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Vikings fans have a right to be upset with a coaching staff that couldn't seem to take advantage of the risks the Detroit defense was making, or with the holes the Vikings were opening up in the running game. Even knowning that the Vikings have been keeping Adrian Peterson on an obvious pitch count, he was still criminally underutilized, with only 21 carries. Going into the fourth quarter, Peterson was averaging over six yards a carry, exceeding Christian Ponder's yards per attempt—an exceedingly rare event.
Leslie Frazier: B-
Despite what most may think, the Vikings did in fact adjust over the course of the game to what they saw. With Detroit willing to spread Minnesota's defense horizontally, the Vikings responded with tighter outside coverage, helping eliminate what could have been a series of devastating catches. Mistakes were caught and fixed on the sidelines, and Detroit could not find consistent holes in coverage.
There weren't challenge or clock management issues, and the game plan on offense and defense was clearly designed based on what they saw on tape. That said, Frazier still did not provoke Musgrave to either provide Ponder with greater latitude after the snap or change the playcalling scheme. He's the captain of the ship, and ultimately responsible for what happens on the field.
He's not in charge of the offense, but he should have seen earlier that they were inexplicably gaining much more on the ground than in the air. Ten more carries by Peterson would have potentially given the Vikings red zone looks, where they play a different, more effective offense.
Bill Musgrave: D
The Vikings offensive coordinator may have been riding a wave of optimism and confidence after three well called games against tough opponents, but was either too creative without results, or too predictable. Somehow, the wildcat/direct snap to Percy Harvin was both—the Lions defense knew it was a designed run and it started from an ineffective point—several yards back from the shotgun position.
One of the biggest issues with Musgrave's playcalling over the course of the season was not his conservatism; one could easily argue his safe play design was structured to take advantage of the Vikings' strengths and hide their weaknesses. Rather, his problem has been with situational playcalling, often calling for short passes or even runs on third and long, or being ignorant of field position when playing outside the red zone.
Several times, the Vikings could have made serious adjustments account for the fact that the Lions defense was providing a much different look than they had in the previous games, including wider positioning for the linebackers and cornerbacks closer to the line. Playing without preselected passes or hot reads and allowing routes to attack the middle before the ball is thrown is one way to make Detroit back off, and there are several other ways Musgrave could have, but didn't try.
He doesn't deserve an F, simply because Musgrave stopped committing to gadget plays or finding ways to make the Vikings regress further. It was nothing to celebrate, however. Having 6 points put on the board by the offense is partially the fault of the offense, but in this case has more to do with Bill Musgrave.
Alan Williams: A-
Williams had a career day, and already is proving to be a much more effective coordinator than Fred Pagac ever was. He's calling for a variety of zone and man coverages that suit different situations, yet maintain the same core philosophies. Only the Jaguars had more yards per play against the Vikings than other opponents. Even the 49ers couldn't hold the Lions to under 14 points or 4.9 yards per play.
Williams is clearly changing the defensive strategies from game to game, but is still committed to keeping defenders up top and preventing yards after the catch. The bracketing strategy with safeties will eventually yield more interceptions, and the Vikings found several opportunities to create turnovers that went missed.
Occasionally, William's schemes were sussed out and took some time to change, but they still prevented the bevy of points the Lions are used to scoring. The defensive coordinator's ability to rely on the defensive line to create pressure gave him more options in coverage, and Williams was more than ready to use them. Many times, when the defense seemed to have failed, execution was a larger issue than the defensive scheme, and Williams is certainly acting like he can create defenses that adapt to both the offense and its own players.
Mike Priefer: A+
The special teams shined in the Vikings' win over Detroit, and Priefer is a big reason why. The Vikings have found a blocking strategy that effectively moves the returners forward, and there were specific tactics the Vikings employed after Priefer got his hands on the film from the Lions' disappointing performance against Tennessee.
The most electric play was designed to take advantage of Jonte Green's inability to react to inside cuts off of basic blocking, and the Vikings exploited this tendency to create large lanes for Percy Harvin on his touchdown return from five yards deep.
The emphasis the Vikings have placed on special teams performance in the offseason is paying off, and the careful attention to detail Priefer has given each position has allowed the Vikings to dominate the field position game.
Lane assignment issues from the San Francisco game were fixed, and the timing of the coverage units has been exemplary. The Vikings have one of the top special teams units in the league, and Priefer is a big reason why.