Minneapolis – On a historic night as the Minnesota Vikings unveiled a palatial new stadium, one quarterback reigned supreme.
Sam Bradford has only worn a purple-and-white Vikings uniform for a few weeks, but the veteran quarterback outplayed his Green Bay counterpart Aaron Rodgers in a 17-14 victory at sold-out U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday evening.
Bradford showed poise after an uneven start to complete 22 of 31 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns for a sterling 121.2 quarterback rating with no turnovers.
His first touchdown pass was an 8-yarder to tight end Kyle Rudolph over safety Morgan Burnett in the corner of the end zone to tie the score at 7 early in the second quarter. Blair Walsh’s 46-yard field goal made it 10-7 with 27 seconds left before halftime.
In the third stanza, Bradford burned cornerback Damarious Randall—flagged for interference on the play–with a perfect 25-yard pass to speedy Stefon Diggs for a 17-7 cushion. He stayed in the pocket and delivered the ball despite a big hit from Mike Daniels.
“We won and at the end of the day that’s all that matters,” Bradford told the media in his post-game press conference as a record Vikings’ home crowd of 66,813 dispersed into the night. “Obviously any time you can beat a division rival, those games are always big. To win the home opener here this year, I think it was a great way to kind of bring in the year in this new building.”
Conversely, Rodgers struggled at times and completed 20 of 36 passes for 213 yards with one touchdown and one crucial interception—and a 70.7 rating. A relentless Minnesota defense, which held the Packers to 65 net yards in the first half, sacked Rodgers five times and forced three fumbles—two fortuitously recovered by Green Bay.
“We put the ball on the ground four times and lost one of them , and we threw the interception,” head coach Mike McCarthy said. “It was tough sliddin’ tonight. Tough environment. Coming off the game last week (in Florida). That’s the way it is.”
For the record books and trivia lovers, Jordy Nelson scored the first points that counted in the new $1 billion stadium, snaring a 1-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers for a 7-0 Green Bay lead with 5:39 left in the first quarter.
The sputtering Packers offense would not score again until the fourth quarter.
In between, Bradford and Diggs tore up the depleted Green Bay secondary, which was missing top cornerback Sam Shields due to a concussion.
The second-year receiver consistently beat cornerback Damarious Randall in man coverage, catching 9 passes for 182 yards for a whopping 20.2 average per reception with one touchdown. “We were just outplayed,” Randall said. “It’s a tough loss. . . I just didn’t have it tonight.”
While the Packers struggled in coverage, the run defense was superb, limiting All-Pro Adrian Peterson to a mere 19 yards in 12 carries (1.6 yard average) and a long run of five yards before his departure with a right knee injury late in the third quarter.
Green Bay was still in the game in the fourth quarter after Rodgers’ 10-yard touchdown run cut the deficit to 17-14 with 12:41 left.
The Minnesota defense then created two crucial plays to stop Packers drives.
Defensive end Brian Robison sacked Rodgers from behind and forced a fumble that was recovered by Shamar Stephen with seven minutes remaining in the game. On Green Bay’s next possession, cornerback Trae Waynes picked off a 3rd-down-and-14 pass to seal the victory, stepping in front of Davante Adams along the sideline at the Minnesota 41 with 1:56 left to seal the victory as the offense picked up one first down to run out the clock.
A happy Vikings locker room was tempered by the loss of Peterson, who will have an MRI today to determine the extent of his knee injury. Peterson left the locker room on crutches with his right left immobilized.
Rodgers said the Packers offense is still finding itself.
“It’s Week 2, there’s always a lot of work to do,” Rodgers said. “We’re close at times. We just need to figure out what our identity is. That’s created throughout the season. . . We just didn’t have enough success on third down and we turned the ball over too much.”
In an early-season showdown of NFC rivals, the Vikings took the division lead as the Detroit Lions lost, 16-15, to Tennessee. Green Bay, 1-1, hosts Detroit Sunday at Lambeau Field, while the Vikings travel to Carolina.
The Packers’ 12 noon game will be televised exclusively in Western Wisconsin by FOX 25/48.