MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The path to getting the win wasn't as smooth as some would've liked, but the Minnesota Vikings did largely what was expected in Sunday's season-opener against the San Francisco 49ers.
The Vikings got out to an early lead and never looked in the rear-view mirror in a 24-16 win over the 49ers. The game wasn't as close as the score would indicate, but the Vikings also missed chances to pull away from San Francisco and make the final minutes less interesting.
Kirk Cousins made his Vikings debut, Dalvin Cook officially returned from his knee injury and the defense made plays all over the field. Here are four takeaways from Sunday's win as the Vikings now prepare to head to Lambeau Field with a rivalry game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
Cousins Has Solid Debut
Kirk Cousins wasn't perfect, but he did give fans a glimpse of why the Vikings made a splash at quarterback in free agency. He finished 20-of-36 passing for 244 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. He didn't turn the ball over, and led two touchdowns that finished with passes in difficult windows. He found Stefon Diggs for a 22-yard touchdown, and threaded the needle to Kyle Rudolph for an 11-yard touchdown.
Cousins also showed his toughness in lowering his head while trying to run for a first down late in regulation that would've sealed the victory. He didn't get there and risked injury, but he's healthy. It's not the ideal risk to take, but he showed his teammates he's willing to do whatever it takes to win. That's what makes him the Vikings' $84 million man.
Defense Creates 4 Turnovers
We all expected the Vikings to have a dominant defense this year. It's what got them to the NFC title game last year, and they didn't lose much in the offseason. What they didn't do a lot of last year was create turnovers. They got off to a great start in that department Sunday with three interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, and a fumble recovery.
The Vikings won't all much in the run game all season and they're expected to pressure opposing quarterbacks, but if they can consistently create turnovers and give the offense a short field, it gives the team an entirely new dynamic. It'll be interesting to see how Mike Zimmer attacks Aaron Rodgers, who should be limited in mobility after hurting his knee Sunday night.
Dalvin Cook Gets Going After Injury
Dalvin Cook got his first official game action with the Vikings since tearing his ACL against the Detroit Lions last season. And they didn't waste any time featuring him in the offense. He led the Vikings with 16 carries and was second in rushing with 40 yards. He was also targeted seven times in the passing game, with six catches for 55 yards and a long of 17 yards.
It was a pivotal game for Cook in terms of trusting his knee again after the injury. He took enough hits to know he's healthy, and can now forget about and play with confidence the rest of the season.
Mike Hughes Makes Splash In Debut
The Vikings' first-round draft choice didn't need much time to make his presence felt on the field. The Vikings pressured Jimmy Garoppolo into a bad throw in the third quarter, and Hughes was there for the interception. He took it 28 yards for a touchdown to give the Vikings a 17-3 lead.
The Vikings have enough depth in the secondary where they won't necessarily rely on him every play, but anytime you can make a big play like that in the first game, it should do wonders for his confidence the rest of the season.
Now the Vikings have a huge NFC North divisional match-up Sunday as they head to Green Bay to face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. It could be an early look at who will be the division leader, with the Lions and Bears losing Week 1.
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