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Week 1 Game Recap: New Orleans Saints 19, Minnesota Vikings 29


What you need to know

New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees and company came into Minnesota looking to pit their number one overall offense from last year against the third overall defense. This was to be a premiere matchup of opposing strengths and would decide if offense or defense is what truly wins games. Unfortunately for New Orleans, their offense fell flat in the redzone and only managed three field goals and one touchdown in four trips. The Vikings defense disrupted Brees all night and a punch less New Orleans defense gave up more than 340 yards against Sam Bradford and a Vikings offense that ranked near the bottom of the league last season. The Saints get a short week and turn around to face a Patriots team coming off a loss.

Minnesota Vikings

In a game that was to feature the Saints number one offense and the Vikings number three defensive from a season ago it was Sam Bradford and the Vikings offense that stole the show in this one. Bradford picked apart the Saints porous secondary and threw for over 340-yards and 3 touchdowns. The Vikings defense took advantage of a beat-up Saints offensive line and never really let Drew Brees get comfortable. Tonight, was also a breakout for Dalvin Cook as he broke Adrian Peterson's rookie debut rushing record with 127 yards. The aerial attack was paced by Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen who both had monster games.

New Orleans Saints

QB Drew Brees, 62 offensive snaps, Pass: 27 - 37 - 291 - 1 TD / 0 INT
Drew Brees did his best to carry this offense in week one but just could not find enough against a stingy Vikings defense. The Saints running backs averaged less than 3 yards a carry and the Vikings secondary was able to sit back and play the ball. Brees targeted Michael Thomas more than any other receiver, but had the most success with Coby Fleener and Mark Ingram. Brees biggest play came when Tommylee Lewis beat Viking's corner Trae Waynes for a 52-yard strike. Waynes also interfered with Lewis on the play but the young receiver still came down with the ball. Unfortunately, the Saints had to settle for another field goal despite being on the 8-yard line. Brees lone touchdown came late in the fourth quarter when Coby Fleener went straight up the seam and caught the ball over Viking's corner Trae Waynes. This was not a typical Drew Brees game but he will look to exploit a Patriot's secondary that gave up over 300-yards to Alex Smith in their first game.

RB Alvin Kamara, 31 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 18 - 0, Rec: 4 - 20 - 0 (6 targets)
To make the Saints backfield situation even more complicated, the rookie out of Tennessee lead the team in rushing attempts tonight. He was not any more effective than either Ingram or Peterson, but did manage one more carry than both backs and played a role in the passing game. Head coach Sean Peyton showed a willingness to use the rookie and we could see his role expand if the discord between Peyton and Peterson grows.

RB Mark Ingram, 26 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 17 - 0, Rec: 5 - 54 - 0 (5 targets)
The story with Ingram is very similar to that of Adrian Peterson. There was no room to run against the stout Vikings rush defense. Ingram's value came in the passing game during the second half. Brees targeted Ingram on three straight plays to help move the Saints into the redzone. The Saints adjusted to the Vikings sitting back in coverage and started finding Ingram underneath with room to run. Ingram and Peterson were both listed as number one running backs on the saint's depth chart and the snap distribution seemed to confirm that.

RB Adrian Peterson, 9 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 18 - 0 (1 targets)
This was not the homecoming that Peterson was looking for. The former star running back was only given 6 carries and targeted once in the redzone. Peterson was visibly heated on the sideline and could be seen yelling at head coach Sean Peyton. Peterson downplayed the situation in his interview after the game, but he appears to still be adjusting to his new life as a role player rather than feature back. You could also see Peterson totally baffled as to why they ran a bootleg and targeted him in the passing game from the 2-yard line rather than let him run it. The Saints could not commit to the run all night and the carry distribution was almost identical across all three running backs.

WR Michael Thomas, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 45 - 0 (8 targets)
Michael Thomas has to fill the void left by Brandin Cooks departure and was Drew Brees favorite target all night long. Thomas had more targets than anyone else but was unable to find any separation after the catch. Thomas would come open on slants and posts across the middle but was tackled almost immediately after making the catch. Thomas was thrown off by a very physical Vikings defense and was visibly frustrated and looking for pass interference flags on almost every play. Thomas made a nice 14-yard grab in traffic to give the Saints a first down early in the second half but was again tackled immediately. Thomas will have his chances against a porous New England secondary that was exposed against the Chiefs in week one.

WR Ted Ginn, 42 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 5 - 0, Rec: 4 - 53 - 0 (5 targets)
Ginn had the potential for a big night as he was covered by 39-year old corner Terrance Newman for the majority of the night, but was unable to really break free. Issues with the Saints' offensive line did not give Brees enough time to let many of the longer developing plays to Ginn to really get going. The lone big play came on a 27-yard strike to Ginn where he burned Newman down the sideline to help setup another Saints field goal. Some of Ginn's deep routes were taken by speedster TommyLee Lewis, and Ginn's name was only called on one jet sweep in the running game.

TE Coby Fleener, 32 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 54 - 1 (6 targets)
Fleener had the most productive night of any Saint in the passing game as he took advantage of the soft coverage by the Vikings. Brees was able to find Fleener up the seam or settled in between the void behind the linebackers and in front of the safeties. Fleener accounted for the lone Saints touchdown in the fourth quarter when he went up to take a ball away from corner Trae Waynes in the end zone. Fleener is expected to play a big role in the red zone as was a safety valve for Drew Brees all night.


Minnesota Vikings

QB Sam Bradford, 65 offensive snaps, Pass: 27 - 32 - 346 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - -3 - 0
Bradford looked like an elite quarterback behind a completely retooled offensive line. The starting unit did not have a single snap together before today, not even in the preseason. Bradford was only sacked one time and was able to pick on rookie corners and a Saints defense that was supposed to have been rebuilt. Bradford found Thielen on several crossing patterns for big gains and was lights out on third down. Bradford found Stefon Diggs for two of his three touchdowns and his big tightend to seal the victory. Bradford methodically moved the Vikings down the field and seemed to lead almost every receiver perfectly so they could run after the catch. The best play of the night came on Diggs acrobatic catch from the two-yard line late in the second half. Bradford put the ball up in the air where only Diggs could come down with it for the Vikings second touchdown. Bradford to Thielen was the connection of the night as the duo connected on 9 of their 10 attempts for 157-yards.

RB Dalvin Cook, 51 offensive snaps, Rush: 22 - 127 - 0, Rec: 3 - 10 - 0 (5 targets)
In a night where the Vikings hosted their all-time leading rusher, Dalvin Cook stole the show. The rookie running back broke Adrian Peterson's rookie debut rushing record and was able to find room to run all night. One of the best things Cook did all night was show his development in pass protection as well. He picked up every blitz that came his way and cemented himself as the lead back in the Minnesota offense. The only knock came on an early drop in the passing game that was almost intercepted had it not been for two Saints defenders running into each other. Cook's best run came on a 33-yard scamper that he broke to the outside and took down the sideline. Cook did not play a huge role in the passing game, but was not needed with the show that Diggs and Thielen were putting on.

RB Latavius Murray, 3 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 6 - 0
Murray watched from the sideline as Dalvin Cook took control of the lead running back role for Minnesota. On his first carry of the night the former Raider fumbled, recovered by the Vikings, and only saw one more carry for the rest of the game. Murray appears to have not shaken off the rust from his injury, but will most likely see his workload diminish even further as Cook gets established.

WR Adam Thielen, 65 offensive snaps, Rec: 9 - 157 - 0 (10 targets)
Thielen picked right back up where he left off to end last season with another big game tonight. The undrafted wide receiver was targeted more than any other Vikings player and complied more yards after the catch than anyone. Bradford was able to hit Thielen in stride several times tonight for big gains and no one on the Saints seemed to be able to cover him. Thielen has mastered using Kyle Rudolph to screen his defender and run free across the middle. Look for the Vikings to use Thielen more and more out of the slot to get into the redzone before deferring to Rudolph and others in goal to go situations.

WR Stefon Diggs, 58 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - -6 - 0, Rec: 7 - 93 - 2 (8 targets)
Diggs fell just shy of 100-yards receiving on the night, but more importantly hauled in two touchdowns from Sam Bradford. The second-year receiver had a very shaky third preseason game, but that was quickly forgotten as he shredded the New Orleans defense all night. Most of Diggs' damage came on the outside and through contested catches over the Saints corners. There was his 2-yard touchdown catch where he came down with both feet as he juggled the ball and his big 30-yard gain down the side line where he just barely managed to tap his second toe before going out of bounds. Thielen may have outpaced Diggs in the yards department but #14 was the true star receiver for the Vikings last night.

TE Kyle Rudolph, 55 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 26 - 1 (3 targets)
Rudolph looks to be the Vikings number one threat in the redzone as the big tight end has proven to be able to catch the ball in traffic. Bradford went to Rudolph late from the 15-yard line to put the Vikings back up by two scores late in this one. Rudolph ran a perfect post route to make a catch over the middle for the Vikings third touchdown of the night. Bradford also used Rudolph in third and long situations to sustain drives and keep the Vikings offense on the field. Rudolph did not have a big yardage total but did throw a key block in Dalvin Cook's 33-yard scamper in the second half.