It’s a good thing that Sam Bradford had a good debut.
But the vision of star running back Adrian Peterson being carried off the field with a right knee injury could render all that moot for the Vikings.
Even after beating the Packers 17-14, there’s a pall over the night, based on the concern about their former MVP.
They Vikings were able to justify trading a future first-round pick and then some for a quarterback because they had all the other pieces in place, including a 31-year-old running back who still appeared to be in his prime. Now with the specter of Peterson’s injury hanging over them, having a sharp Bradford might be the only hope they have.
Bradford looked particularly sharp (22-of-31 for 286 yards and two touchdowns) for a guy who had been with his team for a few weeks, but a potential loss of Peterson will put him in a familiar spot — a talented guy with a dubious cast of offensive talent around him.
He has an ascending talent at wide receiver in 2015 fifth-rounder Stefon Diggs, who turned in his second big game of the season. Diggs finished with nine catches for 182 yards and a touchdown. He had seven catches for 103 yards against the Titans last week, and is quickly establishing himself as a star in his own right. He may need to be, if Peterson misses any amount of time.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers doesn’t look like himself, and it’s hard to tell why.
He did enough to beat the Jaguars last week, but there were moments of apparent frustration for him Sunday night that weren’t entirely because of the pressure the Vikings brought.
He talked this offseason about the inability to call all the plays he wanted to last year because wide receiver Jordy Nelson wasn’t there to knock the top out of defenses. But Nelson’s back now, and the Packers still seem to struggle to get guys open downfield.
And Rodgers doesn’t look happy about it, either.
2. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is good at what he does for a lot of reasons. But letting Bradford throw on a fourth-and-short attempt in the second quarter is the kind of show of confidence that could pay bigger dividends down the road.
The easy play would be to hand it to Peterson, or to just kick a field goal since it was so early. Bradford was in a bit of a rhythm, but rolling the dice on the new guy was far from the safest call.
But if the Vikings are going to do anything more than just be OK this year, they’re going to need Bradford. And that fourth-down conversion to Diggs was a small step toward Bradford’s first touchdown, and perhaps something more.
3. The Packers get the benefit of the doubt on personnel moves over the years because they’ve gotten more right than wrong.
But Sunday night was a growing pains night for an offensive line that just decided it didn’t need All-Pro guard Josh Sitton.
The Vikings are going to get pressure on most teams, but the Packers have some issues up front that need to be ironed out, and that’s going to take time. They have some young linemen they like, but replacing a talent like Sitton isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight,
4. The Packers picked on Trae Waynes all night, so it was perhaps fitting that he was able to make the late interception for the Vikings, and save the game.
The 2015 first-rounder had a rough night by any estimation, but all that will be forgotten after his late pick. With Xavier Rhodes out, the Vikings were a man down in the secondary, and Rodgers was clearly looking Waynes’ way often.
5. Speaking of little things: The Vikings held the Packers to 65 yards of total offense in the first half. They gave the Packers 66 yards worth of penalty yardage before the break.
The bulk of that was on one pass interference call, but the Vikings don’t have the kind of margin of error to get away with those kinds of things often.