The first game of the 2019 regular season was a smashing success for the Minnesota Vikings. They got off to a perfect start, grabbed the lead and never looked back.
With that said, there are still some things that can be cleaned up or are areas of concern heading into a massive road game against the Packers. Let's get to the winners and losers from Week 1.
Winner: Establishing The Run
Mike Zimmer has become known for his consistent harping on how the Vikings need to "establish the run." He got his way, in a big way, against the Falcons. The Vikings ran the ball a whopping 38 times and had major success. Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, CJ Ham and the offensive line (especially new right guard Josh Kline) deserve a lot of credit for their play, as do Zimmer, Kevin Stefanski and Gary Kubiak for executing their gameplan.
Loser: Pat Elflein
If there was one player on the entire roster who stood out in a negative way for the Vikings, it was left guard Pat Elflein. He really struggled against stud Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, getting burned with ease on multiple plays. Jarrett is an outstanding player, but Elflein has to offer more resistance than he did. With the Packers' Kenny Clark and the Bears' Eddie Goldman also on the schedule this month, Elflein needs to get better in a hurry or the Vikings may need to look for a replacement.
Winner: Anthony Harris
The Vikings' defense played excellently at all three levels against an explosive Atlanta offense. The biggest playmaker by far was Harris, who intercepted Matt Ryan twice and recovered a fumble. The first pick came on an impressive leaping catch while Harris was covering Julio Jones, and the second was in the back of the end zone and took the wind out of the Falcons' sails. Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes are the big names in the Vikings' secondary (and both played very well), but Harris showed why he deserves more publicity and why he will be receiving a lucrative contract this offseason.
Loser: Dumb Penalties
The biggest area of the game that Zimmer will want to fix this week in practice was the penalties. The Vikings jumped offsides or into the neutral zone four times, three of which came on third down and extended Atlanta drives. Those are mental mistakes that you can't make. Riley Reiff also had a block in the back penalty and Kris Boyd committed pretty blatant pass interference. In total, the Vikings committed 11 penalties for 100 yards. That won't cut it at Lambeau Field in a week.
Winner: Kirk Cousins' Efficiency
The Vikings' handsomely-paid quarterback only threw ten passes against the Falcons, but he looked good in that limited action. The touchdown pass to Adam Thielen was perfectly placed, and his best throw of the day came on a beautiful touch pass to Stefon Diggs for a big gain. Cousins was sharp and benefited from an extra emphasis on play-action. He will undoubtedly have to be a much bigger part of the game next Sunday against the Packers. Hopefully Diggs' hamstring will be 100 percent by then, and maybe we'll see some Irv Smith Jr. or even Josh Doctson in the passing game.
Loser: Kirk Cousins' Touchdown Dance
I mean, come on.