MINNEAPOLIS — Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins waited patiently all offseason, training camp and preseason to show the full potential of his team's offense.
Sunday's 23-7 season-opening victory against the Green Bay Packers provided an enticing look at Cousins and the Vikings under Head Coach Kevin O'Connell.
The Vikings outgained Green Bay 395-338 in total offense, including a 277-260 advantage in passing yards and committed no turnovers.
"[There's] no secret. No certain formula. Just letting our coaches have a good plan to start the game, put us in a position to be successful, and just executing," Cousins said. "The plays are running together right now. It's all running together. But I just know we started fast, and that helps at home Week 1 to get your crowd going."
Cousins was dialed in all afternoon, completing 23 of his 32 pass attempts for 277 yards and two touchdowns. He added a passer rating of 118.9.
View photos from the Vikings-Packers 2022 season opener on Sept. 11 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
On the Vikings opening drive, Cousins quickly marched them downfield before connecting with Jefferson for a 5-yard touchdown on fourth-and-1.
In the second quarter, Cousins stepped up in a well-protected pocket and floated a pass to Jefferson for a 64-yard gain that led to a 28-yard Greg Joseph field goal. After a Green Bay three-and-out, Cousins found Jefferson wide open, and the star wide receiver did the rest for a 36-yard score to put Minnesota up 17-0 at halftime.
Jefferson — who had 3,016 receiving yards in his first two seasons with the Vikings — picked up where he left off. A franchise first-half record 158 yards of Jefferson's new personal-best 184 and six of his nine receptions on Sunday occurred before halftime. He nearly added a third touchdown in the opening half, just missing it by a toe.
"I felt like a little kid today, waking up this morning excited for the game, especially for this type of rivalry," Jefferson said after the game. "I live for these types of big games, so I was excited to get out there and I'm glad I had this type of start."
Cousins said he was a "little surprised" with the amount of times Jefferson was completely open throughout the game.
"Whenever he has a game at that magnitude, not because of him, but you expect him to get taken away a little bit, and he will at times. Our coaches are trying to find ways to still keep him involved, and we were able to do that today," Cousins said. "So it's going to be kind of a conversation we had a lot last season, and we'll have this season each week of how does he get defended."
In the run game, the duo of Cook and Alexander Mattison were interchangeable and efficient. Minnesota outgained Green Bay 126-111 in total rushing yards.
Cook rushed 20 times for 90 yards, and Mattison added 36 yards on eight carries.
"When they're in the backfield, anything can happen," left tackle Christian Darrisaw said. "Explosive plays, we know we've got to finish our blocks and let those guys do what they do."
Cook praised the offensive line's efforts and said the drive and physicality from the entire line was present.
"The will is there. Young Ed [Ingram], we're pulling him along, but he got that dawg and that grit to him that we need to feel right in that position. The older guys like B.O. [Brian O'Neill] and all of those guys, they just bringing them right along," Cook said. "The will for those guys to get it done and the want to do it and the physical part is all there. They've been my guys since I got here, so I'm rocking with whatever they're doing."
Aside from Jefferson's outing, Thielen, Cook, tight end Johnny Mundt and wide receiver K.J. Osborn each added three catches for 36, 18, 17 and 14 yards, respectively.
Thielen said the offense was effective in keeping Green Bay's defenders guessing, but he knows other teams will soon pick up on that.
"Yeah, I think the coaches obviously did a good job in the game plan of just moving guys around. Not allowing the defense to really settle in," Thielen said. "We're going to have to continue to do that. Because teams know what they're getting now. It was a little bit of a mystery out there, what they were going to get, but teams are gonna know now. So we've got to go back to work and find ways to continue to have success."
Thielen added they need to play with an "attacking mindset" as an offense.
"We've talked about it, but until you're in the game and you do it, that's credit to the offensive coaching staff, the defensive coaching staff," Thielen said. "That's a credit to these coaches – that mentality of, 'I don't care what the score is, the situation. We're gonna be smart, but we're gonna attack.' "
O'Connell's plan throughout training camp was broken down into five phases, and he was proud of how ready his team was going into Sunday.
"I credit our leadership, our coaches," O'Connell said. "Cannot stress enough how blessed I am to have the group I have around me, and a lot, lot of people that help not only make decisions in the best interest of our team, but our players and leadership, putting or culture and our football philosophy on display today."
As the Vikings move forward, O'Connell said while playing with a lot of pace on offense is fun, it has to be on their own terms.
"We're going to attack on our terms, and you do that because of your efficiency. Because you don't have penalties. You play a clean game. Our terms can mean a lot of things and that was a really, really good defense and we're going to see them again," O'Connell said. "What I give our guys credit doing, especially offensively in this game, was just on to the next, on to the next. How many times can all 11 line up and do their job, whether it was huddle call, tempo, situational? We've got a lot to correct, but I'm really, really proud of our group."