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Lunchbreak: Vikings Offensive Line Shows Confidence & Promise in Season Opener

Whether it was through the air or on the ground, the Vikings made sure their offense was delivered right on time to open the season.

The skill was quickly shown during Minnesota's 23-7 victory against the Green Bay Packers.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins looked sharp. Wide receiver Justin Jefferson was showered with "MVP" chants during a monster first half. And Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison provided a strong 1-2 punch in the backfield.

In order to make things click on offense, though, good protection from the offensive line was needed, especially against a challenging Green Bay defense.

Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune caught up with several Vikings offensive linemen Sunday, including right tackle Brian O'Neill, who called the Minnesota front a “violent group.”

"You're going to see a better offensive line from us than you have in the past couple years," O'Neill said.

Aside from a couple of mistakes, O'Neill and the rest of the Vikings O-line stood their ground against Pro Bowl nose tackle Kenny Clark and the Packers. Cousins got hit eight times, but was only sacked once.

"Whenever we give Kirk time," left tackle Christian Darrisaw said, "he's going to let it rip and it's going to be an explosive play. That's why we know, give him time, and he's going to make the play happen."

Krammer said Darrisaw (first-round pick in 2021), left guard Ezra Cleveland (second-round selection in 2020) and right guard Ed Ingram (second-round pick in this year's draft) will have to continue to learn and grow to achieve offensive success. Krammer wrote:

The development of the line's youngest players — Cleveland, Darrisaw and Ingram — will be critical to how well they play together immediately. Sunday offered a positive first step against a formidable Packers defense, which gave Ingram — the rookie — some welcome-to-the-league moments.

"We're pulling him along, but he's got that dog and that grit to him that we need to fill in that position," Cook said. "The will for those guys to get it done, and the want-to, and the physical part is all there."

O'Neill added: "If you average over [4] yards a carry and over 350 yards of total offense, you had to have done a good job. Just the way he [Ingram] bounced back from new looks, different adversity that will always hit throughout a game. He handled himself like an adult."

Sunday's victory not only marked the first win under Head Coach Kevin O'Connell, but the first time Cleveland and the 2020 draft class have been on a Vikings team with a winning record.

"We all kind of realized that," Cleveland said. "Coming into this game, we'd never been over .500; been to .500, but never over. I think it's a big deal for us, because being over .500 in the NFL is hard to do. It's two years coming, and I'm excited about it."

O'Neill, who was part of Minnesota's playoff run in 2019, said the Vikings want to spend more time in the win column.

"We'll get there," he said. "This was just one day, one step at a time."

K Greg Joseph Boots Personal Best With 56-Yard Field Goal, Ties Franchise Record

Vikings kicker Greg Joseph had several important kicks to make last season in his first year with Minnesota, including a game-winning field goal against the Green Bay Packers at home.

Another was a 55-yarder to propel Minnesota to a victory against the Detroit Lions. On Sunday, he topped his personal long.

In the third quarter of the Vikings season-opening 23-7 victory against the Packers, Joseph nailed an attempt from 56 yards.

It was a historic kick for Joseph, who also made attempts from 28 and 29 yards on Sunday. Not only was it a new career long, but it tied the franchise record set by Paul Edinger in 2005 and matched by Blair Walsh in 2012.

Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press spoke with Joseph after the game Sunday, who said the kick "felt good" the entire way.

"Coach (Kevin O'Connell) calls it, and I go out there," Joseph said. "I was confident that I'd do my best and put my best forward to help the team."

Tomasson noted that Edinger was watching the game at his home in Florida.

"I saw him make that kick," Edinger said. "He has a nice smooth stroke. He'll have plenty of opportunities to beat the 56-yard record, I'm sure. He should have a nice career with the Vikings if he continues to stroke them like that."

Joseph connected on a 58-yarder in the Vikings final preseason game in Denver and also made a kick from 60 yards in training camp.

O'Connell said he's definitely comfortable with extending Joseph's range.

"Without hesitation, he goes on and sets his career long right there," O'Connell said of the kick. "I think he was great."