The season-opening spotlight was supposed to be on longtime Vikings star Adrian Peterson’s return to Minnesota, but rookie running back Dalvin Cook stole the show with an explosive performance on Monday.
The 22-year-old looked like a seasoned veteran in his National Football League debut as he rushed 22 times for 127 yards in the Vikings 29-19 win over the New Orleans Saints in the first game of the 2017 regular season for both teams.
“You can’t say enough about him,” Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford said of Cook. “He is a great player. I expect him to only get better.”
That spoiled the return of running back Peterson, who signed with the Saints as a free agent in the offseason.
With former league MVP Peterson sitting on the sidelines for much of his New Orleans’ debut, Cook seized command as his 127 yards was 24 more than Peterson’s Viking debut, and almost double what Peterson gained last season in Minnesota.
The knock on Cook heading into the season was his inexperience as a pass protector and a tendency to fumble. But the second-round draft pick in 2017 showed none of that on Monday in front of a crowd of 66,000 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota,.
The former league MVP Peterson spent his first 10 seasons with the Vikings, but is now a complimentary player in New Orleans. After getting the first two carries of the game, for last year’s No. 1 NFL offense, Peterson went silent. He finished with just six carries for 18 yards.
“It was a little different, but once I got out there, it was more fun,” Peterson said. “I wish I could have gotten more snaps, but it was interesting going up against those guys.”
Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen added: “We stopped him and didn’t let him get going.”
Bradford threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns, and wide receiver Stefon Diggs scored two TD receptions in the first half.
Bradford completed 27 of 32 passes with no turnovers. Adam Thielen caught nine passes for 157 yards, and tight end Kyle Rudolph added a TD reception.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees was 27 of 37 for 291 yards and one TD.
The Saints kicked field goals before Brees connected with tight end Coby Fleener for an eight-yard TD with 1:56 left in the game. New Orleans finished with 344 yards of offense.
“Obviously we settled for too many field goals offensively, and then all of the sudden, got into catch-up mode,” Saints coach Sean Payton said.
Also, the Chargers opened their season against the Broncos in their first game since moving from San Diego to Los Angeles with a 21-24 loss in Denver, Colorado.