Vikings-Falcons Box Score (NFL.com)
Adrian Peterson: most explosive Viking since Randy Moss
Nearly every time Peterson touched the ball, you could see the incredible talent. He was tough running through the middle, hitting defenders and getting 4-5 yard gains. He showed speed and moves on the edges. He had good blocking today, but on many of his runs you could see that the first few yards were set up with great blocking, and the next few yards were the result of Peterson's strength and quickness. His 60 yard TD reception showed the big-play ability he has; on an offense that still appears lacking in consistent playmakers, Peterson is the man that can scare defenses. I feel a bit like I felt after Randy Moss's first game: we have somebody special here.
The 60 yard TD reception
It's 3rd and 5 in the fourth quarter, and the Vikes are hanging on to a 10-3 lead. They call a pass and there's a quick pass rush. Jackson makes the quick throw to Peterson in the flat. I see the ball bounce around; it looks like it's dropped. But Peterson gets ahold of the ball and keeps running. There are blockers and space; it looks like he can get the first down. He runs, and avoids a Falcon, and gets a very good block. And suddenly, his speed shifts, and he's running right toward the endzone. And there are no Falcons there following him, only Vikings. The stadium is roaring and he hits the endzone. The game is essentially clinched, and Peterson has revealed himself to Viking fans. And we all cheer, knowing we have a star on offense again.
Defensive battles can be very fun to watch, particularly when it's your favorite team dominating defensively. Last season a pass rush was the biggest defensive weakness; today the Vikings sacked Joey Harrington six times (6! And Brian Robison looked really impressive, getting two of them). E. J. Henderson played phenomenally at middle linebacker. Kevin Williams showed his remarkable athleticism: he's a big defensive tackle that can intercept a pass and run it back for a 54 yard TD. The Viking run defense showed some weaknesses on the edges, but for the most part stuffed the Atlanta rushing attack. They gave up more 3rd down pass completions than I like to see, but overall were very effective stopping the passing game. They gave up just 3 points. We know the Falcon offense was not a strong opponent; still, this was an overall superb defensive effort.
Our hero, Tarvaris Jackson
First, the bad: he made one bad decision (his interception was thrown behind a receiver, in the middle of the field, with a lot of defenders around him), and he was inaccurate on a few deeper passes (mostly overthrows). But he also made some good decisions. He seemed comfortable handling a pass rush, getting rid of the ball quickly. There were times you could see his head moving, scanning his progressions. He showed patience on his 28 yard completion to Wade (Williamson went deep taking coverage with him, and Jackson waited for Wade to get to the now open space). He was mobile, allowing the team to call some rollouts, which generally led to easy completion opportunities. Frankly, I'm in a bit of a blind panic every time the Vikes call a pass play; I'm just not comfortable with Jackson yet. He's still inexperienced. But he showed signs of knowing what was going on out there, which is of course encouraging, and he showed ability. An O.K. first outing--he'll be expected to make more plays, and he'll need to make more accurate throws, if the Vikings are going to win games this year. I'm slightly encouraged.
The Vikings showed some versatility in the offensive game plan. They moved Jackson out of the pocket a lot. They took a just few shots downfield. They ran at all areas: left, right, middle, some nifty outside running plays. They even ran a slightly maddening reverse that worked out alright. There was variety in the pass and run plays. The playcalling was relatively basic, but it also wasn't remotely predicable. I also found this encouraging.
The day belonged to the Minnesota defense, and to Adrian Peterson. A home win is a good start, but of course the Vikes will be facing tougher opponents this season. But now we can enjoy the week. Smile, Viking fans: you need it.