Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings: Final Grades & Analysis for Minnesota
Adrian Peterson has moved past Percy Harvin and is once again the Vikings best player, dominating the Lions to the tune of 171 yards rushing and a back-breaking 61-yard touchdown run.
The roller-coaster ride of a season continues for Minnesota, who had looked awful for the past month before coming out and playing four solid quarters against the Lions.
Christian Ponder, playing in the most important game of his career, played almost mistake free, tossing two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The defense did a great job against the league's leading pass offense, giving up yards, but coming up with 2 huge turnovers that killed any momentum the Lions could muster.
Minnesota Vikings 34 Detroit Lions 24
Stay with us for fourth quarter grades and then Final grades and analysis to follow.
In a stat that nobody would believe, Matthew Stafford just threw his first touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson this season.
Johnson takes a short completion and extends his long arms over the goal line for an 11-yard touchdown to keep the Lions small hopes alive.
Minnesota Vikings 34 Detroit Lions 17
Calvin Johnson coughs up the football after a 20-yard gain and Antoine Winfield recovers it at the Lions 45 yard line.
Peterson's 21-yard run puts the Vikings in field goal territory.
Blair Walsh drills it from 33 yards to put the Vikings 17 points up.
Minnesota Vikings 31 Detroit Lions 17
The Detroit Lions might have Megatron, but the Minnesota Vikings have Superman.
Adrian Peterson rips off a 61-yard touchdown run when the Vikings need it most, putting the Vikings up by 14 points halfway through the fourth quarter.
Peterson broke through the line in the middle of the field and made a great cut to the outside and set sail down the sidelines, outrunning the Lions d-backs on his way to the end zone.
Minnesota Vikings 24 Detroit Lions 17
The starter's gun seems to have gone off at Mall of America Field.
The Lions come up huge on offense, answering Minnesota's score in the blink of an eye.
Personal fouls on Mistral Raymond and Jasper Brinkley certainly don't help and Stafford finds Titus Young for a 1-yard touchdown to keep the Lions within a score.
Minnesota Vikings 24 Detroit Lions 10
In perhaps the most important possession of the season, the Vikings come through big time, marching the ball 62 yards and score a huge touchdown, a 20-yard pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph.
Ponder finds Rudolph on back to back 3rd down plays, the second resulting in a touchdown. Adrian Peterson converts a huge 2-point conversion.
End of the 3rd Quarter
Minnesota Vikings 16 Detroit Lions 10
The Lions quick-strike offense finally shows up and Detroit is right back in the ball game.
Stafford finds Calvin Johnson with a 51-yarder to get deep into Vikings territory and then Brandon Pettigrew beats Harrison Smith for an easy 16-yard score.
Points out of the Vikings next drive are pretty crucial.
Minnesota Vikings 16 Detroit Lions 3
Adrian Peterson isn't piling up huge numbers, but his presence on the field is forcing the Lions to fill the box and it finally pays off for the Vikings when Ponder finds Devin Aromashodu for a 32-yard gain down to the Lions 3-yard line.
The first down play is more than a little metaphorical as it finds Ponder falling on his ass to lose 7-yards. Two ugly plays leave the Vikings with just three points and another red zone failure.
End of the First Half
Minnesota Vikings 13 Detroit Lions 3
Leslie Frazier wisely ignores a smattering of boos as the Vikings kick a field goal on 4th and 2 inside the Lions 5-yard line. Blair Walsh is good from 23-yards to put the Vikings back up 10.
Stephen Burton with a brutal drop that would have given Minnesota a first down inside the fifteen yard line. A great effort by Toby Gerhart after a dump off comes up a bit short.
Adrian Peterson gouged the Lions defense and Ponder with a nice 20-yard run to move the ball down the field.
Minnesota Vikings 10 Detroit Lions 3
Kevin Williams comes up with a huge sack of Matthew Stafford to pull the plug on a long Lions drive and keep them to a 41-yard field goal from Jason Hanson.
End of First Quarter
Minnesota Vikings 10 Detroit Lions 0
Chad Greenway, the leading tackler in the NFL, comes up with a big interception of Matthew Stafford, giving the Vikings the ball in Detroit territory.
After a bizarre play that cost the Vikings 15 yards, Blair Walsh converts from 48 yards to put the Vikings up 10-0.
Minnesota Vikings 7 Detroit Lions 0
Welcome to the NFL, Jarius Wright.
Active for the first time in 2012, rookie Jarius Wright has a 54-yard reception and then a 3-yard touchdown catch in his first series to stake the Vikings to an early 7-0 lead against the Lions.
The Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings are underway at Mall of America Field in Minneapolis. Both teams are fighting to keep their playoff hopes legitimate. The Vikings are playing without Percy Harvin, who suffered a bad ankle sprain last Sunday.
You can see the game beginning at 1 PM Eastern on Fox. Stay with us throughout the afternoon for instant grades and analysis for Minnesota.
Christian Ponder: B+
Final Grade: B+
Christian Ponder deserves all the credit in the world for Sunday's solid performance against the Lions.
Coming off an awful month of football and heading into a game where seemingly any poor play could have had his entire football world caving in around him, Ponder was up to the challenge Sunday and will shut up his critics for at least another two weeks.
Ponder finished 24 of 32 for 221 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He threw no interceptions and picked up a big first down early, running for 20 yards when the Vikings offense was in desperate need of a big play.
Ponder completed passes to 10 different receivers (including himself), and looked poised and sure of himself in doing so.
The kid has a lot of guts, that's for sure. The football world was ready to step on his throat heading into Sunday and he came up with one of his better performances as a pro.
4th Quarter Grade: A-
Ponder finally gets some momentum going with Kyle Rudolph, who comes up with some big catches that keep the chains moving, topped off by his 20 yard touchdown.
Ponder played mistake free ball in the fourth quarter and deserves his share of credit for the win.
3rd Quarter Grade: B+
Ponder goes 10 of 11 on the quarter and is very efficient everywhere other than the red zone.
Ponder has a very efficient second drive that stalls in the red zone and the Vikings pick up just 3 points. Kyle Rudolph has two grabs on the drive, but should have had three, he made a poor effort on a very catchable ball. Not what you want to see when your quarterback is struggling.
Ponder made a very good throw to Devin Aromashodu for a 32-yard gain that set up the field goal.
Ponder spreading the ball around nicely, getting gains from a variety of different receivers.
2nd Quarter Grade: B
Adrian Peterson continues to be a dominant force and Ponder picks up a big 20 yards with his legs to move the Vikings on a long drive that set up Blair Walsh's second field goal of the game. Stephen Burton with a terrible drop that killed the drive in the red zone.
Poor clock management by Ponder late in the quarter, hurrying to get off a play on a big 3rd down, when he had both the two minute warning and three timeouts to work with.
Ponder finishes the half 13 of 18 for just over 100 yards.
1st Quarter Grade: B+
Christian Ponder started out like he was playing for his football life. He stepped around a defender a delivered a perfect 54-yard pass to Jarius Wright down the middle of the field to set up the first touchdown, again finding Wright open in the flat.
A bit of bad luck on the second series, Ponder caught a pass that was batted back to him, accidentally putting the Vikings in a bad down and distance spot.
Vikings Offense: A
Final Grade: A
Adrian Peterson continues to be absolutely amazing in his comeback from reconstructive knee surgery. Sunday's game puts him right in the middle of MVP talk, as he picked up his team and put them on his back when they needed him most.
Peterson gained 171 yards on 27 carries and his 61-yard run touchdown run in the fourth quarter finished off the Lions chances of a comeback.
Kyle Rudolph, who had been missing in action for the past month, came back in a big way, catching 7 balls for 64 yards and a touchdown. Jarius Wright had a memorable debut, hauling in a 54-yarder for his first NFL catch and adding a touchdown in his first game.
The line did it's job, especially in the second half.
4th Quarter Grade: A
With their season possibly hanging in the balance, the Vikings offense comes up with one of their best quarters of the season, putting up 18 points and running away from the Lions.
Adrian Peterson is on the short list of MVP candidates after another dominating performance, his 61-yard touchdown run putting a huge dagger in the Lions hopes.
3rd Quarter Grade: B
Moved down the field twice early in the quarter, but only got 3 points out of it. Kyle Rudolph with a drop on a very catchable ball, these things can't happen when your quarterback is struggling.
Peterson is not getting any room to run, but he's certainly keeping the Lions defense honest.
Rudolph has more than made up for his drop, moving the chains late in the quarter.
2nd Quarter Grade: B-
The defense deserves more than a 10 point lead at the half.
Adrian Peterson seemed like he had a bigger half than he actually did, picking 37 yards, but he still has absolutely nowhere to run on most of his touches.
Stephen Burton with a really bad drop in the red zone that kept Minnesota to just a field goal.
After the 54-yard bomb to Wright, Ponder finishes the half with just 102 yards.
1st Quarter Grade: B+
Scored 10 first quarter points, should have had 14.
Christian Ponder off to a big start in the most crucial game of his career, hits rookie Jarius Wright on a 54-yard pass right down the middle of the field to set up a short TD pass to Wright.
Penalties and bad fortune limited the Vikings other possessions in the quarter. Charlie Johnson got bowled over by Nick Fairly and might as well have not even been there on a run where Adrian Peterson lost yards.
Vikings Defense: A-
Final Grade: A-
Matthew Stafford threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns, but the Vikings completely throttled the Detroit running game, making the Lions offense one-dimensional. (Yeah, it's a heckuva dimension, but it wasn't enough on Sunday.)
The Vikings defense was pretty solid all over the field.
The front line and linebackers were exceptional against the run and the secondary gave a little ground, but didn't let the Lions win the game through the air.
Most importantly, the defense forced two turnovers in crucial spots in the game.
4th Quarter Grade: B
The Lions scored 14 points in the quarter, but the Vikings defense got the big play they needed, Antoine Winfield recovering a Calvin Johnson fumble that put a dagger in the Lion's comeback hopes.
After getting bludgeoned on back to back drives by Calvin Johnson, the Vikings defense comes up with a critical hold on the Lions second possession of the quarter. Fred Evans sniffs out a screen to Mikel Leshoure and breaks it up, forcing the Lions to a 3rd and 20 and another incompletion gets the defense off the field. A huge hold, if Detroit scores on that drive, things turn bleak.
3rd Quarter Grade: C+
The Lions passing offense is just too good to shut out for long. Stafford with two big throws marches the Lions right down the field and into the end zone at a time in the game when the Lions were desperate for points.
Another three and out for Detroit on their first drive of the quarter. Very important because you got the feeling that if the Lions scored right away, this could have turned into a shootout that the Vikings don't want any part of.
2nd Quarter Grade: A
The Vikings defense held the NFL's leading pass offense to just 97 yards passing in the half, and just 76 net yards passing after the two sacks.
Great coverage downfield is giving the Vikings rushers time to harass Stafford and limit him to quick, short completions. The defensive front and linebackers have completely bottled up Mikel Leshoure and the Detroit running attack.
The Vikings defense is doing a great job of getting off the field when they have to. The Lions took over the ball with two minutes left and the D came up with a big three and out on a crucial possession. Everson Griffen got to Stafford on 3rd and 8 for another sack where credit has to be given to the secondary.
1st Quarter Grade: A
The Vikings defense caught a break on Detroit's first possession. After a couple of completions for first downs from Matthew Stafford, a Ryan Broyles illegal block cost the Lions fifteen big yards and the defense was able to get off the field.
Chad Greenway comes up with one of the big plays that everyone has been screaming for, stepping in front of Brandon Pettigrew for an interception that set up the Vikings for a field goal. Brian Robison with another batted pass to start the drive, gave the Vikings momentum to build on.
Great defense all over the field on Detroit's third possession. The Vikings are giving up short throws, but keeping the Lions from getting any offensive momentum.
Vikings Special Teams: A
Final Grade: A
A pretty flawless game from the special teams. Marcus Sherels proved he can handle both return duties, he doesn't have the explosion of Harvin, but if Harvin is on a tender ankle, he shouldn't be risked on kick returns.
Chris Kluwe had a great bounce back game after a couple of sub-par performances. His coverage unit allowed one big return, but did their job for the rest of the game.
Blair Walsh continues to be spectacular.
4th Quarter Grade: B
Chris Kluwe with a 54-yard punt, but the coverage team gives up a rare big return as Stefan Logan busts through the first wave of tacklers and picks up a nice 31-yard return.
Walsh gets two touchbacks and another field goal.
3rd Quarter Grade: B+
Marcus Sherels with a nice return to open the half, giving the offense the ball at the 37 yard line to start the quarter.
No clue why the Vikings wouldn't give Blair Walsh a shot from 56-yards indoors, but Kluwe's punt pins Detroit deep in their own end. Let's hope those three points aren't needed.
2nd Quarter Grade: A
Once again, nearly flawless. The Vikings kicking game continues to give Detroit long fields to work with.
Walsh good on a chip shot field goal to push the lead back to 10 and Chris Kluwe with a key punt at the two minute warning that pinned the Lions at their own 24. Kluwe with a 51-yarder that went into the end zone with under a minute to go.
1st Quarter Grade: A
Blair Walsh good from 48 yards. Kickoff coverage team gets down the field and pins the Lions inside their own 15 yard line. Marcus Sherels made a nice catch on a short punt to give the Vikings good field position, if Sherels doesn't catch that ball, who knows how far it could have rolled.
Chris Kluwe with a good 45-yard punt to pin Detroit's offense deep in their own end.
Vikings Coaches: B
Final Grade: B
It's tough to give them less than a B when they win the most crucial game they've played in in three seasons.
Oddly, I'd give Bill Musgrave an A for Sunday's game and give the rest of the group lower grades.
I hated the decision not to kick a field goal early in the third quarter, but that will quietly go away because it ended up not mattering.
The bottom line is the Vikings won a huge game and they schemed Detroit very well. Calvin Johnson ended up having a huge game statistically, but the Vikings made sure that he didn't kill them.
The Vikings ground the clock, ending up with nine more minutes of possession than Detroit, and their special teams came up big, constantly giving the Lions long fields to deal with.
4th Quarter Grade: B+
They got the win, I'll give them that.
Again, credit to Bill Musgrave who's taken a beating in Minnesota this year, but he was on task today. Ponder continued to hit his short throws and he used Peterson effectively (but that's probably impossible not to do).
Only negative would be having Peterson on the field and taking another carry on the last possession. No need for him to be out there at that point.
3rd Quarter Grade: C
Why on earth wouldn't you try a 56-yard field goal with Blair Walsh? Awful decision. Chris Kluwe's 37-yard punt pinned Detroit and the defense got them off the hook, but they should have given Walsh the attempt after the first possession in the quarter. You need all the points you can get against a team as explosive as the Lions and the Vikings coaches left 3 on the sidelines there.
Credit to Musgrave, as the Vikings are spreading the ball around on short passes that are moving the ball down the field.
2nd Quarter Grade: C
The team did come out to play, we'll give them that much.
Pretty boring play calling. The Vikings have just a 10-point lead in a game that they completely dominated and your eyeballs tell you they should be ahead by a lot more.
Frazier should have called a timeout on third down just before the two-minute warning.
The defensive coaches deserve a much better grade, but the bottom line is the Vikings are only up 10.
1st Quarter Grade: C
Okay fellas, you've got some explaining to do. Jarius Wright showed more in one series than every receiver on the roster other than Percy Harvin. What the hell have you been looking at in practice every day?