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The only thing you can say about the Vikings’ season opener is that they dominated the New Orleans Saints in every facet of the game. Sam Bradford completed 27 of 32 passes for 346 yards. (That’s an 84.4% completion percentage and a QB rating of 143.) Stefon Diggs caught 7 passes, including 2 for touchdowns, worth 93 yards. What’s frightening is that he wasn’t the best wideout on the field for the Vikings. That was Adam Thielen. Thielen walked on at D-3 Minnesota State, Mankato. Then he wasn’t drafted so he tried out for the Vikings. He spent his rookie season on the practice squad. Tonight, Thielen caught 9 passes worth 157 yards.

Rumor has it that former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was in the house tonight. Rumor also has it that future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees was in the house tonight, too. Adrian’s first run was his longest of the night. It was for 9 yards. Brees played valiantly but it wasn’t nearly enough. He didn’t throw for a touchdown until New Orleans had all but officially lost.

The national media played up the Adrian Peterson vs. Dalvin Cook matchup. That wasn’t fair … to Adrian. While Adrian rushed for 18 yards on 6 carries, Dalvin Cook ran the ball 22 times for 127 yards, including a 33-yard run on third-and-7 that sealed the game:

The other major story from tonight’s season opener was the Vikings’ offensive line play. They protected Sam Bradford. They opened holes for Dalvin Cook. You know the line is playing well when the QB completes 85% of his passes and 8 of those completions were for more than 20 yards. The Vikings ran the ball 28 times and averaged 4.7 yards-per-carry. There were lots of Vikings fans that worried how they’d play. I’m one of them.

The offensive line had 5 new starters. Berger moved from center to right guard to make room for Ohio State rookie Pat Elflein. It’s easy to see why the Vikings traded up in this year’s draft to pick him. That kid’s got lots of Pro Bowls in his future. The free agent tackles played well at times, though Remmers still had some unsteady moments. LT Riley Rieff played a strong game.

The thing that’s obvious is that this unit is significantly more athletic than any offensive line during the Zimmer era. During the game, they flashed a graphic that said tonight’s opening game was the first time those 5 players played together. It certainly didn’t look that way.

Notice what I haven’t mentioned thus far. I haven’t mentioned the Vikings defense. That isn’t because they didn’t play well. There’s no denying that Brees was fairly productive. He threw for 273 yards and a late touchdown. Everson Griffen got the Vikings only sack of the night. That doesn’t come close to telling the story, though. The Vikings’ secondary contested every throw Brees made. The defensive line surrounded Brees much of the night. Brees felt claustrophobic all night, like he was throwing from inside a phone booth.

Next up for the Vikings are the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh. Let the trash-talking begin.

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Anyone who’s been a Vikings fan the last 20+ years knows that Adrian Peterson’s performance in 2012 is a performance for the ages. That’s the year Adrian rushed for 2,097 yards, the second-most rushing yards in an NFL season. The reason why that’s part of AP’s mystique is because he did that less than a year after tearing his ACL in the fifteenth game of the 2011 season. When Adrian announced that he’d start Game One of the 2012 season a week after he had surgery to repair his knee, the experts laughed.

According to the splits for his 2012 season, Adrian is 4 rushing yards ahead of that year’s pace this year. Here’s the game-by-game split of Adrian’s 2012 season:

According to these NFL-certified stats, Adrian Peterson had 957 yards rushing after 9 games in 2012. This year, Adrian Peterson has 961 yards rushing after 9 games. This year, the Vikings finish with a home-and-home series against the Packers, road games at Atlanta and Arizona and home games against Seattle, Chicago and the Giants.

Right now, Adrian is on pace to reach 1,708 yards rushing. In my estimation, that gives Adrian at least an outside shot at breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record. If AP rushes for 2,000 yards, which I think is, at worst, a 50-50 proposition, that’d mean he’d become the only runner to twice top 2,000 rushing yards in a single season. To reach 2,000 yards, it’s likely that Adrian would need at least one more 200 yard rushing game.

Right now, Adrian is tied with O.J. Simpson for most games with 200 yards rushing in a single game. They’re tied at 6 games with 200 yards rushing. The next time Adrian tops 200, which might be this Sunday against the Packers, he’d break Simpson’s record.

Suffice it to say that it’s going to be a fun year watching the Vikings, especially with Adrian Peterson having a shot at so many rushing records.

After Lamarcus Joyner’s cheap shot against Teddy Bridgewater in Sunday’s game, Jeff Fisher isn’t in a position to give anyone advice. Still, that’s what he did Monday in telling Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer to control his emotions immediately after a game, adding that Zimmer should “go back and look at the tape before you jump to conclusions.”

I’ve watched the replay a dozen times. There’s no question that Teddy Bridgewater started his slide at the Vikings 23-yard line. Similarly, there’s no question that Joyner was between the 27- and 28-yard line when Bridgewater started his slide. Further, there’s conclusive visual proof that Joyner didn’t do anything to avoid sliding into Bridgewater with his forearm out. Joyner’s forearm hit Bridgewater in the helmet.

The NFL rulebook states quite clearly that “a defender must pull up when a runner starts a feet-first slide. This doesn’t mean that all contact by a defender is illegal. If a defender has already committed himself, and the contact is unavoidable, it isn’t a foul unless the defender commits some other act, such as helmet-to-helmet contact or by driving his forearm or his shoulder in the head or neck area of the runner.”

There’s indisputable visual proof that Joyner hit Bridgewater’s head with his forearm extended. Notice that this rule isn’t just for quarterbacks. The rule speaks of hitting “the head or neck area of the runner.” Some of the apologists on ESPN and the NFL Network said that the play was a bang-bang play, meaning Joyner didn’t have the time to avoid the contact. That’s BS. Regardless, Joyner certainly had sufficient time to not slide. Further, Joyner had plenty of time to not lead with his forearm extended.

I know this, not because I played in the NFL but, because another Rams defender was caught in a similar situation earlier in the game. This defender didn’t have any problem avoiding planting his forearm into the player’s facemask.

Fisher’s teams have had a well-documented history of hitting players after the whistle has blown. Rather than offering Coach Zimmer advice, I’d argue that Fisher should spend a ton of time teaching his players how to be professionals.

During the Vikings-Rams game Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium on the U of M campus, Rams defensive back Lamarcus Joyner hit Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with a forearm shiver to Bridgewater’s head:

The NFL implemented a new rule several years ago in their attempt to protect quarterbacks. If a quarterback slides at the end of a run, the defensive player doesn’t have to touch him because the slide is considered proof that he’s giving up on the play in exchange for his safety. Clearly, that’s what Bridgewater did early in the fourth quarter. Joyner slid, too, but with his forearm out. After the game, Joyner said that he wasn’t trying to hurt Bridgewater.

I don’t totally believe that but I won’t accuse him of being a dirty player because, as far as I know, he doesn’t have a reputation of being a dirty player. I won’t extend that same benefit of the doubt to St. Louis Head Coach Jeff Fisher or St. Louis Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams because they both have reputations of being dirty coaches.

During the pregame show on NBC’s Sunday Night game of the week, commentator Rodney Harrison, in talking about the Bridgewater-Joyner play, said that he remembered a wide receiver on Fisher’s team going low and hitting Harrison’s knee. As a result of the play, Harrison wound up with a torn ACL, ending his season. Harrison said he looked up in pain to see “Jeff Fisher smiling” while Harrison was in pain.

That’s before talking about Gregg ‘Bountygate’ Williams. Ben Goessling, one of ESPN’s staff writers and former Vikings beat writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, wrote briefly about Williams in his article:

Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has a history with the Vikings; he was the New Orleans Saints’ defensive coordinator in 2010, when the Saints’ bounty system targeting quarterback Brett Favre became national news after New Orleans beat the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game.

There’s no justification for what Joyner did. A defensive player that slides with his forearm out isn’t playing within the rules. If the quarterback is sliding, then the official’s whistle blows and the play is over. Period.

If Williams and Fisher aren’t teaching their defensive players this basic rule, then they’re being derelict in their responsibilities to play within the rules. If the NFL doesn’t discipline Fisher and Williams, they’re essentially telling them that not teaching players to play within the rules is optional. The NFL has tried hard over the last 18 months to clean the game up. If it doesn’t discipline these coaches, and to a lesser extent, Joyner, they will have shown that talk of player safety is just talk.

UPDATE: I DVR all Vikings games so I can study the players’ performances. I just watched the hit on Teddy Bridgewater that gave him his concussion. I have a different perspective on the play than I had yesterday. Thanks to the marks left in the Bank’s field turf, it’s clear that Bridgewater started his slide before the 25 yard line. Joyner didn’t hit Bridgewater until Bridgewater’s head was across the 25 yard line. Further, it’s clear that Joyner didn’t leave his feet until after Bridgewater had crossed the 25 yard line.

Upon further review, there’s no question in my mind. Joyner’s hit was intentional. The NFL should fine and/or suspend him. The NFL should investigate the Rams to see whether Williams has restarted the BountyGate program in St. Louis.

When the Vikings hired Mike Zimmer, they hired him because they were impressed with his ability to coach up defenses. Zimmer’s reputation looked a bit shaky early on because Detroit scored easy touchdowns on their first 2 drives of the game. While it’s impossible to predict the final score, it isn’t impossible to predict the fact that Zimmer’s in-game adjustments would change the complexion of the game.

Trailing 17-6 with 5:08 left in the first half, Zimmer unleashed his defense. Matthew Stafford, who played courageously, didn’t stand a chance once the Vikings dialed up the pressure. The Vikings finished with 7 sacks of Stafford, robbing him of the time to pick out his weapons like Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and Eric Ebron. Offensively, they kept giving the ball to Adrian Peterson but they also unleashed Teddy Bridgewater and Stefon Diggs. Saying that Diggs has been the hottest wide receiver in the game the last 3 weeks is understatement.

Against the Broncos’ outstanding secondary, Diggs caught 6 passes for 87 yards. Against a solid Chiefs secondary, Diggs caught 7 passes for 129 yards. Today, against Detroit, Diggs caught 6 passes for 108 yards, including this catch, which might be the best TD catch in the NFL this season:

These stats, especially the highlighted statistics, speak to the Vikings’ defensive dominance:

Honestly, I didn’t know that the Vikings outgained Detroit by 150 yards. I didn’t know that they had the ball 13 minutes more than Detroit. I was aware that the Vikings pressured Stafford mercilessly from the middle of the second quarter, sacking him a total of 7 times for the game.

At one point late in the third quarter or early fourth quarter, Fox NFL announcers Chris Meyers and Ronde Barber highlighted the fact that the Vikings had outgained Detroit something like 350 yards to 3 yards since the end of the first quarter.

The Vikings have some things they need to fix during the week. Fixing their defense isn’t their highest priority, though.

There’s a flood of positivity flowing through Winter Park this morning. That’s because Adrian Peterson is back at Winter Park:

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Adrian Peterson is coming back to the Minnesota Vikings, telling The Associated Press that he will participate in the team’s voluntary practice on Tuesday and still has love for his team after nine months away.

Peterson sent an e-mail to the AP early Tuesday morning saying he’s excited to put on a uniform again after missing the final 15 games of last season while addressing child abuse charges in Texas. He also skipped the team’s voluntary practices last week while openly lamenting the fact that the final three years of his contract are not guaranteed.

“I’ve been away from the game for an entire season,” Peterson wrote to the AP. “I wanted the chance to be around the players and coaches, the guys that really matter to me.”

Teddy Bridgewater just improved as a quarterback. Mike Zimmer became a smarter head coach. Norv Turner is wearing an ear-to-ear smile and Mike Wallace dreams of all the single coverage he’ll see this season. There’s a difference between quality starters and Pro Bowl players. Then there’s the difference between Pro Bowl players and true superstars. Adrian fits in at the top of the ‘true superstar’ category. There isn’t a defensive coordinator who isn’t revising his game plan if he’s facing the Vikings this season.

Last year, Teddy Bridgewater had an impressive rookie season. Still, there’s no denying he’s still got lots to learn. His learning curve isn’t as inclined as it was a month ago thanks to Adrian. Play action passes against defenses with 9 men in the box are more like pitch and catch routines. Last year, defenses didn’t take the Vikings running game seriously. They didn’t take Teddy’s play action fakes seriously, either. That changed this morning.

One of the sneaky smart things that the Vikings did this winter was trade for speedster Mike Wallace. When he was asked if Mike Wallace was good at double moves, Norv Turner said that Wallace was fast enough that he didn’t need a double move. There was a smile on Turner’s face at that point. I’m thinking about the cat-that-ate-the-canary type smile.

This morning’s news officially makes the Vikings a potential playoff team.

Scott Wright reminded me of something that I’ve meant to write about with this tweet:


This year, the Vikings drafted T.J. Clemmings with their pick in the fourth round. While I’d be surprised if Clemmings starts this year at tackle, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t replace Phil Loadholt at right tackle in 2016. According to ESPN’s Todd McShay, Clemmings was the worst-looking tackle he’d ever seen in Division I in 2013. When he watched tape of Clemmings this year, McShay said he saw a totally different player.

The Vikings have a lengthy history of cashing in during the 4th round under Spielman. The Vikings have a bunch of players on their roster that they’ve picked in the fourth round, including starters Everson Griffen and Brian Robison, WR Jarius Wright and part-time starters TE Rhett Ellison and OLB Gerald Hodges.

First round picks get the fans’ attention because they’re high profile players. Bill Polian is right, though, when he says that the third-sixth round players are the backbone of most championship teams.

Last night, the Vikings drafted Trae Waynes, the best cornerback in the NFL Draft. Tonight, the Vikings strengthened their linebackers, drafting Eric Kendricks, a linebacker from UCLA, with the 45th pick overall. Before making their pick in the third round, GM Rick Spielman traded down twice. First, he traded the 76th pick to the Chiefs for the 80th overall pick and the 193rd overall pick (6th round), then trading the 80th overall pick to Detroit for the 88th overall and 143rd overall picks.

With the 88th overall pick (third round), the Vikings picked Danielle Hunter, a raw DE from LSU:

Strengths Freakish combination of size, athleticism and explosiveness. Has long arms with jarring power behind his hands. When technique is right, he can stack and overpower tackles at point of attack. Fluid and agile in space. Uses length to bat down passes and disrupt the passing lane. Flashes winning spin move in pass rush, but needs to learn to set it up better. Uses arm-over inside move to set up tackles for loss. High-end tackle production for his position. Secondary motor to pursue and speed to chase leads to more tackle opportunities. Lead all SEC defensive linemen in “stuffs” (tackles for no gain or loss of yards) with 17. Active and energetic at all times. Continues to work to improve position vs. run and pass. Off-field character considered “squeaky clean” by NFL scouts. Has speed and agility to become special-teams star early in his career.

Weaknesses Relies heavily on his athleticism and motor over skill and instincts. Pass-rush production doesn’t match the traits. Played 80 percent of the defensive snaps in 2014, managing just 1.5 sacks. Doesn’t have the upfield burst and bend to turn the corner. Considered a “thinker” as a pass rusher rather than a naturally instinctive reactor. Must show he can effectively counter as a pass rusher. Has winning power in hands, but inconsistent with how he uses them against run and pass. Scouts want to see more competitive nastiness from him.

This highlight video shows Hunter’s athleticism. He’ll need some coaching up but he’s got something coaches can’t teach. He’s 6’5″, weighs 252 lbs. and he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.57 seconds.

Thanks to Spielman’s third round trades, the Vikings will have the 110th overall pick (11th pick in the fourth round), the 137th & 143rd overall (fifth round), 193rd overall pick in the 6th round and the
228th & 232rd overall picks in the 7th round.

Those extra third day picks can be quite valuable. Last year, the Vikings got rotation players Shamar Stephen and Jabari Price in the 7th round, plus special teams player Antone Exum in the 6th round.

Here’s what the people at Walter Football said about the Vikings’ first and second day picks:

11. Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State: A- Grade
It was either Trae Waynes or DeVante Parker, and either would’ve made a ton of sense. But whereas Parker was the No. 3 receiver, Waynes was the top cornerback on the board. With that in mind, doesn’t it seem like a huge steal that the Vikings were able to obtain the No. 1 corner in the draft with the 11th pick? This is a strong choice, as Waynes fills a need as a starter across from Xavier Rhodes. The Vikings had to find another corner to help them against all of the talented receivers on Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit.

45. Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA: A+ Grade
This is my favorite pick of the second round so far. Eric Kendricks is a first-round prospect. I had him going to Nos. 24 and 30 in various updates of my mock draft. He should’ve been the first inside linebacker off the board, so he’s an absolute steal in the middle of the second frame. He fills a huge need for Minnesota in the middle of its defense.

88. Danielle Hunter, DE/OLB, LSU: B+ Grade
Danielle Hunter’s draft stock was all over the place. Some had him as a second-round prospect. One team we spoke to scoffed at this, listing him as a fifth-round prospect. This range should be right for him. Hunter isn’t much of a football player right now, but he has the athleticism to develop into a strong starter. The good thing is that Hunter doesn’t have to play much right away. He’ll have time to eventually emerge as a key player down the road.

If someone had told Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer that they’d pick their starting corner and starting middle linebacker with their first two picks, I suspect they’d be happy. If you’d told them that they got the best cover corner and best cover linebacker with those picks, I’m certain that they’d be more than a little happy.

Months ago, the Vikings football people (primarily GM Rick Spielman and Coach Mike Zimmer) made it clear that Adrian Peterson would finish his career with the Vikings by essentially saying that he’d either play out his contract with them or they’d put him on the involuntary retirement list.

According to this post, Ben Dogra, Peterson’s agent, essentially cried uncle:

Adrian Peterson’s agent is no longer saying he wants out of Minnesota. He’s now saying he wants more money to stay in Minnesota.

Ben Dogra, who has previously said it’s not in Peterson’s best interest to stay with the Vikings, now says that he understands the Vikings will not get rid of Peterson.

“One of the things that I appreciate with the Vikings is their resolve to say ‘we’re not trading him,’” Dogra told USA Today. “That tells me they value him not only as a football player, but what he’s done for the organization. I actually, as an agent, not only appreciate it — I accept it. But actions speak louder than words. If that’s going to happen, and you want to keep him, then show him a commitment to make him retire as a Viking. And I haven’t had that solution.”

Simply put, that’s what it sounds like to hear an agent admit he’s lost this fight. Now it’s time for the Vikings to welcome Adrian back, get him on the same page as QB Teddy Bridgewater and receiver Mike Wallace.

Adrian won’t recognize the defense. They’ve improved significantly since his last game against the Rams. Last night, they improved the defense more by drafting the best cornerback in the draft in Trae Waynes of Michigan State. With 2 more days of the draft left, I won’t be surprised if Spielman finds an offensive lineman or 2 plus a linebacker to improve the Vikings on both sides of the ball.

Check out Scott Wright’s list of best available players for tonight’s part of the draft. There are 4 players on Scott’s list that would be plug-and-play guys with the Vikings, including 2 offensive linemen, on Scott’s best available list.

With the NFL offseason in full swing, gossip columnists like Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk and ‘journalists’ like Adam Shefter of ESPN have run a nauseating amount of articles about Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Florio has been particularly annoying on that front.

His near-daily posts about what that day’s news means in terms of whether Peterson will be a Viking next opening day is a display of how the NFL encourages media coverage whether there’s anything to report on or not. (There usually isn’t.)

Yesterday, there genuinely was news on the Peterson front. The NFL finally reinstated him after putting him on the Commissioner’s naughty boy list. The Vikings issued this brief statement on Peterson’s reinstatement:

“The Minnesota Vikings have been informed by the NFL that Adrian Peterson has been reinstated. We look forward to Adrian re-joining the Vikings.”

Immediately, the ‘Will Adrian be freed and traded to the Cowboys?’ stories littered the internet again. The answer to that question is simple. Adrian will be traded if another NFL team blows them away with an offer.

Rick Spielman, the Vikings GM, has repeatedly and steadfastly said that they’re looking forward to seeing Adrian lining up behind future superstar QB Teddy Bridgewater. Why wouldn’t he want that? Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the NFL. The last 4 years, he’s been the only offensive weapon the Vikings had. That’s why it’s astonishing he’s been incredibly productive. He’s been the only threat the other team’s defense has had to identify and stop.

That’s meant having 8 or 9 men within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage on, at minimum, 80% of rushing plays. This offseason, the Vikings added Mike Wallace, once the premium deep threat pass catcher in the NFL. Imagine how thrilled he’d be consistently getting man coverage while the defense focuses on Adrian. Imagine the explosiveness of the Vikings offense with Teddy Bridgewater emerging as a Pro Bowl QB with a full set of weapons.

Spielman’s message to other NFL teams has been simple. Adrian’s under contract to us for the next 3 years. If you want him on your team, you’ll have to blow us away with a great offer. If we don’t get that type offer, we’ll just have to figure out a way to use Mr. Peterson.

If Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wants Adrian Peterson playing his home games in Dallas, he’d better put together a great offer. If he doesn’t, Adrian Peterson will remain a Viking.