If you happen to live in the Midwest or any further west than that, you were more than likely shown the dynamic duel between the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers. This matchup had plenty of buildup and storylines already drawn into the sand before kickoff even came close. Could Mike Zimmer and his team bounce back into being the dominant defense that were last season? Or would Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners have other plans as they look to make a push for an NFC West title? As we sit and read this on Monday, we already know the answers to those two questions. So let’s dive into the details of what turned out to be a thrilling contest.
For the Vikings, there were a number of new faces who had to have big games on Sunday in order to give the team a chance at success. The obvious one of course, was new Quarterback, Kirk Cousins. Cousins, who signed a three year deal worth $84 million, fully guaranteed, showed just why teams were willing to handout the first fully guaranteed contract in NFL history. He remained composed throughout the highs and lows of the game and delivered on his promises by throwing 20-36 for 244 yards with a pair of touchdowns. A great start to what is hopefully a fantastic season for him in his first season wearing purple and yellow.
Another fresh face on this year’s iteration of the Minnesota Vikings is new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Coming into the season, the main questions regarding this team were whether the offensive line could remain competent, and whether or not DeFilippo could create an effective and progressive offense with the tools at his disposal. Other than part of the 4th quarter, DeFilippo called a really nice game. In total the offense scored 17 points, and that number could have been even higher had the team managed to avoid a few crucial mistakes on third down. It was an impressive first showing for the new coordinator and leaves many Vikings fans with a feeling of relief knowing that this guy is the real deal until proven otherwise.
On the defensive side of the ball, the world watched as newcomers Sheldon Richardson and Mike Hughes both had their debuts in purple. Richardson, an establish NFL veteran, had few question marks heading into his first game. Everyone knows the talent he possesses and how he can change a football game with a single play. However, first round pick Mike Hughes, a rookie making his NFL debut, was the one who changed the game on a single play. Hughes picked off Goroppolo and took it to the house for six points in what proved to be a crucial part of the contest. Hughes had a few instances of rookie confusion, but in total, he had a great debut and left many fans ecstatic about his future as a Minnesota Viking.
There were plenty of Vikings who had fantastic afternoons on Sunday. Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph both had touchdown reception. Adam Thielen had six receptions for 102 yards. Danielle Hunter had a sack and two tackles for a loss. But the MVP of yesterday’s contest was indisputable. Harrison Smith had one of his best games in his career yesterday without a doubt. Smith, who is the best safety in the NFL, came away with a eight tackles, two tackles for a loss, a forced fumble and recovery on the Vikings goal line, a sack, and the game ending interception that gave the Vikings their first win of the 2018 NFL season. Smith could not have done any more in this game to bring the Vikings to victory. It was a phenomenal effort and was electrifying to watch unfold as he almost single handedly took care of Jimmy G and the Niners. Smith is well deserving of MVP for the season opener and should be a real contender for Defensive Player of the Week in the entire NFL.
Starting off 1-0 is quite important in the NFL. Not only does it give you confidence heading into the rest of the season, it also keeps the unnecessary pressure away as the team looks to make a real push in the playoffs this season. Next week, the Vikings head into Lambeau to take on the Green Bay Packers. With Aaron Rodgers future uncertain, it’ll be interesting to see the buildup to the game and how the Vikings prepare to take down their division rival Sunday at noon. But for now, the Vikings can celebrate their Monday with a sense of satisfaction, but undoubtably should maintain their hunger for more success.
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