The Minnesota Vikings are off to a 1-0 start following a 24-16 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. After peeping the game tape and reviewing the Pro Football Focus grades of each player, here are a few takeaways from the Week 1 win.
1. Sheldon Richardson (89.8) and the defensive line dominated
The entire Vikings defensive line played well Sunday. Starting from the inside out, nose tackle Linval Joseph had a particularly strong performance, earning the team’s highest PFF grade (90.8) from week 1. Joseph had five tackles, including four for a loss, and was credit with a forced fumble.
Three-technique Sheldon Richardson caused some destruction of his own. In 47 snaps Richardson caused seven pressures including five hurries and two hits on the quarterback. He also stepped up in the run game, collecting three tackles including two for a loss.
On the edge, DE Danielle Hunter (77.9) dominated. He had eight total pressures in 59 snaps which includes seven QB hurries and a sack. Hunter had three tackles, all for a loss.
Everson Griffen (69.3) was credited with four total pressures in 52 total snaps while Anthony Barr (74.4) recorded two tackles for loss, a batted pass and a pressure in 67 snaps.
DT Linval Joseph – 90.8
DT Sheldon Richardson – 89.8
CB Xavier Rhodes – 82.1
DE Danielle Hunter – 77.9
LB Anthony Barr – 74.4
— Sean Borman (@SeanBoarMan) September 10, 2018
2. Tom Compton (80.9) and offensive line was an anomaly
It certainly appeared as though Tom Compton had a poor game, yet he was the Vikings highest-graded player on offense. Compton was seemingly controlled by 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner (70.1), but he was only responsible for one sack (on one pressure) in 43 pass blocking snaps. He also graded well in run blocking.
Brett Jones (54.4) had a solid first game for the Vikings at center. He was charged with a penalty and struggled against the run which explains his low PFF mark, but he earned the highest pass-blocking grade on the team (84.8).
Left tackle Riley Reiff (76.9) gave up only one hurry in 43 pass-blocking snaps. He had the team’s second-highest pass blocking grade at 83.0. Conversely, Mike Remmers (51.6) and Rashod Hill (63.3) each gave up three QB hurries and struggled with run blocking to boot.
LG Tom Compton – 80.9
LT Riley Reiff – 76.9
WR Adam Thielen – 76.0
QB Kirk Cousins – 71.4
RT Rashod Hill – 63.3
— Sean Borman (@SeanBoarMan) September 10, 2018
3. Mike Hughes (73.1) made the Vikings look good
Mike Hughes was selected by the Vikings in the first round of April’s draft. It only took one game to prove he was worth the early pick. On Sunday, he immediately provided a return on the team’s investment.
Hughes was targeted six times on defense. He gave up three catches for 59 yards. The other three attempts consisted of an interception and two passes broken up.
He made plays all game. The first was a brilliant special teams play in which he downed a Matt Wile punt inside the five-yard line. Later in the game, he intercepted a Jimmy Garoppolo pass and took it back for a touchdown. He’s the only rookie in Vikings history to have a pick six in a season opener. Hughes also tacked on a QB hurry and three tackles, including one for a loss.
“He did some good things and he had a couple mistakes,” said Zimmer. “He was competitive and challenged the receivers.”
The coach sees some things to improve on, but Sunday’s performance by Hughes was a promising start to what could ultimately be a special career in the NFL.
4. Kirk Cousins (71.4) played as advertised
Before he was acquired this offseason, Kirk Cousins was already a known commodity (thanks to Vikings twitter). When his game was dissected, a few things stood out. For one, he’s a very accurate passer with a strong-arm. Two, he may not have elite pocket presence or poise but he’s a master of pre-snap reads and making the defense pay with some sneaky scrambling ability. And three, he likes to spread the ball around and target his running backs.
On Sunday, he did just that. He took shots downfield, padded the receiving stats of Dalvin Cook, and showed off some unexpected mobility. He also completed passes to seven different receivers. Adam Thielen and Cook led the way with six catches apiece.
Cousins’ deep ball accuracy was on full display when he found Stefon Diggs on this perfectly placed pass in the end zone. He later found tight end Kyle Rudolph on another downfield dime that resulted in a touchdown.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) September 9, 2018
“When he needs to hum it, he can hum it,” said head coach Mike Zimmer, who also mentioned that Cousins is “developing good rapport, with all the guys really.”
It’ll take some time to work out the kinks (he failed to complete a pass in the fourth quarter), but the early reviews are positive and it appears as if Cousins is a great fit for the scheme of John DeFilippo.
5. Dalvin Cook (58.1) was tough to bring down
As for the anticipated return of Dalvin Cook… it didn’t quite meet expectations, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He struggled to move the ball on the ground (2.5 yards per carry) and also lost a fumble after a nearly breaking a long run, but he broke 10 tackles, the most in the NFL in Week 1. Cook finished with 55 yards receiving and 95 yards from scrimmage. Three of his six receptions went for first downs.