MINNEAPOLIS — So much for the Vikings starting skill players needing to play in the preseason.
Head Coach Kevin O'Connell felt confident what he had been seeing in practices during the offseason and training camp was enough preparation to be ready to go — even if the opponent was the defending NFC North Champion Green Bay Packers.
Turned out it was plenty for the Vikings to deliver O'Connell a victory, 23-7, in his first game as a head coach.
Kirk Cousins completed 15 of 21 passes for 208 yards with two touchdowns for a passer rating of 134.6 in the first half. He finished 23 of 32 for 277 with a passer rating of 118.9.
Justin Jefferson was Cousins' most frequent player targeted in that session, and the third-year superstar delivered 158 yards and two scores. The yardage topped a franchise record for a first half set by Randy Moss with 147 against Detroit on Jan. 2, 2000. Jefferson recorded his 200th career reception during his hot first half.
Jefferson set a new personal record for receiving yards in a game with 184.
Minnesota's new look defense pitched a shutout in the first half, limiting Green Bay to 100 yards of offense.
Aaron Rodgers was 8-of-15 passing for 76 yards with an interception and a passer rating of 39.9 during the game's first 30 minutes.
Here are four more observations presented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Proud LASIK Partner of the Minnesota Vikings, followed by a scoring summary:
1. Newcomers turn out
Rather than completely tear down and rebuild, the Vikings took a strategic approach in free agency that emphasized strengthening its defensive core.
Sure, there was the splashy addition of Za'Darius Smith, the former Packer who tormented his ex-teammates, but Minnesota more quietly added defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard.
Bullard, Smith and fellow signee Harrison Phillips were all involved in tackling AJ Dillon for no gain on Minnesota's 1-yard line after Green Bay opted to go for it on fourth-and-1. Phillips and Bullard helped anchor at the point of contact as Smith came flying in off the edge to finish the play.
2. Turnovers & pressure
The Vikings defense took advantage of the Packers opening without offensive linemen David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins.
Minnesota sacked Rodgers four times. Smith, Danielle Hunter, Jordan Hicks and D.J. Wonnum took down the four-time NFL MVP. Hicks, who led Minnesota with 14 tackles, forced a fumble recovered by Dalvin Tomlinson.
Harrison Smith also nabbed a rare interception thrown by Rodgers, for the 30th of his career.
Rodgers finished 22-of-34 passing with 195 yards and a passer rating of 67.6.
Minnesota did not commit a turnover.
3. Balanced backfield
The Vikings totaled 126 rushing yards by sharing some of Dalvin Cook's workload with Alexander Mattison.
Cook finished with 20 rushes for 90 yards, and Mattison added 36 yards on eight rushes.
Both backs seemed to stay fresh throughout the game.
4. Special teams solid and beyond
Greg Joseph deserves a considerable amount of credit. He made all of his kicks (two PATs and three field goals). Joseph was good from 28 and 29, which is to be expected by now, but he also split the uprights with a 56-yarder to set a new personal best and tie a record for the longest field goal by a Viking.
Rookie punter Ryan Wright averaged 46.4 yards on five punts and placed three inside the 20-yard line.
Minnesota's punt coverage team packed pressure on Pat O'Donnell multiple times, and new punt returner Jalen Reagor was solid in his Vikings debut.
View postgame celebration photos from the Vikings season opener win over the Packers on Sept. 11 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Q1, 9:17 remaining
Vikings 7, Packers 0
Justin Jefferson catches a 5-yard pass from Kirk Cousins (Greg Joseph kicks PAT) [10 plays, 78 yards, 5:43 time of possession]
No guts, no "Griddy": The Vikings converted their first third down of the season (needing 5) with a 20-yard pass to Jefferson. Minnesota later tried to pick up a third-and-8 with a pass to Adam Thielen but came inches shy. Head Coach Kevin O'Connell opted to go for it on fourth down. Minnesota outflanked Green Bay by putting Thielen in motion from left to right. Jefferson then followed suit, and Cousins found the receiver wide open.
View photos from the Vikings-Packers 2022 season opener on Sept. 11 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Q2, 3:54 remaining
Vikings 10, Packers 0
Joseph kicks a 28-yard field goal [8 plays, 89 yards, 4:04 time of possession]
Subtle movement: Cousins navigated pressure in the pocket, kept his cool and bought enough time for Jefferson to break free. The quarterback hit his receiver in stride, enabling a 64-yard gain on the play.
Q2, 0:35 remaining
Vikings 17, Packers 0
Jefferson catches a 36-yard pass from Cousins (Joseph kicks PAT) [7 plays, 74 yards, 2:23 time of possession]
Fight to the pylon: Cousins found Jefferson almost inexplicably open on a deep crosser. Jefferson caught it at the 19 and had the know-how and moves to finish the play at the pylon.
Q3, 9:46 remaining
Vikings 20, Packers 0
Joseph kicks a 56-yard field goal [4 plays, minus-5 yards, 2:20 time of possession]
Record-tying kick: The Packers defense held up after a fumble by Aaron Rodgers thanks to an offensive pass interference call against Jefferson, but Joseph set a new personal best and tied a Vikings franchise record for longest field goal made.
Q3, 5:16 remaining
Vikings 20, Packers 7
AJ Dillon rushes for 2 yards (Mason Crosby kicks PAT) [7 plays, 75 yards, 4:30 time of possession]
Ground gains: Rushes accounted for five plays and 57 yards during the drive, including a 29-yard gain by Aaron Jones on second-and-6.
Q4, 6:48 remaining
Vikings 23, Packers 7
Joseph kicks a 29-yard field goal [12 plays, 74 yards, 5:04 time of possession]