Kevin O’Connell Era off to Nice Start

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Jul 29, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings began the Kevin O’Connell era with a huge 23-7 win over their archrivals, the Green Bay Packers.

Many may have predicted a Vikings win, but few may have predicted it to be over double-digits. Fans were already excited about the new era with not only O’Connell but also new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and other new faces such as defensive coordinator Ed Donatell.

The offense, defense, and special teams all looked good.

Given it was only week one, it is far too early to say this team can contend for a Super Bowl. We do not even know if this team will even win the NFC North yet. One step at a time, but so far, there is plenty to be encouraged about with this new era of Vikings football.

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Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Kirk Cousins looked sharp, going 23/32 for 277 yards and two touchdowns. Justin Jefferson continues to show how special he is, catching nine passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns (he nearly had three touchdowns). The offensive line has been amongst the worst in the league since 2014 (2017 was decent), but it looked good on Sunday. Can they keep it up for the rest of the season?

The new 3-4 defense was very impressive, allowing only seven points and forcing four turnovers. Aaron Rodgers did not look like his usual self, going 22/34 for 195 yards and an interception. Here was the biggest key – no touchdown passes. Rookie Christian Watson did drop a deep pass which should have been a touchdown, but overall, Rodgers did not look like the Rodgers we have been very used to seeing since he became the Packers starter in 2008.

Former Packer Za’Darius Smith had a huge game. He recorded a sack and also made a huge goal line stop on 4th and goal. Later in the game, when Rodgers tried to block him, Smith knocked him down, and two former teammates laughed.

Snap Reaction after Vikings-Packers
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith, left, and linebacker Jordan Hicks, right, celebrate with D.J. Wonnum. © Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Fellow linebacker and new addition Jordan Hicks recorded a game-high 14 tackles, added a sack, and forced a fumble. Harrison Smith, who is in his 11th season, is still looking very good, recording seven tackles and an interception.

On special teams, Greg Joseph made all three of his field goals, including a career-long of 56 yards. Ryan Wright averaged 46.4 per punt in his NFL debut. Not a bad way to start.

Danielle Hunter played in only seven games last season after missing all of 2020. He recorded a sack. Smith appeared in only one game last season in Green Bay. If both can stay healthy all season, this defense will be scary for opposing quarterbacks. Minnesota’s defense has really struggled the past two seasons. Having those two healthy will not only help the defense dramatically but also the team as a whole.

Once again, it is still very early, but so far, things are looking good for the purple. It will be very interesting to see how the rest of the season goes, especially once the players become even more familiar with this new coaching staff.

Next Monday night will be another good test in Philadelphia.