The gold standard | By @Eric_L_Smith
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer started building Minnesota's defense from the day he arrived in 2014, adding piece-by-piece until it culminated with a standout performance by the unit in 2017.
Minnesota's defense finished first in the NFL in yards allowed per game (275.9), points allowed per game (15.8) and opponents' third-down percentage (25.2) in 2017.
The Vikings return 10 of 11 starters on defense, and they may have upgraded at the lone spot they don't in defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
The Vikings offense has the potential to be explosive, but it might take a few weeks for the unit to click. If that's the case, the Vikings might need to lean on the defense over the first month of the season.
But Zimmer and his players have shown time and time again they can rise up to the task.
Their Week 1 challenge? Stopping 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who is a perfect 7-0 in his first seven career starts. That is tied with former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper and Dieter Brock for the third-longest streak to begin a career.
Kirk kicks off 1st regular season in Purple | By @LindseyMNSports
Kirk Cousins got some reps during the preseason, but Sunday will mark his first regular-season game in Purple.
The quarterback has been working since April on building a chemistry – both on and off the field – with his teammates. Not only will it be interesting to see how they perform together but also how the game is called by new Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo. This will be the first chance Cousins has to play a full four quarters for the Vikings and will do so in front of sure-to-be-packed U.S. Bank Stadium. Entering this game with 99 career touchdowns, his first TD pass for Minnesota will hit quite the milestone.
Cousins told media members on Wednesday that there's "always a lot of excitement" around Week 1 of the season but that it's important to stay grounded.
"We've just got to fight through those initial jitters, and the initial excitement that's inevitably going to be there, and play a great football game from the first snap to the last," Cousins said.
What's the O-line combo going to be? | By @pcraigers
There's no question that the Vikings have proven talent at skill positions. Cousins, Latavius Murray, Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph all have made at least one Pro Bowl. Stefon Diggs is electric, and Dalvin Cook impressively began his rookie campaign before a knee injury last fall.
What about the less-heralded glue guys? The offensive line has been in-flux throughout the offseason program.
Injuries — from Pat Elflein last season, to losing Nick Easton for the season during training camp, to more minor setbacks — have prompted a state of perpetual motion, experimentation and evaluation during the preseason when the Vikings had a different starting combo in each of their four games.
Denver: LT Riley Reiff, LG Tom Compton, C Cornelius Edison, RG Danny Isidora, RT Rashod Hill
Jacksonville: LT Reiff, LG Compton, C Edison, RG Isidora, RT Aviante Collins
Seattle: LT Reiff, LG Compton, C Edison, RG Mike Remmers, RT Hill
Tennessee: Collins, LG Brett Jones, C Isidora, RG Colby Gossett, RT Brian O'Neill
Elflein and Aviante Collins on Friday were ruled out for Sunday.
Reiff (foot) was on the injury report this week, but is likely to play. Remmers bounced back from an early camp injury and started against the Seahawks when Minnesota played its starters the longest.
Edison is on the Vikings practice squad, leaving Jones and Isidora as the other two interior backups. Jones was acquired in a trade on Aug. 26. He was able to get his first action in Purple in Tennessee when the Vikings took a look at Isidora at center. That game was Isidora's first action at center at any level of football.
— The Vikings have four wins over the 49ers in season openers for both teams (1963, 1975, 1979 and 1985). The 49ers won in Week 1 in 1967 and 2015, and the teams tied in the 1966 season opener.
— The 49ers defense tied for 21st in rushing yards allowed per game in 2017 with 116.3. Minnesota's offense ranked seventh with 122.3 yards per game.
— Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is one of two quarterbacks with 4,000-plus passing yards and more than 25 touchdown passes in each of the past three seasons. Philip Rivers is the other.
— Minnesota's defense had three players earn All-Pro selections in 2017. Safety Harrison Smith and cornerback Xavier Rhodes earned First-Team All-Pro honors. Defensive end Everson Griffen was a Second-Team All-Pro. Rhodes was also a Second-Team honoree as a defensive back
"Typically, I think I do a good job on Sundays, of adjusting to the game. I had a coach tell me one time, 'The first quarter is about your game plan. The second and third quarter are about making adjustments, and the fourth quarter is about doing the best things to win the game.'
"I've kind of done this for a long time, so I can kind of see a lot of things that are hurting us and try to adjust it, try to get it back under control. The other thing is I don't want to be a second-guessing coach. I have a style of how I call a game. [Defensive Coordinator] George [Edwards], even though he tries to do it like I do it, I don't want to tell them all, 'I hate that call,' or 'You should have called it like this.' I don't think that's fair to him. If I want something called, I should call it."
— Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said in explaining his preference for continuing to make the defensive calls. Zimmer told reports this week that Edwards made calls during some of the preseason but did not elaborate how much or say in which games.