Vikings Week 1: The Real Games Begin!
Written by Tony Schultz on September 6, 2019
“…Aaaannnd, BOOM!” Are you ready for Paul Allen’s iconic opening kickoff call? It has become a staple sound bite for Vikings fans and highlight videos on ESPN and NFL Network. There’s always a little bit more behind it when it’s the first game of the regular season, and the Vikings start it at home. As a fan, I get a small chill under my new Adam Thielen jersey and right up my spine.
The preseason gave us a sample of what to expect from the Vikings this year, but it’s time for the main meal and they have a buffet set before us. The first dish served: the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons made it to the big game a few years ago and won the first half of the game until Tom Brady realized it was the Super Bowl and it was time for him to win it. The Falcons have dealt with the “Super Bowl hangover” that the losing team usually does, but they are getting back on track. Matt Ryan is a great if not elite quarterback and Julio Jones is one of the top wide receivers in the league. They go against Coach Mike Zimmer’s vaunted defense led by All-Pro safety Harrison Smith with Everson Griffen applying pressure from the defensive line, and Anthony Barr roaming thew middle of the field. As a side note: Matt Ryan has struggled against Mike Zimmer’s defense when the teams have met in the past. Zimmer knows that and so does Ryan.
Offensively for the Vikings all eyes are on the revamped offensive line with 1st round pick Garrett Bradbury taking over at center and Pat Elflein moving to left guard. Josh Kline was brought in to take over at right guard off the free agent wire. The only two guys in their spots from last year are Riley Reiff at left tackle and Brian O’Neill at right tackle where he was projected to be a project player. After O’Neill was thrust into the starting lineup due to injuries he thrived and never gave up a sack as a rookie. Add into this offensive coordinator Kevin Stephanski’s new zone blocking scheme for the offensive line he has the proper players in place. Bringing in Super Bowl winning coach with the Denver Broncos, Gary Kubiak gives a great mentor for the team to work out their new offense.
Behind them comes the guys that snag all the glory and usually shoulder most of the blame. There’s no denying the numbers Kirk Cousins put up last year were great. They just didn’t equal as many wins as they should have. Running for your life during a majority of your pass drop backs will have that effect though. A healthy Dalvin Cook will help greatly in this area. If Cook gets running this year, look out! Kirk is one of the best play action passers in today’s game and with a successful running game comes a more successful passing game. It doesn’t hurt that the Vikings boast the best proven wide receiver combination in the league with Adam Thielen and Stephon Diggs. They catch anything in the general area code and can go up and win contested catches at a high percentage. Kyle Rudolph is no slouch either from the tight end position with his large frame and catch ability. He also has slimmed down a bit and looks faster in his routes. He’s now complimented by rookie TE Irv Smith Jr. and the Vikings could boast a dangerous receiving foursome if they’re all on the field at the same time. The Falcons defense, led by Grady Jarrett at defensive tackle and fast linebackers will prove a good test early on for Minnesota’s new offense.
Football is a 3 phase game though. If a team is going to be successful you have to be successful on offense, defense, and special teams. The Vikings have had their headaches and heartbreaks there with the kicking situation. Who hasn’t been needled by someone invoking the name Blair Walsh and yelling out, “WIDE LEFT!” Kicker Dan Bailey has had a very successful career and after working out the kinks finished with a strong end of season after taking over for rookie Daniel Carlson who missed 3 kicks in the Vikings tie game with the Packers early last season. He has been strong in practices and has had a successful preseason especially after the Vikings traded for a kicker that seemed to light a fire under Bailey. At the 11th hour the Vikings signed veteran punter Britton Colquitt who has great numbers, but is also a great holder on field goals and extra points which the coaching staff identified was some of the problem with the kicking woes. Since they never got any preseason work together we will have to wait until Sunday to see the entire unit in unison.
I see the Vikings starting off the season with a win here although we will see some growing pains. Don’t get too down if they lose this game as Atlanta is no slouch and there’s 15 games after this to climb back into it. The NFC North might be the best overall division in football this year so expect it to be exciting to the last game. So strap yourself in to the Vikings bandwagon and hang on tight! SKOL!