Sweet mercy, that was a really good football game. I would have meant that regardless of the outcome, but thanks to some stout defense and a debut that was both dazzling and gritty from Sam Bradford, the Vikings defeated the Packers 17-14 in the U.S. Bank Stadium opener — and in the process made a lot of people very happy.
As I will do all year, let’s tell the story of the game in five GIFs (and a few words, too). Here we go, getting rid of the bad stuff right away:
PENALTIES: The Vikings committed 13 penalties for 137 yards and for a decent chunk of the game Green Bay had gained more yards on offense via penalties than by actual runs or receptions. Everyone shared in the misery, though Trae Waynes in particular (more on that later). Clearly that will be something that upsets Mike Zimmer.
NOT RECOVERING FUMBLES: Almost as frustrating were the three Green Bay fumbles that were sitting RIGHT THERE, LIKE COME ON JUST FALL ON IT, only to wind up back in Packers hands. Again, it didn’t end up costing the Vikings, but some of you tweeting along at home might have been tempted to do something like this —->
BRADFORD DEBUT: After barely being with the Vikings for two weeks, Sam Bradford came in and made himself right at home. He was exceptional, staying in the pocket and taking massive hits on both TD passes while overall going 22 of 31 for 286 yards and two TD passes, zero picks and tons of pressure. He even skillfully executed the final play of the game, a throwaway with three seconds left that half of Minnesota was expecting to end in disaster because, well, Vikings. Oh, and he did it in spite of a left hand that looked at one point like this.
STEFON DIGGS: I thought tight end Kyle Rudolph might be Bradford’s security blanket, but it seems as though he’s already decided that wide receiver Stefon Diggs is his go-to guy. Diggs racked up 9 catches for 182 yards and drew a critical third-down pass interference penalty that allowed the Vikings to close out the game in the final two minutes — minus Adrian Peterson, who left the game with a knee injury — and deny Aaron Rodgers one more chance to break their hearts.
WAYNES REDEMPTION: In a night filled with story lines, one of the best ones was the redemption of Waynes. The second-year former first round pick was targeted all night and genuinely looked lost after a combination of penalties and passes caught by his guys. So he became the unlikeliest hero of a brilliant defensive effort when he picked off Rodgers on Green Bay’s final drive to help preserve the victory. The accompanying GIF is almost too obvious, but sometimes you just have to roll with it. I’m telling you there’s a chance this team might be awfully good.