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Action Reaction: Vikings Newcomers Make Their Marks in Week 1

MINNEAPOLIS — Several new additions to the Vikings contributed significantly on Sunday in Minnesota's 24-16 win over San Francisco to open the 2018 regular season.

Kirk Cousins shined in his debut, and Dalvin Cook turned in a strong performance in his first regular-season action since tearing his ACL on Oct. 1.

The Vikings also recently added to their offensive line. Here's a little more on Vikings who made their marks in Week 1.

Pregame question: What kind of impact would newcomers have on the Vikings defense?

In-game action 1: Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was Minnesota's big defensive signing during free agency, and the Vikings opted to bolster their already loaded defensive backs group by selecting Mike Hughes with the 30th overall pick.

Minnesota wanted a disruptive force who could quickly get into the offense's backfield and believed it found it when signing Richardson to play the 3-technique next to nose tackle Linval Joseph.

Richardson made his presence known early and late. He was credited with six tackles and three quarterback hits by press box statisticians and also drew a holding penalty that backed up the 49ers in the first quarter.

Richardson made first contact on Jimmy Garoppolo before Everson Griffen finished the play for a shared sack that put the 49ers in a second-and-29 at their own 6-yard line.

Postgame reaction:

"He made plays today. He was quick up the middle, he affected the quarterback, was good on the run," Griffen said. "Oh my God, having him shoot up the middle, I'm going to have to get my get-off even better the way that he played today."

Richardson also hit Garoppolo on San Francisco's final snap, which contributed to an interception by Harrison Smith.

"The more that we can … be productive in the middle there in our pass rush, the more it'll help from our end," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said.

In-game action 2: There was some uproar in April by people who thought the selection of Hughes was superfluous, but the rookie came in handy when pressed into action on Sunday.

Hughes spent most of the preseason focusing on the nickel position but needed to kick outside on Sunday when Trae Waynes was sidelined with a knee injury.

Hughes managed to make history by becoming the first Vikings rookie to return an interception for a touchdown in Week 1. The 28-yard pick six gave Minnesota a 17-3 lead in the third quarter.

Hughes also had a pass breakup in the other end zone of San Francisco's next possession.

With Hughes kicking to outside corner and Mackensie Alexander inactive, the Vikings turned to safety Jayron Kearse to play the nickel position. The third-year pro handled the adjustment, showing lessons learned in practicing at the spot. Undrafted rookie Holton Hill also played snaps at cornerback.

Postgame reaction: "Everybody was complaining about taking that corner. I'm glad we had him today," Zimmer said.

Smith said he wasn't surprised by the way Hughes coolly responded.

"You can kind of tell the way he carries himself that he's not going to freeze up on the big stage," Smith said, before adding, "Holton came in and played well. Jayron came in and played well, so that is what is expected."

Andrew Sendejo added of Kearse: "Good job of him by being ready. We kind of preach that the whole time. You've got to stay ready and never know when you're going to get called on to go into the game. As a safety, you know a lot of what everyone else is doing."

Pregame question: How would the Vikings offensive line fare with new center Brett Jones manning the middle?

The Vikings acquired Brett Jones on Aug. 26 in a trade with the New York Giants. He played guard in Minnesota's preseason finale and then suited up at center in Week 1.

In-game action:

Minnesota started LT Riley Reiff, LG Tom Compton, Jones at center, RG Mike Remmers and RT Rashod Hill.

Jones and the offensive line helped Minnesota total 343 yards, including 116 on the ground, and convert 41 percent of its third downs (7-of-17).

Cousins was sacked three times. He said multiple factors could have played a part and he wanted to review plays on film.

Postgame reaction:

"I think they did a really good job. Some of it you'll see that I was leaving the pocket, but maybe I need to trust it a little more or be willing to take the sack and not just leave," Cousins said. "I think we'll go back and watch and get a better feel for how much of it was loose and how much was it me leaving too early or other issues, making the wrong calls or whatever it may be. But I thought they did a really good job handling everything that was being thrown at them, especially when you think Week 1 is a bit of a mystery as to what you're going to see."

Jones added: "There are a lot of little things that go into the center quarterback-exchange, the cadence, the protections and things like that. I think that from this week to the next week we will only be getting better. I think there will be more familiarity and we will keep getting better every week."

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