Another Week 1 Monday Night Football doubleheader is behind us. Here's a recap of what we learned from the doubleheader of games, which included a tough Minnesota return for Adrian Peterson and blocked kick on a last-minute field-goal attempt.
- The Adrian Peterson experiment in New Orleans is going to need some time. I counted nine snaps for Peterson with six carries (18 yards, no touchdowns), his lowest total in his career, per NFL Research. He was not booed (at least not loudly enough to hear it on television), but coach Sean Payton had him in the backfield for his first career non-Vikings snap. On the field, the Saints used him exactly how the world expected Peterson to be used. Just once by my count he appeared in a formation that didn't also feature Drew Brees directly under center. That one shotgun snap also saw Peterson motioned out wide and Brees sacked. In a perfect world, I believe he will be the type of player LeGarrette Blount was in New England -- a convenient closer when the Saints are ahead. There are already two backs (Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram) who fit the system as presently constructed much better. The Saints attempted a goal-line play action to Peterson that was sniffed out and sent a frustrated Peterson back to the bench with no catch and no points.
On another occasion, the Saints ran Peterson on a second-and-short, only to remove him for the third-down play, which clearly telegraphed a pass. Running back Kamara was targeted on a swing pass and drilled behind the line for a loss of six yards.
"I didn't really know what to expect coming in," Peterson said after the game. ..."[We] talked about running the ball a little bit more and, for whatever reason, we got a little away from it."
During the game, the ESPN broadcast showed a video of the running back and Payton appearing to have words on the sideline before halftime.
"We weren't in any heated exchange," Payton said after the game of the dialogue. "I'd tell you if we were in a heated exchange."
When pressed further on if he was upset with Payton, Peterson replied "No, just communicating with him."
"There's no conflict. I've got a lot of respect for Coach Payton and his offense and he's a great mind."
- At this point it's beyond cliché to liken Sam Bradford to a champion dart thrower, but after his surgical performance on Monday night (27 of 32 for 346 yards and three touchdowns), we're hard pressed to find a better descriptor for a quarterback with a delivery that seems so underwhelming and flimsy but produces something so beautiful at a high velocity. Bradford was trick shooting the Saintswhile getting drilled by defenders. When the pocket was clean (which was most of the night, by my count -- Pro Football Focus had no pressures for Bradford in the first half and I counted one), forget about it.
- Good for Stefon Diggs, who had the kind of night that reminded the football universe he is one of their stars. Diggs not only ran the standard stuff well -- his play-action sell on a wide open 18-yard touchdown was flawless -- but he also tracked a deep ball from Bradford down the sideline that he caught while drawing a pass interference penalty. On top of all that, he caught a highly contested 2-yard touchdown pass just four plays after taking a vicious head shot (no doubt a fine coming) for Kenny Vaccaro.
- As expected, Dalvin Cook took the starting role and ran with it Monday, posting 127 yards on 22 carries with another 10 yards receiving, which broke Peterson's record for rushing yards in a Vikings season opener by a rookie. We did not see Latavius Murray until the third quarter and his first attempt was a fumble. Cook is the perfect back to take this Vikings offense into the 21st century. He's a modern workhorse with the ability to run inside but the speed to make his appearance on the outside resemble the final leg of a 200-meter sprint. The only minor criticism from his debut? A little uneven in the passing game. He bobbled one catch and did have a pair of drops (five targets). That seemed more jitter-related than anything.
- If you went to bed a little early, it's a scene worth watching even if you know the result: Two minutes to go, an animated Philip Rivers with the ball and a chance to win or tie. After getting the ball to their own 47-yard line thanks to a quick dump-off to Melvin Gordon and a flick over the middle to Antonio Gates, the Chargers are forced to take their final timeout with 42 seconds remaining -- but not before almost 15 seconds are drained off the clock amid some confusion (the crowd in Denver was noticeable even from the most volume deprived television sets Monday). Gordon converts the first on the ground. Rivers, on the next play, catches Denver corner Bradley Roby climbing over his receiver and draws the flag. Then, he hits Keenan Allen on a suspiciously wide open route allowing him to jog comfortably out of bounds.
Younghoe Koo, the Chargers kicker, drills a game-tying 44-yard field goal but not before Broncos coach Vance Joseph gets the last second timeout off -- an icing attempt. A play later, Shelby Harris, a 26-year-old former seventh-round pick of the Oakland Raiders, shoves his way past a blocker and gets his right fingertip on Koo's second attempt, forcing it to ricochet off to the left.
- I think both Anthony Lynn and Vance Joseph -- brand-new, first-time head coaches without lengthy coordinator stints on their resumes -- learned a ton. Joseph got a little too conservative with a 24-7 lead despite watching quarterback Trevor Siemian (17 of 28, 219 yards, two touchdowns, one INT) make some of the most mature plays of his career to date. Lynn, meanwhile, watched his Chargers struggle with the deafening noise, and watched his coaching staff call plays that took Rivers (22 of 33, 192 yards, three touchdowns and one INT) in and out of control. At this point, it looks like both are good enough to keep their teams interesting until December.