Minnesota Vikings: 3 Takeaways from Week 1

The opening game of the regular season proved to be a rollercoaster of emotions for Vikings fans and faithful this weekend. A first-half meltdown, an opportunistic rally from a two score deficit, and a clutch kick as time expired all contributed to bringing this game down to the wire. 

Unfortunately, the heroics were all for naught and the Vikings fell to 0-1 to open their season at the wrong end of a tough 27-24 overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. While there were a few positive impressions from Sunday's matchup, it was mostly what could be described as a frustrating afternoon mired in penalties, mental mistakes and poor execution. Here are a few key takeaways from the Week 1 matchup.

1. The Offensive Line Looked Dysfunctional at Times: 

The unit was responsible for 7 first-half penalties, 9 in total by the end of the game, and assessed for 70 of the team's 116 total penalty yards. All 5 members of the line logged at least 1 penalty during the contest. The offensive line was also bested for 3 sacks and was consistently facing pressure either off the edge or straight down the middle between the tackles; although QB Kirk Cousins notably did himself no favors either placing himself in harms way on a few different occasions as well. The Vikings did have 3 players making their positional debuts along the offensive front so that could be a contributor to some of the struggles that were experienced yesterday afternoon but it still does not bode well when considering the level of competition they will be facing over the course of this season. Quite plainly, the offensive line needs to get organized quickly. While they looked overwhelmed at times, it would not be appropriate to make any drastic or sweeping generalizations after 4 quarters of football so we will look to Week 2 in Arizona to further our sample size. It will be quite a considerable test.

2. K.J. Osborn Contributed as WR3:  

Despite the offensive line struggles seemingly carrying over from last season for at least a week, the lack of a consistent third option at wide receiver may have a potentially viable solution moving forward. Second year man and former 5th-round pick, K.J. Osborn was on the receiving end of 9 targets yesterday and made the most of the opportunities with 7 recorded receptions and 76 yards. Despite seemingly being stripped of his return duties from last year, it could potentially bode well for his career moving forward as true wide receiver. Again, it was the first week of the season and Osborn will face more competition for the role and targets but his performance was definitely a positive point to take away from the contest regardless. After suffering the loss of TE Irv Smith for the season, the Vikings will need to find production elsewhere, and will gladly reap the benefits of a surprise second year breakout.  

3. Mike Zimmer's Retooled Defense Showed Improvement:  

After a woeful succession of circumstances that unfolded in the concluding couple of minutes of the first-half and sequential opening drive of the second-half, the Vikings found themselves in a 14 point deficit. As can be expected from Head Coach Mike Zimmer, adjustments were made and over the Bengals final 7 drives they were denied points on 6 of them. Despite the struggles experienced by CB Bashaud Breeland in coverage sprinkled intermittently throughout the matchup and the defense surrendering an uncharacteristic 127 rushing yard to Joe Mixon, the front-seven played relatively well. Consistently, the defensive front pressured the opposing pocket cumulating in a strong 5 sack performance, and the linebacking core even without injured Anthony Barr had a several exceptional moments that plainly kept the team in the game. It was a far cry from some of the late game performances from last year's campaign and for the most part seems to be trending in the right direction. Without a doubt there is still clearly work to do, but the defense is seemingly more in line with Mike Zimmer's vision than where it was to end last year. 

This past Sunday's matchup in Cincinnati was a frustrating way to open the schedule and while Vikings' fans have a right to be disappointed, I would urge them not to be entirely discouraged just yet. What are your takeaways from the game?

  Photo Credit © Kareem Elgazzar via Imagn Content Services, LLC