It wasn’t the prettiest start, but a win is a win. It’s a classic cliché in sports, but only because it’s true.
The Minnesota Vikings opened the 2016 regular season with a 25-16 win at Tennessee. The Vikings got off to an ugly start, trailing 10-0 at half. Adrian Peterson was virtually non-existent in the run game and the defense had some difficulties early.
But the Vikings defense dominated the second half and despite not scoring offensively, they came away with a victory. It’s always crucial to start the season on a positive note with a victory, especially since the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers follow. Sunday night will be the most anticipated regular season home game in Vikings history, with the official opening of U.S. Bank Stadium.
Here are four takeaways from Sunday’s win leading into this week’s match-up with the Packers.
Defense Dominates After Slow Start
The Vikings will rely on their defense all year, so it was huge for the group to figure things out in the second half of Sunday’s win. They got not one touchdown, but two. That’s right, two defensive touchdowns. The first came when Everson Griffen got free, forcing Marcus Mariota to make a terrible throw right to Eric Kendricks, who got the interception and took it 77 yards for a score.
The second came on something of a gift when a read-option exchange was fumbled by the Titans. Danielle Hunter got the scoop and score for at the time, a 22-10 lead. If it wasn’t for the Vikings defensive effort in the second half, they may be 0-1 hosting the Packers.
Blair Walsh Recovers From 2 Early Misses
The sky was falling early in the Vikings game Sunday, at least according to fans on social media, after Blair Walsh missed two early field goals. His first attempt just missed left, but his second from 56 yards was well off the mark. So is it time to worry?
Yes, but no. Walsh did end up making field goals of 50, 47 and 30 yards. But he also did miss an extra point. Mike Zimmer said both after the game and on Monday that Walsh is their kicker. That puts to bed any speculation that they may bring in another kicker to compete with Walsh. So he’s the guy, whether we like it or not. Until Walsh is more consistent, fans will worry every time he’s out on the field. It will probably stay that way until he makes a game-winning kick that splits the uprights.
Shaun Hill Did His Job in Victory
For at least one game, Shaun Hill did what he was asked to do in a Vikings victory. The only thing he didn’t do? Get an offensive touchdown. He threw for 236 yards with a virtually non-existent run game. He moved the chains and at the very least, got Blair Walsh in position for field goals. But Hill, as long as he’s the quarterback, will only be asked to move the ball down the field and not turn the football over.
Ultimately, he will be replaced by Sam Bradford at some point. After all, you don’t trade a first-round draft pick for a quarterback to hold a clipboard on the sidelines all season. Mike Zimmer said Monday and Wednesday he won’t announce his quarterback against the Packers until Sunday, but it would be a bigger surprise if it wasn’t Bradford. He may even not tell his own players to prevent it leaking out, but again, Bradford is expected to play.
What Happened To Adrian Peterson?
It was a frustrating start for Adrian Peterson. After not playing the whole preseason (his choice), he had 19 carries for just 31 yards Sunday. Ironically, that’s the same number he had in last year’s opener, an ugly loss at San Francisco. But Tennessee was determined to not get beat by Peterson. His longest gain went for nine yards. But was it bad blocking or too much dancing around by Peterson? Depending on the play, both. While it’s certainly concerning and something to keep an eye on, he’s one of the best running backs in the NFL for a reason. Look for Peterson to have a big game against the Packers.
Week 1 was by many standards a first game. There were plenty of mistakes and there is a lot to work on in practice this week. But it’s always better to do it after a victory. The Vikings will need a much better effort all around to beat the Packers, and they know that. It’s a huge game against a division rival with potential postseason implications. It’s also a highly-anticipated game with the official football opening of U.S. Bank Stadium. Buckle your seat belts, Sunday night should be fun.