CINCINNATI — Vikings defensive tackle Michael Pierce hadn’t played an NFL game in more than 600 days, so forgive him for being amped to play in Sunday’s season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“I woke up super, super early, without an alarm,” said Pierce, the 340-pounder who opted out of playing last season because of COVID. “I was ready, and I think I played pretty well. Obviously, I jumped offside, and that led to a big play, so some things I’ve got to tighten up on. But I think it was a good start.”

The fact that Pierce brought up his mistake before any of his big plays speaks volumes about him. As thrilled as Pierce had to be have two sacks and two tackles for a loss in his return to live football, it came in a losing effort as the Vikings suffered a 27-24 overtime loss.

“You’re always thinking about the plays that lead to big plays,” Pierce said. “I’ve jumped offsides once in my career, and that was my rookie year. I think somebody asked me about that in the interview last week, actually. I told somebody, ‘You move when the center moves.’ So I did not do a good job of that. I’ll be thinking about that a lot because that led to a big play.”

On that particular play, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow used the free play to his advantage with a deep shot down the right sideline. In the process, Vikings cornerback Bashaud Breeland got tagged for a 26-yard pass interference penalty and the Bengals scored a touchdown a couple of plays later.

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As tough as Pierce was on himself after the game, he did more than enough to make up for any of his mistakes, even if he won’t admit it. Like when Bengals coach Zac Taylor inexplicably decide to go for it on fourth-and-inches from his own 30-yard line, Pierce was a part of the wall up front that forced the turnover on downs.

“It’s our job to win those matchups and prove we’re the best on the field,” Pierce said before shifting his focus to the Week 2 game at Arizona next Sunday. “We gave up too many big plays to win the game today. We have a lot to work on. Thank god we got a game in six days.”

It’s worth noting that Pierce did allow himself to celebrate his personal successes despite the overtime loss. If only for a moment.

“It feels great,” he said. “For a person that has three-and-a-half career sacks, to come out with two sacks after a year and a half off, it was great. It was just about me proving (co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson) right about bringing me here. Just being thankful to be on the field again and having fun.”