MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota Vikings fans are still on a high after Sunday’s 23-7 win over the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium to open the Kevin O’Connell era.
We knew the Vikings had a talented roster. But what would it look like under a new coaching staff and a new front office? Nobody had any way of knowing, with starters not playing in the preseason. It turns out it didn’t matter, the Vikings were more than ready to play on Sunday.
Here are five takeaways from the opening win:
JUSTIN JEFFERSON’S CAREER DAY
Justin Jefferson said this offseason he wants to be considered the top receiver in the NFL. Not that he needs the validation, but what a start for the 2020 first round pick. Justin Jefferson had six catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone. The 158 yards set a new franchise record for a half. He finished the day with eight catches for a career-high 184 yards.
His 3,016 yards in his first two seasons set an NFL record. He needed 17 yards last year to set the Vikings’ single-season receiving record. It’s scary to think about what’s next.
EARLY AGGRESSIVENESS PAYS OFF FOR KEVIN O’CONNELL
It didn’t take long to see the new-look offense under O’Connell. The Vikings faced a 4th-and-1 at the Packers’ 4-yard line on the opening drive. Rather than challenge the spot on what could’ve been a first down for Adam Thielen the pay before, O’Connell had a play call he loved and went for it. Kirk Cousins hit Jefferson, who was in pre-snap motion on the play, for an easy touchdown.
Adam Thielen said it best in the locker room after the win – "I’ve never been a part of an offense that just attacked, and attacked and attacked. Didn’t matter the score, didn’t matter the situation, we were attacking. We’ve talked about it, but to see it come to fruition is encouraging."
ZA’DARIUS SMITH, DEFENSE DOMINATES
In his first game against his former team, it’s fair to say Za’Darius Smith was motivated. That stat sheet doesn’t tell it all. He had the first sack on Aaron Rodgers, one of four for the Vikings on the day. He had a tackle for loss, and two other quarterback hits. Smith also blew up Rodgers on a play where it appeared he was trying to throw a block.
Smith also made a critical tackle just before the goal line for a turnover on downs. Jordan Hicks led the defense with 14 tackles. Hicks, Danielle Hunter and D.J. Wonnum sacked Rodgers. Harrison Smith got an interception. The Vikings’ defense couldn’t have started much better.
PERFECT DAY FOR GREG JOSEPH
Greg Joseph earned a starting kicker job with the Vikings last season, and he’s been virtually perfect since. He had a successful training camp, and was perfect Sunday against the Packers. He converted both extra points, and field goals from 28, 29 and 56 yards out. His 56-yarder gave the Vikings a 20-0 lead in the third quarter, and had room to spare.
O’Connell said during training camp he knows a Joseph kick is good just by listening to it. The Vikings have good kicker vibes right now, a rarity with this organization.
GAME BALLS TO KEVIN O’CONNELL, KWESI ADOFO-MENSAH
The locker room is always a better place after a win, and the Vikings were in full celebratory mode Sunday. Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf, and Lester Bagley in the management team exchanged celebratory hugs and high-fives after greeting the team. Cousins, after a request to ownership, presented game balls to O’Connell and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.
O’Connell then turned around and presented a game ball to everyone affiliated with the team. Sunday’s result, at least for one week, validated an offseason of change with big decisions at every level of the franchise. But it’s one week, let’s see what happens at Philadelphia next Monday night.