If the thought at the start of the year was that the Vikings would likely finish the season somewhere around .500, Minnesota sure found a very symmetrical way to start down that path during the first two games of the season.

The Vikings played about as well as they can play in opening the season with a 29-19 victory over the Saints. Sam Bradford and the offensive line were among the heroes for a lively looking group.

With Bradford suddenly hobbled and unable to play Sunday in Pittsburgh, the Vikings showed us the worst-case scenario for how they can play. The passing game under backup Case Keenum was lifeless, and the protection was shaky. The defense, perhaps feeling as though it needed to win the game 3-0, was undisciplined and leaky.

The result was a loss equal in deflation to Monday's elation — and a 1-1 record that could be the start of a path to 8-8.

Read Michael Rand's blog at startribune.com/randball. michael.rand@startribune.com.