EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —* The Vikings took the lead for good against the Saints on *Monday Night Football when the offense executed a crisp three-play drive that spanned 74 yards in less than 90 seconds.
The series injected life into a Vikings offense that went on to rack up 470 total yards of offense.
The drive started with a 35-yard pass play from quarterback Kyle Rudolph to wide receiver Adam Thielen, but a deeper glance at the film showed that left guard Nick Easton also had some fun on the play.
Easton stepped back in pass protection once Bradford dropped back to pass, but the 25-year-old had nobody to block because the Saints rushed just three linemen. Easton then took matters into his own hands by moving to his right where rookie center Pat Elflein was matched up against Saints defensive tackle Tyeler Davison.
Davison leapt as Bradford threw the ball, giving Easton a clean block that sent the lineman tumbling to the ground.
"It's definitely preached in our protection meetings," Easton said. "Find work and help out other guys, it's just another way to get after the D-line and wear them out."
Easton said there's no better feeling than when an offensive lineman can throw his weight around.
"My eyes light up when I see that," said Easton, who also had a key block on the second play of the drive, a 21-yard completion to Jarius Wright.
Vikings right guard Nick Easton said Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano makes it a point to let his linemen know to finish blocks at all times.
"You don't want to be standing there on film doing nothing," Berger cracked. "Nick has a good knack for, if he's uncovered, finding a place to go to get busy.
"He has a way of finding a way to finish a play," Berger added. "I think that's part of the reason why he's out there, and it's fun to see."
With New Orleans only rushing three, Berger was able to help right tackle Mike Remmers with protection, too. And he also had a great view of Easton's pancake block on Davison.
"I was out there trying to do the same thing for Mike's guy," Berger said. "I turn back to see the ball go down the field, and [Davison] comes somersaulting in front of me.
"On film, it's fun (to watch)," Berger added. "But it's more fun to see it on the field."
The Vikings will likely need that competitive fire this Sunday when they travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers.
Pittsburgh recorded seven sacks in its season-opening win, with linebackers Anthony Chickillo and T.J. Watt each recording 2.0 takedowns.
"I think they're a tremendous defense. They've always put pressure on the quarterback," said Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur. "Played them, seems like every year, my years in Philadelphia. We'd play them in the preseason if we didn't play them in the regular season. So, I've got a lot of experience with them.
"Then certainly being in Cleveland, I played them twice two years in a row," Shurmur said. "If you stand there and hold the ball, they're going to get after you. Doesn't really matter the level or the skill and ability of the quarterback."
Berger said that after a solid opener, his unit will try to keep things simple in a hostile environment.
"It's still football at the end of the day," Berger said. "You're going to have a guy across from you at some point … it's just playing football."
Vikings ready for tough environment at Heinz Field
Whether it's the sea of black and gold or the sight of thousands of Terrible Towels, the Steelers have carved out a clear home-field advantage over the years.
In fact, in the past 10 home openers for Pittsburgh, the Steelers are 9-1 at Heinz Field.
Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen said he and his teammates have been prepping for a raucous atmosphere.
"It's tough to win on the road in this league, especially when you're facing a really tough team," Thielen said. "They're a veteran team with guys who have been in the league a long time."
Three starters — QB Sam Bradford (knee), LB Anthony Barr (hamstring) and CB Xavier Rhodes (knee) — were listed Friday as questionable for Sunday's game.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was asked if he anticipates Bradford playing on Sunday.
"I don't know, we'll have to see," Zimmer said. "I anticipate that he will, yes."
Zimmer added he also anticipates that Barr will be able to play. He declined to answer when asked if Bradford has undergone an MRI.
"No, I'm not going to talk about who's had MRIs or who hasn't had MRIs," Zimmer said. "Lots of guys have MRIs. I had one, two maybe, on my knee."