With a small sample size now in the books, the report card on the Vikings for their first baby steps of the 2015 season is in and, even without a big contribution from Teddy Bridgewater and no contribution from Adrian Peterson, the grades came in very solid.
The defense played strong throughout, with players viewed as backups making strong contributions. Audie Cole made a case for himself by creating a turnover. Antone Exum did the same, recovering a fumble and returning it 32 yards to put the offense in instant scoring position.
A pair of Day 3 rookie draft picks – Stefon Diggs and MyCole Pruitt – both provided big plays that were critical to the Vikings putting points on the board.
Backup defensive linemen Shamar Stephen and Tom Johnson both were consistently disruptive, blowing up plays behind the line of scrimmage and short-circuiting the plays that were called.
The defense made stands when it needed to, limiting Pittsburgh’s backups to just three points when things could have been much worse. The defense also throttled the Steelers on most plays, allowing them to gain just 191 yards and shutting down the running game (allowing just 2.7 yards per carry).
With all the talk about how impressive the first-team offense for the Vikings can be, if Sunday’s win was any indication of what the defense and the projected backups can do, the Vikings have the potential to be special on both sides of the ball and their 2014 positions of weakness look to be getting stronger with the additions of depth.
Nobody should be booking hotels in Santa Clara for Super Bowl weekend just yet, but, if you were looking for positives from the preseason opener, you couldn’t have asked for much more than the Vikings gave at the Hall of Fame Game Sunday night.