The 2019 season has begun properly for the Vikings as looked sharp early and often in all three phases and authored a 28-12 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. Up next is a date with the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field next Sunday.
Here are five observations from the Vikings win over Atlanta.
1. Special teams helped set tone early, was steady all game
It was a fast, strong start for the Vikings on Sunday and that includes the performance on special teams. Eric Wilson knifed through the protection and blocked Atlanta's first punt of the afternoon, which set up the offense at the Atlanta 21. Two plays later, quarterback Kirk Cousins found receiver Adam Thielen for a 21-yard touchdown and the Vikings were off to the races. Dan Bailey was a perfect four of four on extra points and blasted three touchbacks on five kickoffs. Britton Colquitt was flawless as a holder, averaged 40.2 net yards per punt and landed two punts inside the 20. Atlanta didn't flip the field on any returns and the Vikings took care of the ball on their own returns. It was a solid-if-not-spectacular day for the Vikings on special teams.
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Atlanta Falcons at U.S. Bank Stadium.
2. Defense had answers at every turn
Early in the game, the Vikings defense was dictating the terms. Anthony Barr had a sack on the game's first snap and Anthony Harris ended Atlanta's second possession with an interception. As Atlanta kept battling and got to the "grind it out" stage of the game, the Vikings defense had an answer for every move. Even when Atlanta got inside the Minnesota 5, the Vikings defense bowed up as Harris snagged his second interception of the game, this one in the end zone. For the meaningful part of the game, the Vikings held Atlanta's star trio of receivers in check and they also kept running back Devonta Freeman from being a difference-maker. Matt Ryan was pressured on seemingly every snap and the Vikings came away with four sacks while holding Ryan to a passer rating of 85.8.
3. Run! Run! Run!
No, that's not a typo in the box score. The Vikings finished the game more than three times as many runs (38) as passes (10). Surely, that is something head coach Mike Zimmer will smile about as he digests the game Sunday evening. Dalvin Cook toted the rock 21 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns, pacing a rushing attack that averaged 4.5 yards per carry for the day. Rookie Alexander Mattison had nine carries for 49 yards and Kirk Cousins also picked up a few 1st downs and a rushing touchdown just for good measure. While there are likely plays the Falcons defensive front got the better of the Vikings offensive line, a per-rush average of 4.5 yards and only one sack allowed illustrates a pretty satisfactory picture for the Minnesota Moving Company.
4. Penalties need to be cleaned up
It won't be all rainbows and sunshine when coaches sit down with players following their evaluation of the performances. The Vikings were penalized far too often, with 11 infractions enforced for a loss of 100 yards. Neutral infraction gave Atlanta a few easy 1st downs and those are the kinds of mistakes that will likely prove too costly next week against Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field.
5. Vikings performed well in situational football
The Vikings were two of two in goal line offense and three for three in red zone offense. The defense got off the field 75% of the time on 3rd down and the offense converted 50% of its 3rd down chances. The Vikings turned a blocked punt into a touchdown and also scored touchdowns on three turnovers. In a two minute situation late in the first half, the Vikings defense prevented a Falcons series from resulting in points. In nearly every key situational point of the game, the Vikings out-executed the Falcons. This is an area of the game Zimmer has dedicated much practice time to and the early results look quite good.