The Vikings are 1-0 after a convincing win over the Falcons, whose only points came late in the game.
NFL.com’s Grant Gordon evaluated Minnesota’s season opener in the “What We Learned” series that runs weekly on Sunday evenings. He highlighted three facets of the Vikings performance, including their jumpstart to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Gordon wrote:
Though it’s just Week 1, the Vikings looked every bit the part of a team that can fulfill high hopes. The defense was stellar as it held a formidable Falcons offense at bay for the first three quarters and turned in three turnovers. The offense was balanced and special teams made an impact. Overall, the Vikings were outstanding on their first Sunday.
Gordon contrasted the performances of Vikings running back Dalvin Cook and Falcons running back Devonta Freeman. The two may have attended the same high school and college, but their outings on Sunday varied greatly. Gordon said that Freeman was “stifled and frustrated,” while Cook “could revitalize a rushing attack largely absent” in 2018.
In addition, Gordon pointed to the Vikings shutdown of Pro Bowl Falcons receiver Julio Jones, who finished the day with just 31 yards through the air.
A day after scoring a huge extension, Julio Jones scored a touchdown, as well. But it was too late and far too little. Sure, Jones, in his 112th game, became the second-fastest receiver to 700 catches, but he continued to struggle against the Vikings, who have held him down like no other team. The touchdown was his first in five games against Minnesota, and his 31 yards were shy of his dismal average in his previous four games versus the Vikings (40.5). The Vikings defense and cornerback Xavier Rhodes, in particular, continue to confound one of the game’s greatest receivers.
According to Gordon, Minnesota’s containing of Jones is “yet more evidence why the Vikings could emerge very quickly as a team on the rise for the NFL’s biggest prize at season’s end.”
Graziano: Vikings can lean on their run game in 2019
Quarterback Kirk Cousins didn’t mind that he made just 10 throws – eight of which he completed – against the Falcons, saying, “as long as we win the football game, that’s all that matters to me.”
ESPN’s Dan Graziano delved into Minnesota’s unique game Monday morning. He tackled “broad, sweeping conclusions” that are being made around the NFL after Week 1 contests and determined whether or not they are overreactions.
Graziano said it’s not an overreaction to believe that the Vikings can make the playoffs without having a pass-heavy offense. He wrote:
All right, so 10 passes in a game isn’t a sustainable 2019 model, but this victory over what looked to be a decent Falcons team before the season started is proof that the Vikings can lean on their run game and their defense and still win games.
I talked to [Head Coach Mike] Zimmer in training camp, and he said, “Everybody thinks I want to win games 10-7. I really don’t care. I just want to win games.” The Vikings believe their line is a strong run-blocking unit, that Dalvin Cook is a superstar talent at running back and that they can outperform their 2018 finish by cleaning up the way they play in the fourth quarter of games. They’re good enough on defense to pull that off, and if Cook can stay healthy, their model can absolutely work.
PFF: Cousins ‘fearless under pressure’ in Week 1 win
In its weekly “ReFocused” series that breaks down each game, pro analytics site Pro Football Focus highlighted Kirk Cousins’ performance in Sunday’s win over the Falcons.
The PFF analysis team wrote:
Kirk Cousins was fearless under pressure. It won’t show up as huge plays, but while [Falcons quarterback] Matt Ryan was throwing picks when pressured, Cousins was extending the play long enough to throw the ball away and avoid turnover worthy plays.
Safety Anthony Harris and Eric Kendricks also were highlighted.
A couple of interceptions and a late stop on a two-point play meant Anthony Harris was primed for a game ball for his efforts. Both picks came at critical stages of the game and were huge factors in the Vikings getting out ahead and staying there.
It was an interesting day for Eric Kendricks, who was largely exceptional in the passing game, whether it generating pressure or breaking on passes.