Photo credit: Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Minnesota Vikings began their season Monday night and came out victorious 29-19 over the New Orleans Saints.

Here are some thoughts on the game:

-The protection was great:

The last three seasons the offensive line was the weakest link of the team. Yesterday it looked very good. Only one sack allowed and plenty of holes were being opened for the run game.

Sam Bradford was known for throwing many short passes last season, but a huge reason for that was the lack of protection he kept receiving. He took advantage of the nice protection he got by going 27/32 for 346 yards and three touchdowns.

Left tackle Riley Reiff looked very good in his debut. According to Pro Football Focus he took part in 35 pass blocks and did not allow a single sack, quarterback hit or hurry. Rookie center Pat Elflein also looked good.

The question now remains can they keep it up? If they even come close to looking this good the rest of the season, it will be huge.

-Dalvin was Cookin in his debut:

The highly touted rookie running back (pictured) showed why he was getting plenty of hype since being drafted. He rushed for 127 yards on 22 carries, which broke Adrian Peterson’s team rookie record of 103 yards in his 2007 debut.

He started off slow, but really got things going after that. He also did a good job in pass protection. He had a key drop in the redzone, which resulted in a field goal in the third quarter, but overall a very good debut from the rookie.

-What a Thielen:

Adam Thielen just continues to impress. After setting career highs last season with 69 receptions, 967 yards and five touchdowns, he got off to a great start with nine receptions and 157 yards last night.

-Can you Digg(s) it?:

Year three is a usually the year wide receivers tend to breakout. Stefon Diggs got off to a great start, catching seven passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns. He also made a catch near the sidelines despite being interfered with in the third quarter and also held onto the ball while taking a hit to the helmet in the second quarter. He scored his second touchdown four plays later.

Diggs missed three games last season with an injury, but if he can stay healthy this year, he is in for a very good year. He and Thielen will again be counted on to help this team’s passing game. Both were wearing Randy Moss cleats during the game and like the former Vikings star wide receiver, they too made some big catches.

-Defense still looking good:

Since Mike Zimmer took over as the head coach in 2014, they have become one of the best defenses in the league. The defenses has had moments though where they were gassed from being left on the field for too long due to the offense not producing. It also meant shorter fields for the opposing offenses. Defenses can only do so much. Defenses and offenses can hurt each other at times but also help each other at times.

The production from the offense certainly helped keep the defense fresh. The Saints were ranked no.1 overall last season offensively and their 29.3 points per game were second best in the league. Drew Brees drove his team down the field four times, but the defense stepped up and forced them to kick field goals. The Saints scored their first touchdown with 1:56 left, but by then it was too little to late.

Not having left tackle Terron Armstead and wide receiver Willie Snead did not help, but stopping an offense led by Brees is never an easy task.

They face an ever tougher task next week against Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and the rest of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Steel City.

-Adrian Peterson’s return:

The all-time leading rusher in Vikings history made his debut for the Saints and faced his former team for the first time. He certainly did not look the Peterson we have been accustomed to seeing. He rushed for 18 yards on six carries.

When the Saints first got the ball there was a mixture of boos and cheers for Peterson. After his first carry, which was nine yards, there were more boos. Not a shock that he got both, but a shock that he got more boos than cheers. Saying that he wanted to stick it to the Vikings last week may have played a very big role in that.

Peterson was very well-liked by Vikings fans during his tenure here, but some fans definitely started to sour on him three years ago when he was charged with beating his son and later saying he did not feel the Vikings supported him enough during the whole process. Most fans welcomed him back in 2015 when he returned to the team, some did not. He rushed for 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns (both league highs) and helped the Vikings win their first division title since 2009.

Last season he rushed for 72 yards on 37 carries in three games due to a knee injury. Even some of his biggest fans felt it was time for both sides to move on. It was indeed time for the era to end. After the Vikings declined his $18 million option, there was interest in both sides about a return, but Peterson was looking to see if he can get a better deal on the market. That did not happen and the Vikings moved on by signing Latavius Murray. They later drafted Cook. Cook and Murray at this point help more than Peterson. It is all a part of the business. Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson and Peyton Manning were all let go from their teams too. It is a business.

Peterson will one day be entered into the team’s Ring of Honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. At that time, most fans will be cheering him on for his accomplishments in purple. Some still won’t, but most will. Cris Carter was received some boos when he made his return as a Miami Dolphin in 2002, but the very next year he received all cheers when he had his number retired. Time heals.

-Straight cash homie:

Randy Moss was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor at halftime. Very well deserved for the future Hall of Famer.

His 587 receptions, 9,316 yards and 92 touchdowns with the Vikings are second only to Cris Carter in team history. Though he had some controversial moments at times, his playmaking abilities were off the charts. Fans loved it, opposing defenses hated it.

It won’t be long before Peterson also get into the team’s Ring of Honor and if Cook keeps running the way he did in his debut, he will be inducted too someday.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vrd7PNylP3Q&t=240s

You can follow Ali Siddiqui on twitter @asiddiqui15 and @SPOT_Vikings for Vikings news and updates.

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