1. Third downs were the Vikings’ lifeblood. The Vikings were tied for 18th in the NFL last season in third-down conversion percentage at 38.6. On Monday night, they were successful on 64.3 percent of their attempts, going 9-for-14 while sustaining five drives of eight plays or longer. One — a 10-play, 95-yard TD drive to end the first half — began with the Saints calling two timeouts in hopes of getting the ball back. But the Vikings kept Drew Brees on the sideline. Their ability to extend drives ultimately helped them pull away.
2. Sam Bradford and Alex Smith were the best downfield passers in the league in Week 1. Just like we expected, right? Five days after Smith hit three passes of 20 yards or more for 178 yards and two touchdowns, Bradford connected on five deep throws for 130 yards and a score and posted a perfect passer rating of 158.3 on those attempts, according to Pro Football Focus. Bradford’s arm strength never has been in question, and when he was given time to strafe a suspect Saints defense, he didn’t miss.
3. The Vikings’ run defense stood up to Adrian Peterson and company. In a game that was supposed to be about Peterson’s return to Minnesota, the Vikings’ all-time leading rusher never got going, gaining only 18 yards on six carries after a dogged 9-yard run to open the game. The Saints gained only 60 yards on 21 rushing attempts, none of them longer than Peterson’s first run. That shouldn’t be overlooked for a team that’s never ranked in the top half of the league against the run under Mike Zimmer.