Vikings 24, 49ers 16. First win in the books, but what did we learn?
Dalvin Cook and Sheldon Richardson Are Good at Football
Shame on me. I forgot Dalvin Cook is good at football. He did not run the ball effectively (see below), but he did make an impact in the passing game. His versatility and elusiveness gave a glimpse into how special he can be, as his did not appear to miss a step after his torn ACL last year. Overall, it was a promising debut for Cook and as the year progresses, his impact should only grow.
As for Richardson, I’m on record as saying his impact may be greater than that of Kirk Cousins, and he showed why on Sunday. He consistently made his way to Jimmy Garoppolo and his presence freed up 1-on-1 match-ups for Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter on the outside. Add Linval Joseph to the mix and this is likely the best defensive line in football. Outstanding play from the front four.
Kirk Cousins- Also Pretty Good at Football
Cousins didn’t light up the box score, but he did what any quarterback needs to do with a defense as good as the Vikings: he took care of the football. Mix in some key connections with Adam Thielen to move the chains in addition to two perfect throws for touchdowns and he had a pretty flawless debut. The Niners are not an elite defense, but the early return on Cousins looks promising.
Harrison Smith – Great at Football
An easy write up. A crucial sack, a fumble recovery, and a game sealing interception for the Vikes’ swiss army knife. Harrison Smith should consistently be in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation.
The Defense is Deep and Zimmer is Creative
We knew this, but it was unfortunately tested early when Mike Hughes had to move from the slot to outside corner back when Trae Waynes went down in the second quarter (after a textbook pass break-up). It’s clear Hughes filled in admirably for Waynes with his pick-six, but perhaps the most notable depth was when Zimmer put 6-foot-4 safety Jayron Kearse in the slot for Hughes. The defense did not miss a beat and Kearse showed off versatility that we didn’t know he had.
Too Many Big Plays
There was a lot to like about the defense, but there were too many lapses for my liking. George Kittle got out in space to rack up 90 yards on the day, and we know it could have been a lot more when he was left wide open on a ball he luckily dropped. Also, after the Vikings went up 24-6, the defense should have slammed the door shut. Instead, Kyle Juszczyk escaped for a 56-yard gain and the Niners were able to respond quickly. Overall, it was a strong performance, and the four turnovers were impressive, but there are things to tighten up before Green Bay.
Run Blocking Needs Work
The issue on offense was the lack of ability to run the ball. Cook played well in the passing game but couldn’t get anything going on the ground. Latavius Murray had a few strong runs, but there was no consistent success. It’s to be expected, as the offensive line is neither healthy nor a strength of the team. With Pat Elflein’s return on the horizon, though, it can only get better.
A date with Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers in Lambeau, fresh off a heroic Sunday Night performance. While it’s daunting to play Rodgers and always hard to win on the road in the NFL, regardless of opponent, I give the Vikings the edge. The defense is better and had just enough wrong in Week 1 to focus on and fix. If Rodgers is immobile (or doesn’t play circa Sam Bradford 2017), I imagine the defense creating fits for Green Bay. As for the offense, they should be able to move the ball up and down the field against an inexperienced secondary. The game won’t be a cakewalk, but it should be a win. Vikes 27-20