It wasn’t a pretty game, aside from the opening New Orleans drive. Drew Brees had a great start, making the Viking backfield look like statues, but that was the only really “magic” part of the game. From that point onwards, it was a very pedestrian performance by both teams.
This is similar to the start of last season: Brett Favre came in after training camp and only had the playing time in preseason games to learn about his new teammates. The difference is that last season, the Vikings had an easy start to their schedule.
Both Favre and Percy Harvin showed the effects of too little practice, and appeared to be on different pages of the playbook for too much of the game. It’s not surprising that they both have rust, especially for Harvin, who suffered from migraines all through training camp (and had other medical issues). At one point during the game, TV reporter Andrea Kramer reported that Harvin’s heart had stopped after he collapsed on the practice field during training camp, and that he’d then been diagnosed with sleep apnea (the migraine medication may have caused the collapse).
In spite of the early problems, the Vikings went in to the locker room at the half holding a 9-7 lead, thanks to a drive that showed what they’re capable of (given more time to gel). Visanthe Shiancoe got behind the covering linebacker for a touchdown, and Ryan Longwell had put the Vikings on the board with a field goal earlier. A blocked extra point kept the Vikings at 9.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the game was how well the Vikings’ patched-together-with-string-and-bailing-wire defensive backfield held up under the pressure:
Despite a few lapses, it’s hard to complain with a Vikings defense that held the NFL’s best offense to 14 points. In the first half, the Vikings showed they are still one of the league’s best at stopping the run. In the second half, the Saints managed to methodically push through the game. After the ugly first drive, the cornerbacks held their own. Lito Sheppard played well after a quiet training camp.
But the Vikings offense has 10 days to work out the offensive rustiness in time for Miami next Sunday in the Metrodome.
“This won’t get us derailed from our goal of the Super Bowl,” said Shiancoe, who finished with a team-high four catches for 76 yards. “It’s nothing to panic over.”
Update: Jim Souhan isn’t as kind:
Thursday night, in their season-opening, 14-9 loss in New Orleans, the Vikings’ skill-position players performed as if they needed nametags on the front of their jerseys, as if they should have taken time in the first huddle of the season to reacquaint themselves.
As in, “My name’s Brett, I’m from Hattiesburg, and I’m real sorry I held out for more money.”
On this visit to New Orleans, the Vikings needed a 12th man in the huddle just to make introductions.
Favre lived a charmed existence in 2009. He didn’t pay for his belated arrival because the Vikings started the season against Cleveland and Detroit, enabling him to make more warmup tosses than Mariano Rivera.
By the time the Vikings began facing real teams, Favre had developed a bond with Sidney Rice and a football version of telepathy with Percy Harvin.
Thursday, Favre played as if he had just driven over from his hometown of Kiln, Miss. On his tractor. With a cattail between his teeth.