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New-Look Offensive Line Shines in Season Opener

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —There was plenty of chatter about the Vikings offensive line entering Monday's season opener against New Orleans.

None of the five starting linemen started at the same position for Minnesota in 2016, and the unit didn't take a single snap together in the preseason.

But the group that also featured three new faces — free agent tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers and rookie center Pat Elflein — passed its first test with flying colors against the Saints.

Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford was sacked once and threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns while compiling a career-best passer rating of 143.0.

"As offensive linemen, we're pretty hard on ourselves, so there's always things to look back and find [to improve]," right guard Joe Berger said after the 29-19 win. "But the result of the game is where we wanted to be. It starts with Pat directing the line, and he did a great job.

"We may not have been on the field as a group together, but we've been together quite a bit," Berger added. "It's a great group."

The lone sack on Bradford  stood in contrast to six games last season when the quarterback was taken down at least three times.

The Vikings addressed the personnel group in the offseason by signing Reiff, who spent the past five seasons in Detroit.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on Tuesday praised Reiff's first game in Purple.

"I thought he played well. He's a fighter," Zimmer said. "I thought he did a good job in the run game and the pass game.

"I thought it was good to see and encouraging as we move forward," Zimmer added.

Zimmer also noted that the cohesion between Bradford and his linemen was on point, especially in terms of making calls and checks at the line of scrimmage.

"(With) Elflein, basically we've got three centers playing on the interior, so those guys communicate a lot about things they see," Zimmer said. "Sam can trump them at any time." 

Berger and Easton combined to start all 16 games at center last season for the Vikings.

But on Monday, Minnesota's offensive line allowed Bradford to have one of the best games of his career. Zimmer pointed out the line's play as a key factor in the offense's success against New Orleans. 

"He played really well, he played really well. Some of the third downs that we converted, 3rd-and-8, 3rd-and-9, whatever it was, there were a few of those," Zimmer said. " Honestly, he played good, don't get me wrong. He got help from the offensive line; they gave him time. We ran the ball better. We had some play actions. I think it was just all a combination of things."

The Vikings racked up 470 yards of total offense, including 129 yards on the ground, a higher total than any game from the 2016 season.

Rookie running back Dalvin Cook had 127 yards on 27 carries, including gains of 32 and 33 yards down the right sideline.

Remmers said he was excited to watch No. 33 in Purple race past him for a pair of 30-plus yard gains.

"He makes guys miss and runs guys over and is a great teammate," Remmers said Monday night. "He's just a hell of a runner, and I feel fortunate and blessed to be blocking for him.

"One of the best feelings in the world is when you see a running back go flying by you," Remmers said. "I couldn't be happier. The O-line worked our butts off all week to give him the running lanes he needs."

Minnesota's offensive line will look for more success at noon (CT) Sunday when the Vikings travel to face the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"We just have to build on this and put more of these together," Berger said. "It's one week, and it's a long season."

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