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Stefon Diggs plays big as Vikings' offense rolls over Saints

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Diggs discusses big win over Saints (0:57)

Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs joins SVP to reflect on his performance and his first impression of rookie running back Dalvin Cook in his NFL debut. (0:57)

MINNEAPOLIS -- With cleats like that, how could Stefon Diggs not have a breakout night?

Channeling future Pro Football Hall of Famer 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 to string 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.

"Just paying respect," Diggs said. "[Moss] did some great things for the game. A living legend right now, and I just wanted to pay respect. I grew up wanting to play receiver just because of him."

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 -- Moss.

There's something about high-stakes games that bring out the best in Diggs. Two of his three touchdowns in 2016 occurred in prime time, and the performance he capped off Week 1 with this season sparks some momentum to start off strong after battling through injuries last season.

"I just feel like it's my job to take care of my body," Diggs said. "I play a contact sport, 99.9 percent injury rate. As far as being injury-prone or getting hurt, it's going to happen. But it's my job to take care of my body, come week in and week out."

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.

Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford outdueled counterpart Drew Brees’ usual prolific passing attack by switching up his M.O. entirely. Instead of relying on the short throws that helped him to an NFL-record 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, 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 over the past 10 seasons, per ESPN Stats & Information research.

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 Cameron Jordan, who is the son of former Vikings tight end Steve Jordan.

"I think our guys up front played great tonight," Bradford said. "I had all the time in the world back there. And when they play like that, it makes my job easy.

"I think the game ball should go to our offensive line, because those guys played fantastic tonight."

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.

"Inside our building, we have all the confidence in the world in those guys," Bradford said. "They showed it through OTAs. They showed it through training camp that they could be a really good unit up front. And tonight they came out and really set the tone for us. And when they play like that, we’re going to be a good offense."

In his return to Minnesota to face the team he played with for 10 seasons, Saints running back 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.

Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook, however, made the most of his rookie debut -- and then some.

How about making some history while he's 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.

"You can’t say enough about him," Bradford said of Cook. "I think we’ve all been impressed with him since he showed up. I think I’d probably be lying if I said I didn’t expect that from him tonight. That’s how good we think he is. He’s a great player, and I expect him to only get better."