Cousins, Jefferson Grate Cheese in Kevin O’Connell’s Debut

How the Vikings Could Play Packers in the Playoffs
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

If you wanted to see “what Kirk Cousins could do” with an offense-first coach, you got your wish and more on Sunday.

The Minnesota Vikings subdued the Green Packers 23-7 in Week 1, a team responsible for three consecutive NFC North titles.

Cousins was borderline obsessed with finding wideout Justin Jefferson through the air, targeting the LSU alumnus 11 times for nine receptions, 184 yards, and two touchdowns. Cousins accounted for 277 passing yards, a 118.9 passer rating, and of course, the two touchdowns.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings barreled out of the gate on offense, jaunting down the field at will. The first drive nearly hit a wall with a 4th and Goal at the 5-yardline. In years past, Minnesota would’ve clumsily debated whether to kick a field goal or go for it, probably elected to go for it, and chosen some oafish play call. But not with a new head in Kevin O’Connell.

O’Connell greenlighted the 4th and Goal playcall, and Jefferson promptly scored on a pass from Cousins. After that, Green Bay tried to respond with a haymaking pass to rookie Christian Watson — who was gifted to the Packers by the Vikings via trade — but Watson point-blank dropped a sure touchdown.

Watson’s drop set the mood, particularly for Aaron Rodgers — and not in a good way.

The Vikings led from cover to cover and executed a game-changing goal-line stand in the 2nd Quarter. Green Bay typically converts such situations into touchdowns, but the Vikings turned the defensive heroism into three points near the end of the 2nd Quarter (while flipping the field).

Minnesota’s new defense harassed Rodgers all day, sacking him four times and taking the ball away twice, an interception and a fumble. Rodgers and his new haircut were flustered in Minneapolis, and it showed.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

O’Connell and Co. never surrendered the lead, even when it felt like faint green and gold footsteps were on the way in the 2nd Half. Za’Darius Smith promised a revenge game, delivering on his word with two tackles, two QB hits, a sack, and a tackle for loss. He was the Vikings defensive engine.

All three phases showed up in Week 1, displaying competence and crispness. O’Connell’s commitment to resting all big-name starters during the preseason paid off. Purple rust was nonexistent.

Of course, the Packers conducted business similarly in Week 1 last year, meaning “counting them out” now would be foolish. Yet, Minnesota’s opening salvo to 2022 — especially with a first-time head coach — was wondrous, exceeding all expectations.

Overall, the triumph over Green Bay was an apropos bookend to the Zimmer era, as O’Connell repeatedly proved that “the old way” was kaput. He was aggressive when the Packers could’ve waltzed back into the game while continuing his self-induced aura of positivity in the locker room after the game.

Oh, and Greg Joseph casually tied the Vikings field goal record, connecting from 56 yards in the 3rd Quarter. The incredible part is the entire building expected him to make it. Such has not been the case for Vikings fans’ emotions since Blair Walsh’s demise.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Vikings Territory Also Read: Vikings Quietly Added an Interesting Defender