The Saints were looking for a strong performance from the defense, and former Viking Adrian Peterson was looking for the same against his former team.
Neither happened as the Saints fell to Minnesota 29-19 in the season opener for both teams on Monday Night Football.
Peterson carried the ball on the first play of the game for 9 yards, starting a Saints drive that resulted in a Wil Lutz 43-yard field goal and an early Saints lead.
But the Saints spread its carries among Peterson, Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara, and Peterson never really got into the flow of the game.
Peterson finished with 18 yards on 6 carries, Ingram with 17 yards on 6 carries and Kamara with 18 on 7 carries.
At one point, ESPN cameras caught what appeared to be a tense exchange between Peterson and Saints coach Sean Payton. Asked about the exchange, Peterson said, "We'll keep that confidential." He also told reporters, "There's no conflict. Let's not try to spin it like it is."
Adrian Peterson is handling this well. pic.twitter.com/bn6KCwhnjp— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) September 12, 2017
The Drew Brees-led offense moved the ball but often stalled in the red zone, repeatedly settling for field goals instead of touchdowns until a late TD pass from Brees to Coby Fleener.
Brees went 27 for 37 for 291 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
Also, Saints tackle Zach Strief was knocked out of the game with a knee injury, adding to growing offensive line issues.
MINNEAPOLIS — The New Orleans Saints headed into the regular season optimistic at a tackle p…
While much of the pregame attention was on Peterson, the game was also a first real test for the Saints' defense, which had showed signs of dominance in the preseason.
But the Vikings exposed cracks in the Saints' defense, taking advantage of breakdowns in the secondary to connect of several long pass plays and three passing TDs.
After the teams traded field goals in the first quarter, a 74-yard Saints drive in the second quarter ended in a 21-yard Lutz field goal and a 6-3 Saints lead.
But the Vikings came right back to score the game's first touchdown on a 18-yard pass from Sam Bradford to Stefon Diggs, who was wide open in the end zone after a busted coverage.
The Vikings used the same combination for a 2-yard TD pass with seconds left in the second quarter and a 16-6 halftime lead.
Later, Bradford connected with Kyle Rudolph for a 15-yard touchdown.
The Saints face a rough opening stretch this season: In addition to Minnesota, New Orleans faces New England at home, travels to Carolina then travels to London to face Miami.
During the summer, Saints coach Sean Payton stressed that the first four games on the schedule matter more than all of the others, because a good start could lead to big things for the Saints, and vice versa.
A good start would contrast with the past three seasons, when the team started 1-3, leading to 7-9 finishes and no postseason play.