MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings stomped on the gas pedal at the opening kickoff, riding an opportunistic defense and strong ground attack to a 28-12 season-opening victory against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, Sept. 8.
Anthony Barr set the tone for the Vikings on the first play from scrimmage, blitzing untouched to sack Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. The defense's three-and-out was followed up by a blocked punt by Eric Wilson.
Adam Thielen kept pace by shedding a tackle after hauling in the ball on a crossing route and punching the ball in from 23 yards out.
"It was a great start. It was good to set the pace for the season," running back Dalvin Cook said. "The defense kind of sparked this thing, and we took care of business by punching the ball in, which got some of the momentum going."
Minnesota grew that early score into a 21-point advantage at halftime. Dalvin Cook had 74 of his 111 rushing yards in the first half, including a 19-yard touchdown. Another touchdown in the third quarter gave the young running back his second career multi-touchdown game.
Playmaking safety Anthony Harris benefited from a Vikings pass rush that kept Ryan off tempo. He intercepted a jump ball intended for receiver Julio Jones in the first quarter, then ended an Atlanta scoring threat by snagging an errant pass in the end zone.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins had a career-low 98 passing yards on eight completions, but that was largely a result of strong starting field position and the effectiveness of the running game — Minnesota's 172 yards gained on the ground was plenty to power the offense.
"Throwing 10 times is really unique," Cousins said. "Probably haven't had a game with that few attempts sice probably Pop Warner... it's what the game called for. I have no problem with being conservative, as long as we win the game."
With the deficit at 28 points, Ryan was able to throw a pair of touchdown passes in garbage time. But the Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones scores were too little too late for the Falcons.
After a tumultuous preseason, the Vikings' kicking game was sound. Dan Bailey converted each of his extra point attempts, and newly acquired punter Britton Colquitt handled holding duties without incident.