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And... exhale.

Week 1 – HHH Metrodome, Minneapolis – September 21, 2008 Minnesota 20, Carolina 10 Vikings 1-2, (0-1 NFC North)

Let's hope the gray around the temples means he's "experienced."

In the first of perhaps many “must” win games of this young 2008 season, the Minnesota Vikings defense put the hurt into the Carolina Panthers and points on the board in a 20-10 victory yesterday at the metrodome.

Gus Frerotte, starting in place of the benched Tarvaris Jackson, didn’t have a hall-of-fame game. But then, he didn’t have to. He did what he had to. He was patient. He threw to his second, third, or even his fourth option. He was aggressive. He completed a 48 yard pass and a 34 yard pass for a touchdown. In effect, he wasn’t Tarvaris Jackson. This is not to say he’s our quarterback of the future. The guy is 37 years old. He’s not very mobile. And in 1997, he sprained his neck head-butting the goal post celebrating a touchdown scramble against the Giants.

So maybe he’s not that smart.

But all of this doesn’t matter because this team doesn’t need a star quarterback. The 2008 Vikings are not going to win any games 49-44. That was so 1998. No, this squad excites you with defense. And it was the defense that put on the show Sunday afternoon. After a lackluster first half with little in the way of offensive flare and Adrian Peterson looking stiff from a hamstring injury that plagued him since the Colts’ game, the defense took over with a cornerback blitz from Antoine Winfield. It rattled Carolina QB Jake Delhomme, tied the score at 10 right before the half, and energized the Vikings’ players seemingly for the first time all year.

The second half was all Vikings and the team played as well as many expected this year. Five sacks and another game giving up less than 50 yards to an opponent’s running backs, paved the way to the team’s first victory and made coach Brad Childress look downright savvy for making the move to Frerotte and rescuing the team from an 0-3 start.

Beware the dreads.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention E.J. Henderson, who is the defensive MVP on this team so far this season. He recorded 12 tackles including a couple of the unbelievable variety and is a big part to a much improved linebacking core and overall defensive unit this year.

The road ahead is ominous. The next two contests are on the road against the undefeated Tennessee Titans and a team that maybe should be undefeated, the New Orleans Saints. Ominous yes, but with a defensive effort like Sunday’s and Adrian Peterson on the mend, optimism is once again surrounding the purple and gold.

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