The Vikings are off to a good start. They're off to a good start on the season now that they're 2-0 and they're off to a good start in U.S. Bank Stadium after defeating the Green Bay Packers 17-14 in the first regular season game in their new home. It was a night to remember and a night full of observations. Here are just 10 of them.
Click here to watch a replay of the Vikings first-ever regular season victory over the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium with NFL Game Pass.
1. Vikings defense forced the issue by forcing fumbles
The Vikings defense didn't just settle for tackling and sacking Aaron Rodgers. They wanted to take the ball from him, too. And they did it three times, the most fumbles Rodgers has lost in a game in his career. Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter and Brian Robison all forced fumbles of Rodgers. Of the three fumbles, only one was recovered by the Vikings. But the pressure on Rodgers and the forced fumbles were a product of an effort by the entire defense to slow down a very good Green Bay offense.
2. Bradford outdueled Rodgers
When's the last time a Vikings quarterback outplayed Rodgers? One may have to go all the way back to Brett Favre in 2009 to find such a performance. Until Sunday night. In his Vikings debut, Sam Bradford was sharp. He completed 22 of 31 passes for 286 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions or fumbles. Bradford took care of the ball, displayed a combination of arm strength and touch and carried the offense. The Vikings made 11 first downs via the pass and just two on the ground, a statistic that illustrates just how much the team relied on Bradford and the aerial attack to move the chains and score points.
3. Diggs does it again
Bradford's top target on the night was Stefon Diggs, an emerging big-time playmaker in the NFL. The second-year receiver caught nine passes for 182 yards and one touchdown on 11 targets, consistently beating defensive backs to get open and to get out of tackles. He is now the NFL's leading receiver and clearly is a handful for opposing defenses.
4. Waynes keeps fighting
As most were expecting, Green Bay chose to go after second-year cornerback Trae Waynes early and often on Sunday night, with starter Xavier Rhodes sidelined. Waynes responded, though. He was never beaten on a deep pass and in one of the game's biggest moments he jumped in front of a Rodgers pass intended for Davante Adams and intercepted it, giving the Vikings possession at their own 45 with a three-point lead an only 1:50 on the clock.
5. Sack attack for Vikings defensive line
DBs Captain Munnerlyn and Harrison Smith and LBs Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks are good at rushing the quarterback. On Sunday night, though, the Vikings defensive line handled the pass rush all on its own. Every starter along the line had a sack and then Tom Johnson added one for good measure, too. Both Danielle Hunter and Brian Robison forced fumbles on their sacks. The Vikings pass rush was active all game and never allowed Rodgers to appear settled in during the game.
6. Locke, punt team give Vikings defense a hand
After the first two games, you can't give the defense too much credit. It has paced both victories and looks to be taking another step forward in head coach Mike Zimmer's third season at the helm. The Vikings special teams had a helping hand in the dominant defensive performance, though. Jeff Locke had seven punts on the night and he had five of them down inside the 20. The Packers five possessions that began inside their own 20 ended like this: punt, punt, downs, fumble, interception. It's hard enough to move the ball on the Vikings defense, but having to do it while starting deep inside your own territory makes it even tougher.
View photos from Sunday night's game as the Vikings took on the Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium.
7. Big play wasn't often available for Packers passing game
Gains of 20 yards through the air are usually commonplace for the Rodgers-led Packers offense. But they weren't on Sunday night. The Vikings defense was able to stifle the usually explosive passing attack. Rodgers had only two completions of 20 yards on the night, a credit to the Vikings pass rush and pass coverage.
8. Too many penalties
At halftime, the Packers had gained more yards via penalties against the Vikings (66) than via their own offense (65). In total, the Vikings were penalized 13 times for 137 yards, numbers far too big for Zimmer's liking and numbers that kept Green Bay in the game at times it felt like the Vikings should be winning handily. In many respects, the Vikings win on Sunday night was perfect for Zimmer because his team moved to 2-0 with a big division victory but there are plenty of things to clean up and problems to correct during the following week of practice.
9. Pass protection, running game need work
A lot of the work that is done at Winter Park this week will revolve around the running game and protecting the
passer. The Vikings rushed for only 30 yards on 22 carries and they allowed four sacks.
10. Pomp and circumstance lived up to the hype
The pregame, halftime and in-game entertainment was off the charts. Jordin Sparks performed the National Anthem, Cris Carter and Fran Tarkenton were in the house, a new Vikings chant was introduced, Prince was honored at halftime, and U.S. Bank Stadium broke its regular season maiden. And, at the end of the night, there was a football game that was played and it was won by the Vikings, in spine-tingling fashion. It's not often events with so much anticipation and build-up live up to the hype, but Sunday night's Vikings-Packers game certainly did.