How exciting it was to see the magic of the Vikings offense during training camp being carried over so gracefully for the opener in a 35-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
Daunte Culpepper, the top-rated quarterback during the preseason, not only lived up to his exhibition-season performance but also improved on it by throwing five touchdown passes, a franchise record for the season opener. Most people respect the coaching philosophy of Dallas' Bill Parcells, and to a slight degree Culpepper outwitted the Big Tuna as was demonstrated on an audible that sent "Steal of the Draft" Onterrio Smith completely untouched during a 63-yard touchdown scamper.
Add a 147.1 passer rating and you can understand why Culpepper received the game ball, but he wasn't the only offensive player that impressed me. Randy Moss, although only having 27 receiving yards on four catches, moved his game up a notch by doing other things to help his team win. He garnered one pass interference call that netted 42 yards and set up a touchdown, and he threw a block on cornerback Terence Newman during Smith's touchdown reception. Moss continued his all-around effort after he got upset with the shenanigans pulled on the field by Newman, who sat on Moss once when he slipped in the end zone. Moss then burned Newman on two straight touchdowns. Following the second touchdown against Newman, when Culpepper threw a 1-yard bullet to Moss, Newman gave me the body language of a player who had just been dominated in all facets of the game. It was fun to see Moss playing a well-rounded game. It will also be a fun carryover to next Monday's prime-time game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
On the defensive side of the football, the picture seemed even brighter. The Vikings did give up 238 yards in the first half, so when they came out in the third quarter I have to give all the kudos to defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell. He made some great tactical changes, from certain blitz packages to running more stunts with the defensive linemen later in the game. That might not sound like a lot, but the best news is that a lot of these things the defense hadn't even worked on. Still, the defensive players absorbed it over halftime and went out and executed it. So head coach Mike Tice does have the smart athletes he's been fishing for in the draft the last three years and a defensive coordinator that makes changes on the move.
Watching the defense as closely as I do, I have to add that the defensive line can and will play better. At times, they hesitated with their footwork and stood up too quickly, trying to outmuscle the Cowboys' offensive linemen while attempting to locate the ball. As all defensive players know, the blocking schemes will take them to the ball — they really don't have to find it. I know Cottrell will be working hard on that this week, just like the entire team worked during training camp to put it all together for these important first weeks of the season.
Lurtsema's Reaction: Star Power
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