Jaguars vs. Vikings: Minnesota's Biggest Winners and Losers from NFL Week 1
In the most thrilling victory the Minnesota Vikings have had in over a year, fans were treated to an overtime spectacle bookended by clutch performances from sixth-round pick Blair Walsh and the Minnesota defense.
After a rough start, the offense couldn't move the chains consistently until the last drive of the second half. From there, the inconsistent play of Christian Ponder was ameliorated by an excellent performance from Percy Harvin and a simply phenomenal performance from Adrian Peterson, who wasn't even set to start the game a day earlier.
Still, beating the worst teams in the NFL isn't something Minnesota wants to hang their hats on. In addition to the highlight-reel performances that seemed distant before the season started, the Vikings saw some of the issues they had last year crop up.
Along with clear winners are the obvious losers that the Vikings will want to pay attention to as they prepare for the Indianapolis Colts come Sept. 16.
Winner: Adrian Peterson
Not even slated to start until an hour before the game, Adrian Peterson's recovery from ligament damage in his knee has been one of the hottest topics in the offseason for the Minnesota Vikings.
Fans grew hoarse cheering for his entrance, his first run, his first potential breakout (which happened to be his second run) and each touchdown.
In his return, Peterson averaged 4.9 yards a carry with 17 carries and 84 yards. In addition to his respectable play overall, his two touchdowns made as many fantasy owners cringe as cheer.
"All Day" had a great game highlighted by a long gain for 20 yards in overtime as well as a leaping touchdown in the third quarter over the entire line.
While seemingly hesitant in his first run, fans called for both more and fewer carries as they debated amongst each other about the appropriateness of Peterson's hasty return.
For now, it seems as if betting against Peterson continues to be a losing move.
Loser: Chris Cook
Cook's coverage on what might have been the last score of the game was not as bad as many might assume, but it wasn't perfect either. Blaine Gabbert's pass to Cecil Shorts was thrown excellently, and there's not much corners can do to prevent the play once the ball is in the air.
Still, a physical corner like Chris Cook should more efficiently funnel the smaller receiver outside toward the sideline and read the play well enough to find ways to undercut the route. It's asking a lot of a corner, but Cook needs to show up in big moments like that.
Aside from that moment, Cook was inconsistent over the course of the game. He allowed an extraordinary number of eight-yard passes (six) as well as a few others. His closing speed is still fantastic, and he did well to prevent large gains as well as disrupt passes that appeared caught, but he did not have a good overall game.
The Minnesota defense, particularly early on, had big problems on third down (the Jaguars had a 50 percent third-down conversion rate) and the coverage was a big part of it.
If Cook is meant to be part of the reason the Minnesota pass defense is underrated, he will need to do more to prevent offenses from moving the chains and scoring.
A sack late in the game for 11 yards did him well, but his primary job is in coverage.
Winner: Chad Greenway
Greenway actually started the second quarter in the "losers" column, with a blown coverage and what looked to be a missed tackle.
A late tackle elsewhere would have been the nail in the coffin for one of the league's best strong-side linebackers, but Greenway more than made up for it.
The Pro Bowler had two pass deflections in the fourth quarter to help seal the victory for the Vikings.
In addition, Greenway ended with nine solo tackles and 13 combined tackles overall. Many of these tackles were effective defensive "stops"—offensive plays where the offense ended up worse than before—including tackles on every running back the Jaguars ran with for no gain.
Greenway is a veteran at reading the direction of the play, and one-cut runners are particularly vulnerable to his ability to both shed blocks and plug holes.
A leader on and off the field, Greenway needs to continue with this type of performance, especially in coverage, if Minnesota wants to earn respect.
Loser: Jared Allen
Months removed from his near-historic run at the sack record, Allen opened the season without a discernible impact.
Except for a penalty to start the game, that is.
Allen accumulated no statistics, finishing the game without a sack, tackle or even quarterback hit.
For someone who was in the running as the Defensive Player of the Year, and clear leader of a defense that racked up 50 sacks, Allen didn't just underperform—he disappeared.
No player on the defensive line earned a sack, and fans should be largely disappointed in Allen's silence more than anything else. While often doubled, Allen needs to make a bigger impact in the passing game if the Vikings want to consistently make waves on defense, especially on third down.
Without pressure, the young secondary is under even more pressure to make the play. A young defense is going to make mistakes, and the well-paid veterans need to do all they can to ensure reliability.
Winner: Blair Walsh
There isn't much to say here that every fan hasn't already seen.
Walsh was a relative nonentity early on, making his two extra-point attempts in the second and third quarter before blowing up in the fourth quarter and overtime.
He did extremely well on his six kickoffs, with only one kick returned past the Jacksonville 20-yard line (to the 23).
His play, however, was better
Blair Walsh sunk two field goals early in the fourth quarter from 20 yards, then 42.
With four seconds on the clock, Walsh walked onto the field to the cheers and trepidation from fans. The loud stadium didn't quiet themselves until moments before the snap; the untested kicker set up to drive in a 55-yard field goal to tie the game.
He responded to this still silence by booting the ball straight down the center. As the football flew toward the posts, the stadium revved like an engine and grew even louder as Walsh nailed the game-tying field goal.
The roar lasted well into overtime, and the oft-jaded Vikings fans once again found a reason to look forward to the season as Walsh cleaned up with a 38-yard field goal for the final points of the game.
What a debut.
Loser: Letroy Guion
Jared Allen wasn't the only disappointing member of the Vikings defensive line.
While it's not necessarily poor play that will make a nose tackle disappear, Guion did have a bad performance for the Vikings.
He was swallowed up by the double-teams and pushed away from running plays. He only had one solo tackle in the game, and his assist with Williams wasn't wonderful, either.
Guion missed a few tackles and could not get enough penetration.
His job in the base defense is to funnel runners to the weak-side linebacker, but too often he gave Jennings, Jones-Drew and Jalen (Parmele) enough room to avoid being baited into obvious running lanes.
The fifth-round pick has acquitted himself well during his career as an overperformer from his draft class, but he still remains an average player on the Vikings defense.
With games like this, his stock could fall further.
Winner: Percy Harvin
Percy Harvin showcased his utility as a do-everything skill player.
He was Minnesota's second-leading rusher, with 20 yards on five carries, including a nine-yard run up the middle.
Harvin also happened to be Minnesota's leading receiver, with six catches for 84 yards.
Adding to the 104 yards from scrimmage total were another 88 yards as a kick returner, averaging 29.3 yards on each return. Scobee angling kicks away from Harvin was proof positive that the Jaguars wanted to keep the ball out of Harvin's hands as often as possible.
He made few mistakes and did an incredible job using his surprising strength to fight for more yards. His precise route running made him a pass-catching threat not just in the slot, but outside and in the backfield as well.
Minnesota has done well to keep Harvin happy, and his role on the offense is like almost no one else's. Harvin had a gem of a game, and he figures to do well with Ponder at the helm.