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Locke Has Impressive Opener In New Stadium

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Jeff Locke was an unsung hero of sorts Sunday night against the Packers.

The Vikings punter tied a franchise record by pinning five punts inside the 20-yard line, forcing Green Bay to start with an average field position at the 11-yard line after the five kicks.

"I was kind of just in the zone all night," Locke said. "I was just meeting the ball, really."

Added Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer: "I talk about (winning with) field position, so that was good."

Locke finished with seven punts for 273 yards (39.0 average) with a net average of 38.7, but his night and that of the coverage team was even better if a blocked punt that traveled 3 yards and netted 1 is removed. On the other six punts, Lock averaged 45.0 per punt, and none of them were returned by the Packers.

The former UCLA standout admitted he got a fortunate bounce on his final kick that rolled down to the 9-yard line.

"I thought I had a really good game," Locke said. "We have to look and see what happened on the block, and I got a nice little bounce on one of them, but other than that it was a very good game."

Locke said he focused on staying composed on a night when a sellout crowd packed the regular-season opener of U.S. Bank Stadium against the Vikings biggest rival.

"The entire game, but whole goal was just to stay calm," Locke said. "You just want to get jacked up because the crowd is into it, everyone is into it, but to be able to execute what we do, you just have to be calm.

"That's kind of always a struggle in a big game like this," he added.

Vikings kicker Blair Walsh also had a strong home debut. He was successful on a pair of extra point attempts and a 46-yard field goal. Walsh also recorded touchbacks on three of four kickoffs, and the coverage unit limited Ty Montgomery to 21 yards on the Packers lone runback.

Capitalizing on turnover opportunities

The Vikings defense forced four fumbles Sunday night against Green Bay, but were only able to recover two of them.

Minnesota defensive end Danielle Hunter forced one when he sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers late in the first quarter, but linebacker Eric Kendricks couldn't fall on the loose ball.

Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen then jarred the ball loose from Rodgers midway through the third quarter, only to see cornerback Captain Munnerlyn overrun the pigskin.

"We left a couple out there," said Vikings safety Harrison Smith. "(Sunday) night there were balls on the ground that we didn't get, so it's just capitalizing on those and getting every turnover."

Added Munnerlyn: "We preach and practice just getting on the ball … the ball just took a bad hop on me."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said sometimes quick decisions have to be made to either fall on the loose ball or try and pick it up and score.

"There's really a fine line there. Defensive players want to get it and score," Zimmer said. "When they're open, when they have the opportunity in the open field they should do that. I don't think we were quiet aware of the situation.

"The one in the middle of the field I thought Captain [Munnerlyn] should have got on it," Zimmer added. "We did the one that Brian [Robison] stripped out. (Kendricks) was trying to pick it up, he should have definitely got on the ball. I talked to them about it this morning."

Defense and special teams stats

Vikings coaches review film the morning after each game to tally defensive stats and special teams tackles.

Andrew Sendejo led the Vikings with 11 tackles and a team-high eight solo stops. Linval Joseph joined Harrison Smith for second in total tackles with eight apiece, led the Vikings with three tackles for loss. Tom Johnson recorded seven quarterback hurries, and Terence Newman and Trae Waynes each defended two passes.

Anthony Harris and Zach Line each recorded solo special teams tackles.

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