The Minnesota Vikings opened the 2017 season by dismantling the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football, 29-19 at US Bank Stadium. After watching the game again, here are some of the Berserker Vikings notes.
Sam Bradford: If Sam Bradford keeps chucking it like he did against the Saints we are going to have find a nickname for the man. Slinging Sammy Bradford has a nice ring to it. But Bradford wasn’t just slinging on Monday night, he was SLANGIN’! While the circumstances may make last year’s win over Green Bay Bradford’s most impressive performance in purple, chopping up New Orleans was by far his best quarterbacking performance since coming to Minnesota last offseason.
Bradford hung tough in the pocket delivering strikes into tight windows and nonexistent ones (see throw to Jarius Wright). No. 8 pushed things down field, not settling for the dink and dunk check downs that he lived by last year and nearly caused Vikings Twitter to burn the internet down.
Bradford has always possessed the arm talent to be an elite signal caller—it was the other parts of quarterbacking critics questioned. For at least one night Bradford silenced the critics (as a staunch supporter of Teddy Bridgewater, I’m one of them) outdueling a sure-fire hall of famer.
The offensive line: I’m not going to pretend I know the intricacies of what makes for good offensive line play—we can leave that to the professionals. But as follower of the Vikings I’m certainly well versed in shit o-line play. Four new starters, for one night, appear to have this unit trending in the right direction. You can’t credit Bradford without giving props to the big guys up front. Minus a Nick Easton whiffed block and a Mike Remmers holding call, the line held up pretty damn well even if it was against a Saints’ junior varsity defense. Pat Elfein looks like a stud in the making (his mobility alone is outstanding) and I was impressed with Riley Reiff at left tackle. The narrative surrounding the Vikings’ offensive line has been just be average. It certainly was on Monday and look at how that opened up the entire offense.
Skill players: Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook. That’s a pretty rock-solid trio of talented players Slinging Sammy Bradford (see its starting to catch on!) has at his disposal. Diggs shined the brightest with his two touchdowns and handful of “holy shit he caught that?!” receptions. Thielen’s move to the slot certainly appears to have paid huge dividends as his size and speed are a recipe for success against nickel backs and linebackers.
Cook had a few blunders (a dropped swing pass on third down during the first drive) but once he settled in, man the rook was impressive. He may not be the generational runner Adrian Peterson was but he is a lot things Peterson never could be. His blitz pickup was outstanding for a player making their first-career start. But what impressed me the most? Cook’s ability to shed arm tackles and his burst to the outside. He got stronger as the game went on and that’s a GREAT sign for the Vikings.
We didn’t see much of Kyle Rudolph or Laquon Treadwell on Monday and I still think there is a bigger role for Jerick McKinnon to be carved out. But for the moment defenses are going to have to pick their poison and after a decade of stacking the box to take away Adrian Peterson, having complimentary players is a welcomed change of pace.
Eric Kendricks: The defensive unit as a whole was impressive but third-year middle linebacker shined. Kendricks was all over the place, thumping ball carries and continuing to display his improved coverage abilities. The Vikings have stars along the defensive line and in the secondary and depending on your view of Anthony Barr, need one in the linebacking core. Kendricks looks like he could be a centerpiece for Minnesota and Mike Zimmer for a long time.
What’s driving me berserk
Elevated expectations: Let’s pump the breaks on the Super Bowl talk, shall we? We are Vikings fans, we all know how this movie ends. While Monday’s performance was certainly far better than I expected coming into the year, this was one game against a Saints team that might finish last in the division. Minnesota was aided greatly by an off day from Drew Brees who missed a pair of touchdown throws the hall of famer usually makes with ease. Bradford was lucky to avoid an interception on his throw to Cook down on the goal line. Diggs made some absurd catches that I’m not sure you can bank on weekly. Let’s wait and see what kind of performance the Vikings give us this week in Pittsburgh before we start planning the championship parade.
Laquon Treadwell: Maybe its my own fault for believing Treadwell would break out this season after a dud of a rookie campaign. And frankly there is still plenty of time for that prayer to be answered but one game in, things aren’t looking promising. Treadwell certainly got himself open at times but just wasn’t on Bradford’s radar. My suspicion: the time missed at camp due to injury has prevented from Treadwell and Bradford from getting in sync. That surely can be remedied in the coming weeks, with Michael Floyd just three weeks away from returning the time is now for ‘Quon.