NFL: Nine Observations From Minnesota Vikings Victory Over Green Bay Packers

The Minnesota Vikings earned a huge 17-14 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night. The victory was the Vikings first regular season win at the brand new $1.1 billion U.S. Bank Stadium.

Minnesota quarterback Sam Bradford earned the game-ball from NBC Sports as he dazzled in his Vikings’ debut, completing 22-of-31 passes for 286 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Bradford, who was acquired by the Vikes on September 3, served as Shaun Hill’s backup in Minnesota’s season opening victory over the Tennessee Titans.

“He just made great decisions all night long,” Vikings’ wide receiver Kyle Rudolph told Craig Peters of The NFL. “He was getting us into stuff that we can be successful with and staying poised and calm the entire time.”

Green Bay scored the first points in U.S. Bank Stadium history on its third offensive possession as quarterback Aaron Rogers rolled out of the pocket and found Jordy Nelson for a one-yard score. The Packers five play, 52-yard drive was helped by a huge Terrence Newman 40-yard pass interference penalty on a third down and two play from the Minnesota 44-yard line. Newman was also flagged for defensive holding during the drive that put the ball on the one-yard line.

Minnesota finally got on the board in the second quarter with 10:14 left when Bradford connected with Kyle Rudolph on an eight-yard toss. The Vikings drive was aided by an offensive fumble recovery and a gutsy fourth-and-one play from the Green Bay 18. Bradford was 7-of-9 for 60 yards during the series.

Minnesota took a 10-7 lead into halftime when kicker Blair Walsh knocked in a 46-yard field goal with 27 seconds left in the half. The Vikings dominated the first half, outgaining the Packers 171-65 in total offensive yards.

After both teams punted following a quick three and out series, Green Bay marched down the field to the Minnesota 14-yard line. Instead of going for the game-tying field goal, the Packers decided to go for it on fourth down-and-two yards to go. But Brian Robison and Linval Joseph stuffed an inside hand-off run, out of the shot gun formation, by James Starks.

With some momentum from the huge stop, the Bradford and Vikes found some rhythm in their next offensive series. Bradford hooked up with Stefon Diggs for two big plays during the six-play, 87-yard drive, including on a 25-yard touchdown toss to give Minnesota a 17-7 lead with 3:02 left in the third.

The Packers answered right back as Rogers scampered 10 yards for a touchdown to bring Green Bay to 17-14 early in the fourth. However, the Vikings’ defense came up big on the Packers’ final two offensive drives of game. Robison beat Packers’ right tackle Bryan Bulaga and stripped Rogers of the ball, and it was recovered by Shamar Stephen at the Minnesota 40. Then on the very next Packers possession, Trae Waynes picked off Rogers to essentially seal the Vikings’ victory.

It wasn’t all good news for the Vikings as star running back Adrian Peterson was carried to the locker room late in the third quarter. According to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Peterson will undergo an MRI on his right knee.

Last night’s meeting was the 112th between the Vikings and Packers, which includes two postseason games. Green Bay leads the series 59-51-2, though Minnesota has won the last two meetings per The Football Database.

The rest of the article will look at the observations from the game.

1. Stefon Diggs is becoming a star.

Diggs had a breakout game against the Packers, hauling in a career-high nine receptions for a personal best 182 yards (20.2 yards per catch) and a long of 46 yards. He was targeted 11 times.

With his performance against Green Bay, the 2015 fifth-round selection became the third Viking player to have consecutive 100-yard outings in his first two weeks of the season. Diggs has 16 catches on the season for a NFL-high 285 yards. Gene Washington and Cris Carter are the other two players to accomplish the feat.

Diggs had 52 catches for 720 yards and four touchdowns last year. He was targeted 84 times.

2. Vikings defense is very good.

Minnesota is giving up 15.0 points a game, and they rank fifth in the NFL, surrendering just 289.5 yards a contest. The Vikings held Green Bay to 263 yards and forced three turnovers. The defense caused the Packers to fumble four times, though they recovered just two of them.

Minnesota also registered five sacks, had eight quarterback hits and seven tackles for a loss. Safety Andrew Sendejo led the Vikes with 11 tackles. Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, Tom Johnson, Robison and Joseph each had a sack.

3. Minnesota needs to find a running game.

This is especially true if Peterson is going to miss some game action.

Minnesota ranks 31st in the league with 95 total rushing yards and is dead last in yards per carry (1.7). The Vikings finished with 30 yards on 22 carries against Green Bay.

Peterson has yet to get going this season, gaining 50 yards on 31 attempts. He has a long of just nine yards this year. Veteran Matt Asiata will likely get the majority of the carries if Peterson is limited. Asiata had 14 yards on six attempts against the Packers and has 10 carries for 27 yards this year.

4. The Vikes offensive line needs to improve.

Bradford was sacked four times by Green Bay and was hit 10 other times. The o-line has permitted their quarterbacks to be hit 14 times through the first two games.

5. Minnesota needs to cut down on the penalties.

The Vikings were flagged 13 times for 137 yards, which included seven penalties for 66 yards in the first half. Waynes and Newman were called for five fouls last night. Minnesota has been called for 24 penalties this season, 16 on offense and eight on defense.

6. Minnesota special teams played a big role in victory.

The Vikings controlled field position throughout against the Packers due to their special team play. Minnesota punter Jeff Locke, who had a kick blocked, pinned Green Bay inside the 20 on five of his seven attempts. The lone punt return by the Packers went for two yards.

Walsh finished the game with five points (one field goal, two extra points) and Cordarrelle Patterson returned two kickoffs for 62 yards with a long of 37.

7. Aaron Rogers is struggling.

Rogers has yet to get going this season. He was 20-of-36 for 213 yards (5.9 yards per attempt) and one touchdown along with one interception against Minnesota. Rogers also fumbled three times, losing one of them. The 32-year-old and the Packers had just two plays of 20 yards or greater.

Rogers has completed 57.1 percent of his passes this season — which is on pace for his lowest as a full-time starter — and thrown for 411 yards. He has tossed three touchdowns, one interception and has lost two fumbles. Rogers has 45 rushing yards and two touchdown on seven carries.

8. Packers secondary needs to improve.

Green Bay surrendered a number of big plays against Minnesota. While the Packers front seven was stout, their defensive backs struggled.

Bradford and Diggs were responsible for nearly two-thirds of the Vikings’ total offense (284). A bulk of the their yardage came off two plays, a 44-yard reception before halftime and a 46-yard catch in the third quarter that set up his own 25-yard touchdown reception to put Minnesota ahead 17-7.

The Packers’ defense had a chance to get the ball back to its offense in the final minute of the game, but second-year cornerback Damarious Randall was flagged for pass interference on Diggs on third-and-6.

Green Bay was without starting cornerback Sam Shields (concussion) and then lost safety Morgan Burnett (hamstring) during the game.

9. Mike Daniels was disruptive force.

Daniels is the Packers best defensive tackle and showed how disruptive of a force he can be. He helped the Packers, along with Julius Peppers, control the line of scrimmage. Daniels finished with four tackles, one sack, two tackles for losses and two quarterback hits.

Green Bay had nine tackles for losses and recorded 10 quarterback hits. Peppers was credited with a team-high 1.5 sacks while Blake Martinez (1.0) and Nick Perry (0.5) also recorded a sack.

[Featured Image by Andy Clayton-King/AP Photo]