Outside of a second-quarter hit on Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, new defensive end Yannick Ngakoue had a quiet Vikings debut Sunday.
Ngakoue logged his first Vikings start just two weeks after being acquired from Jacksonville, but he was part of a heavy rotation that struggled to generate pressure on Rodgers. Without star defensive end Danielle Hunter, who will miss at least the first three games while on injured reserve because of a neck injury, the Vikings were unable to sack Rodgers for the first time in a decade. The last time Rodgers started a full game against the Vikings without being sacked before Sunday was Oct. 24, 2010.
“It was a combination of him getting the ball out quickly and him making good reads and finding the guy that was maybe loosely guarded or uncovered,” linebacker Anthony Barr said. “As the game went on, they were a little better in protection and forced us to be a little more tentative when it came to blitzing.”
The Vikings’ plan, according to coach Mike Zimmer, was easing Ngakoue into action since the 25-year-old Pro Bowler did not practice until Sept. 3 following his holdout from Jaguars training camp. Sunday’s lopsided result didn’t help Ngakoue catch his breath.
“Yeah, I mean, especially if you’re on the field for 40 minutes,” Zimmer said. “It’s a long season, so find out what kind of shape we’re in, what kind of game readiness we are, but yeah that was the plan.”
Cook can’t find rhythm
A day after signing a five-year extension worth up to $63 million, running back Dalvin Cook had 12 rushes for 50 yards and two touchdowns while catching one pass for a 2-yard loss. The Vikings offense is at its best when Cook churns out the yardage, but the Vikings were unable to find a rhythm throughout the first half; a 22-10 deficit at intermission didn’t help.
Only one first-half drive — the opening series — went for positive yardage outside of the hurry-up drill that got a field goal just before halftime. Cook had four carries for 15 rushing yards and a touchdown in the first drive. He managed just nine touches and 33 net yards the rest of the way.
Quiet start for rookies
Four Vikings rookies, including second-round offensive lineman Ezra Cleveland, were inactive. First-round cornerback Jeff Gladney didn’t play much, if at all, on defense while third-round corner Cameron Dantzler was part of a rotation with Mike Hughes and Holton Hill.
Receiver Justin Jefferson caught his first NFL pass in the third quarter on a bubble screen, finishing with two grabs for 26 yards on three targets.
Fifth-round receiver K.J. Osborn was the returner on kickoffs and punts, but only got chances on two kick returns, taking one for 38 yards in the fourth quarter. The Vikings activated undrafted receiver Dan Chisena over Chad Beebe (healthy scratch); Chisena was a gunner on kickoff and punt coverage.
Three Packers injured
Health is the silver lining for the Vikings, as their players escaped relatively unscathed compared to Green Bay. The Packers lost three starters to injury midgame in defensive tackle Kenny Clark (groin), left guard Lucas Patrick (shoulder) and right guard Lane Taylor (leg).
Receiver Olabisi Johnson exited briefly after taking a big hit to his legs on a third-down catch. His replacement, Tajae Sharpe, was targeted deep on the following fourth-down incompletion. Johnson re-entered the game in the next series.