Week 1 Vikings vs. Packers Takeaways


The Minnesota Vikings opened their season in a crucial divisional showdown. After beating the Green Bay Packers, the standings of the NFC North show the Vikings at the top with a 1-0 record. It was the first Vikings win in Week 1 since 2019. The 23-7 victory revealed some things, but what are the biggest takeaways?

Finally, a Good Defensive Front

The Vikings’ defense struggled in the trenches in back-to-back years after losing Linval Joseph in free agency. In addition, Danielle Hunter was hurt, and Everson Griffen left and came back as a limited player.

Za'Darius Smith Fulfilled the Prophecy
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith (55) celebrates with linebacker Danielle Hunter. © Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The personnel combined with a scheme that teams already figured out had the Vikings at a significant disadvantage. On Sunday’s opener, the purple team changed that and played a dominant game up front.

Harrison Phillips and Dalvin Tomlinson seemed unmovable in the running game while providing some pressure in the passing game. Ross Blacklock came off the bench as a rotational player and had a solid game as well.

Both star edge rushers, Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith, looked as advertised. They recorded one sack each and pressured Aaron Rodgers countless times.

Patrick Jones and D.J. Wonnum rotated in as edge rushers. That move allowed Hunter and Smith to play inside regularly on passing downs. The two young defenders both helped with solid play. They look heavily improved from last season.

Creative Offense

During the Mike Zimmer era, the defense was much more exciting to watch than the offense. Boring schemes and a ball control-centric philosophy is not very breathtaking.

The Vikings Top Offensive Performers vs. Packers, per PFF
Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Kevin O’Connell came in and changed a few things. Motion on most plays allowed the Vikings to get Justin Jefferson in the right position to see coverage from players like the rookie linebacker Quay Walker and edge rusher Preston Smith. He was rarely lined up against Jaire Alexander.

In addition to that, O’Connell called multiple shot plays. That allowed Justin Jefferson to have a career day. The offense was explosive and unstoppable on some plays. While the team couldn’t move the ball as efficiently in the second half, it was enough to beat the Packers convincingly. Some second-half struggles happened because the Vikings tried to take as much time off the clock as possible.

Good Situational Defense

After a disastrous defensive showing in the last couple of seasons in high leverage moments, Sunday’s team looked nothing like the Zimmer-led unit. On crucial 4th downs, Ed Donatell’s defense was aggressive and didn’t make any mental errors.

The Vikings Top Defensive Performers vs. Packers, per PFF
Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Last year’s defense wasn’t a bad unit until it counted. In the final two minutes and on crucial 3rd and 4th downs, they couldn’t get off the field. The output in the last two minutes of either half was historically bad.

If the 2022 team can fix the defense in those situational moments, the Vikings can be a real threat in the NFC. Week 1 was a big step in the right direction.

Endless Positive Energy

The 2021 Vikings had personal feuds all over the team, including coaches. Multiple important people in the building didn’t talk to each other. The environment was toxic, and it was impossible to play at the highest level in those surroundings.

The new era of Vikings football is the opposite. Players are having fun, and the two young guns in the leadership roles, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell, are positive-minded people and are a great example for the team.

The beginning of the video says it all.

It’s crucial to keep the positive energy when adversity hits. The Vikings might lose a heartbreaking game, and, unfortunately, devastating injuries will occur, but the team, including the coaching staff, has to keep up that vibe.

NFC North Door Is Open

Divisional matchups are the most important ones. If the Vikings manage to win both games against the Packers, the Packers have to win three more than the Vikings in the other 15 games. The tiebreaker plus the win gives the Vikings a considerable advantage.

Cousins, Jefferson Grate Cheese in Kevin O'Connell's Debut
Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Of course, it doesn’t matter if the purple team can’t keep winning games, but it’s a big first step. The Vikings started the season with the mission to dethrone the Packers in the NFC North, and the start was a good one.

Green Bay didn’t play very sharp. The team was totally unprepared. Even Aaron Rodgers, a future Hall of Famer and one of the most consistent players in the NFL, looked like a shell of himself. He’s 38 years old, and at some point, the decline is inevitable. It’s possible that he has a lot left in the tank, especially after winning back-to-back MVP trophies. The green rivals face the Bears next Sunday in an attempt to bounce back.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt