, Danielle Hunter scooped up a botched exchange between Mariota and DeMarco Murray and returned it 25 yards for another touchdown. Also, Trae Waynes stepped up in Xavier Rhodes' absence and led the team in tackles with 10, which included a key tackle for loss on a 3rd and 1 in Vikings territory.
2. Credit the coaching staff
Not much went right for the Vikings in the first half. The offense only had four drives and manufactured no points, the defense gave up yards in chunks and allowed 10 points, and Blair Walsh missed two field goals. The Vikings went to the locker room trailing and scoreless. But they didn't freak out. There was no panic or overcompensation from Mike Zimmer's crew. They stuck to the plan, made adjustments and quickly turned around their fortunes in the second half.
3. Patterson helped swing momentum
The Vikings came out of the locker room after halftime facing a 10-0 deficit and not having much upon which to hang their hats. Cordarrelle Patterson changed that in a way he has done many times. He took the opening kickoff of the second half and returned it 61 yards to the Tennessee 34. The offense went three-and-out from there, but Walsh came on to salvage a scoring drive and get back into a rhythm kicking the ball by splitting the uprights from 50 yards out to get the Vikings on the board. From there, the Vikings scored 25 unanswered points and you have to wonder if any of it would've happened without the jolt Patterson provided the team early in the 3rd quarter.
4. Hill held things together
For all the consternation about which quarterback the Vikings would start, the performance of the position in the game wound up being steady. Shaun Hill started the game and played all the way through. He was solid, completing 18 of 33 for 236 yards with no touchdowns but also no turnovers or sacks. There will be things to clean up offensively and more production is expected, but Hill held things together on Sunday and helped guide the ship home successfully.
View images from the Vikings Week 1 matchup in Nashville against the Titans.
5. Pass protection looked improved
A lot of attention was paid to the offensive line this offseason, training camp and preseason. A new position coach and two free agents were added. Things looked better in camp and in preseason games. And then in the first game of the regular season, they allowed no sacks. That is quite an improvement from a season ago, when the Vikings allowed the sixth-most sacks despite throwing the fewest passes in the NFL. That is good news for the Vikings, and something upon which that side of the ball can build as they prepare for Week 2.
6. Diggs looked the part
Stefon Diggs burst onto the scene early last season as a rookie and there was optimism in the offseason that he could take the next step and become a go-to guy and big-time playmaker in the passing game. Time will tell if that happens, but so far so good through one game. Diggs was the team's leading receiver on Sunday, hauling in seven receptions for 103 yards, including an acrobatic and contested reception late in the game that was good for 33 yards on 3rd and 2 and that led to a lead-increasing field goal.
7. Thielen keeps finding ways to help the Vikings win
It's been a treat for Vikings fans to watch Adam Thielen's career develop. That career took another step forward on Sunday, as Thielen came up big as a pass catcher. The Minnesota native hauled in a catch good for 21 yards on 3rd and 22 early in the game, but then made a diving catch for a 15-yard gain on 2nd and 12 that helped lead to a field goal. His biggest catch of the day, though, came on the first play of the 4th quarter when he hauled in a Hill offering for 16 yards on 3rd and 15 that also led to a field goal. In total, Thielen produced three of the Vikings 10 longest plays from scrimmage. Oh, and he also had two special teams tackles, so he's continuing to help the team win in the special teams phases, too.
View The Vikings Instagram Group's photos presented by PrimeSport of the Vikings helmet being showcased around Nashville prior to the Vikings 2016 kickoff against the Titans Sunday. (Stuart Deming)
8. Vikings fans traveled well to Nashville
Nashville was almost like a Vikings home away from home. Thousands flocked to Broadway on Saturday night, which was only a precursor to their plans for Sunday afternoon. They filed into Nissan Stadium for game day and made their presence felt, even establishing a "DE-FENSE! DE-FENCE" chant on some key 3rd downs in the second half.
9. Vikings couldn't get Adrian Peterson going
It wasn't for lack of trying, but the Vikings and Adrian Peterson just couldn't get the running game going against a Titans defense that was consistently stacking the box with extra defenders and run blitzing. This is nothing new for the Vikings, but there have been times they've worked around it so Peterson could impact games. On Sunday, Peterson had only 31 yards on 19 carries. On a day where the Vikings did a lot of good things in the second half and then found a way to win, their inability to establish the run is something that can be pointed to as needing improvement.
10. Walsh will look to get back on track in Week 2
Walsh missed two field goals in the first half and also missed a point after touchdown in the 3rd quarter, but he also made four field goal attempts and was good on his second PAT attempt. Needless to say, this will be something upon which observers focus this week leading up to the team's next game, which will be the regular season debut of U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday night.