MINNEAPOLIS – With cleats like that, how could Stefon Diggs not have a breakout night?
Channeling future Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss on his feet and in his touchdown celebrations, Diggs hauled in two first-half scores and was a catalyst for the Minnesota Vikings stringing together big pass plays in a 29-19 win over the New Orleans Saints at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Diggs’ tribute was inspired by Moss’ induction into the Vikings’ Ring of Honor on Monday. The custom-made cleats depicted Moss “fake mooning” fans in Green Bay during a 2005 NFC wild-card game. Moss also sported shoes depicting his infamous touchdown celebration.
And it didn’t stop there. Diggs mimicked Moss’ “splitting the defense” celebration upon catching an 18-yard touchdown after the Saints bit on a play-action fake. He then busted out the popular “Milly Rock” dance move and spun the ball on the ground. Diggs took advantage of the NFL’s new celebration rule on his second score, this time by attempting to punt the ball out of the stadium.
What else is fitting? Diggs is the first Minnesota receiver to score two touchdowns in a season opener since — you guessed it — Randy Moss.
Diggs and Adam Thielen, who recorded his fourth game of 100 yards receiving, allowed Minnesota to open up its offense by taking consistent deep shots down the field. After not scoring a single touchdown in the preseason, it was an encouraging sign for a unit looking to implement more explosive gains.
Quarterback Sam Bradford outdueled Drew Brees’ usual prolific passing attack by switching up his M.O. entirely. Instead of relying on the short throws that helped him achieve an NFL-best 71.6 completion percentage in 2016, Bradford marched the Vikings down the field by taking deep shots and evading the Saints’ heavy pressure up front.
On throws of 15 or more yards, Bradford was 8-of-9 for 160 yards and a touchdown. Turning his favorite targets into prime-time stars, Bradford was 16-of-18 for 250 yards for two touchdowns and 10 first downs when targeting Diggs and Thielen. The eight completions allowed on passes thrown 15 or more yards downfield are the tied for the second most the Saints have allowed in a game in the last 10 seasons, per ESPN Stats & Information.
So much of Bradford’s poise can be credited to an offensive line that kept him upright, save for one third-quarter sack at the hands of Saints rookie Cam Jordan.
Minnesota’s O-line, which featured new starters at each position, relieved major doubt about a unit that struggled to stay healthy a year ago and was forced to reshuffle constantly.
In his return to Minnesota to face the team he played with for 10 seasons, Adrian Peterson didn’t achieve his ultimate goal of “walking away with a W.” He didn’t do much to “stick it” to the Vikings either, recordings six carries for a total of 18 yards.
Dalvin Cook, however, made the most of his rookie debut and then some.
How about making some history while we’re at it?
Cook’s 127 yards were the most rushing yards by a Vikings rookie in his debut in franchise history. A 32-yard rush from scrimmage in the fourth quarter set up a touchdown three plays later by Kyle Rudolph.