La Velle E. Neal III
See more of the story

The Vikings' opening drive Sunday was a 75-yard journey that took 14 plays and was a clinic in how to begin a game.

There were seven runs and seven passes. The offensive line was on point, Dalvin Cook looked ready for a big game and Kirk Cousins was zipping passes to an array of receivers.

An illegal forward pass penalty on Cousins only delayed the inevitable. The Vikings regrouped and, two plays later, Cousins hit Justin Jefferson with a 12-yard strike for a touchdown.

The statement made to Cleveland was simple and declarative: "Pack a lunch."

The Browns' response was to get after the Vikings offensive line.

"They started pressuring a little bit more," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.

The Vikings' best drive of the day was their only drive of the day that netted points. The offensive line got more than it could handle from a Cleveland front that manhandled the Bears a week earlier.

Cousins was under pressure more Sunday than he has been all season. Cleveland was credited with only two sacks, but Browns defenders broke through the Vikings' leaky wall to hit Cousins 10 times.

Myles Garrett led the attack with one-half sack and four quarterback hits, a week after he sacked Bears quarterback Justin Fields four times. Part of the reason for his big day last week was that two-thirds of Fields' dropbacks were with five-man protection schemes.

The Vikings tried something different, putting tight end Tyler Conklin next to left tackle Rashod Hill at times in an effort to slow Garrett, but Garrett still prevailed more times than he should.

When it did work, it worked too well. The Vikings thought they had a converted a big third-and 12 in the third quarter when Cousins hit Jefferson for a 37-yard gain. But Conklin was called for holding.

"I didn't know until I got to the sideline," Jefferson said. "I think Conk was holding on Myles Garrett or something like that?

"I understood the flag."

On the other end, right tackle Brian O'Neill had his hands full with Jadeveon Clowney, who didn't stuff the stat sheet but still has to be accounted for.

"Those two No. 1 draft picks were a pain [Sunday] on our guys," Zimmer said of Garrett, the top overall pick in 2017, and Clowney, the first player drafted in 2014. "But they did a good job in the run game especially. That allowed them to rush the passer."

When the Vikings offensive line managed to slow down the Browns' edge rushers, Cleveland defensive tackle Malik Jackson was disrupting the middle, getting two tackles, one quarterback hit and two deflected passes.

READ MORE: Browns executed plan that smothered Cousins from all sides

Consequently, Cousins did not have a clean pocket many times Sunday. The happy feet returned, the hurried throws were predictable and the offense scored one touchdown. At home.

Even when asked about how Cousins handled the pressure, Zimmer said: "It's hard for me to tell. He's getting whackedquite a few times."

It's concerning that the line can't slow down a pass rush even when it is in max protection, which Zimmer vowed to examine. The Vikings also rushed for only 65 yards in a one-score game. While Dalvin Cook is coming back from an ankle injury, Alexander Mattison has proven to be a capable sidekick. There were no holes on Sunday.

First-round pick Christian Darrisaw could be an answer at left tackle, but he's playing catchup after having core muscle surgery during training camp. He was active and actually was on the field for one play — as part of the extra-point team after the Vikings' lone touchdown.

So we are back to worrying about the offensive line being able to keep Cousins clean against teams such as the Chargers, 49ers and Rams — upcoming opponents who have strong defensive lines. The Bears have a good pass rush too, and the Vikings play them twice.

When those teams line up against the Purple, it will be the Vikings' turn to pack a lunch.