Vikings vs. Lions: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Minnesota
The Minnesota Vikings opened the 2013 season as extras in the Reggie Bush show as he debuted for the Lions at Ford Field in Detroit. Bush ended up accounting for 191 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown, and Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford passed for 357 yards and two touchdowns.
There were a few bright spots for the Vikings, including Adrian Peterson's opening carry of the season for a 78-yard touchdown run and Jerome Simpson leading the Vikings with seven catches for 140 yards.
There were also some not-so-bright spots as the Vikings defense allowed 469 yards and 34 points, while the Vikings offense only scored 24 points and turned the ball over four times.
Here's a breakdown of the Vikings roster and how it graded out against the Lions on Sunday.
Christian Ponder played better than some of his games from last season but not well enough to overcome a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
On a positive note, he finished 18-of-28 for 236 yards and a touchdown. But he also had three interceptions. While only one of them resulted in points for the Lions, it came at a very crucial point in the game.
At the time, the Vikings were ahead 14-6 and within Blair Walsh's range.
On 1st-and-10 from the Lions' 38-yard line, Ponder was flushed out of the pocket to his left and tried to connect with Greg Jennings. It was a bad decision.
Ndamukong Suh was able to hit his arm, causing the pass to float and flutter. The correct play would have been to throw the ball out of bounds or into the ground. Instead, Stephen Tulloch caught the ball and the Lions offense scored a touchdown with 12 seconds left in the half.
It helped make the score 14-13, instead of possibly 17-6—and that could have made a big difference when the second half opened.
Grade: D—Because of the crucial timing of his second interception.
Last season, Adrian Peterson carried the ball 348 times, and the rest of the Vikings' running backs had a combined total of 53 carries.
In Sunday's game against the Lions, Peterson was the only running back to have the ball handed to him from quarterback Christian Ponder.
Peterson finished with 93 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns. On the surface, his average of 5.2 yards per carry is very impressive.
But after breaking down that 78 of those yards came on the Vikings' first offensive play of the game and that he only had 15 yards on the next 17 carries, it paints a slightly different story.
Grade: C+—For anyone else, this would be a higher grade, but this is Adrian Peterson, and a lot is expected. He seemed to run out of gas as the game progressed.
The Vikings improved their wide receiver position this offseason by signing Greg Jennings and drafting Cordarrelle Patterson, but it was Jerome Simpson who stole the spotlight for the Vikings' receivers in Week 1.
All five of the Vikings' receivers were on the field Sunday, and they combined to catch 11 of Christian Ponder's 18 completions. Simpson led the way with seven catches for a game-high 140 yards. At this pace, Simpson will match his total of 26 catches from last year by Week 4.
One glaring problem for the game can be found in the last column of the table above.
Grade: B—Simpson's performance raises the grade.
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A lot is expected from Kyle Rudolph after earning the Pro Bowl MVP last year.
Rudolph led the Vikings with nine touchdown passes last season, and more of that is going to be needed this year.
In Sunday's game, all three of the Vikings' tight ends—Rudolph, John Carlson and Rhett Ellison—were in the game against the Lions, but only Rudolph made the stat sheet.
Rudolph caught two passes for 27 yards, with a long of 21 yards. With Christian Ponder dropping back 28 times, it would have been nice to see Rudolph catch a few more passes. Carlson was targeted once, but the pass was nowhere near him.
Grade: C—If only they could throw the ball to themselves.
The Minnesota Vikings opened the 2013 season with the exact same offensive line that started all 16 games last season: Matt Kalil (LT), Charlie Johnson (RG), John Sullivan (C), Brandon Fusco (RG) and Phil Loadholt (RT).
Joe Berger and J'Marcus Webb were the active backups, and rookie Jeff Baca was inactive.
The line looked good in the running game, at least for the Vikings' opening offensive play, when Adrian Peterson ran 78 yards for a touchdown—after that it was pretty brutal.
Many of the next 17 times he ran the ball, Peterson was met in the backfield. He finished with only 15 more yards.
Quarterback Christian Ponder was also under a lot of pressure most of the game, as he was sacked three times. One of his interceptions came after the pressure forced him out of the pocket and he was forced to throw across his body.
The Minnesota Vikings have a young defensive secondary, including a rookie and three second-year players, and they are going to need all the help they can get from the rest of the defense.
That help starts up front with the Vikings' defensive line putting pressure on the opposing quarterback. It doesn't have to necessarily sack the quarterback, but it must pressure him, taking away any time to find an open receiver.
The Vikings were without defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who missed the game due to the knee injury he suffered against the 49ers in the preseason. That allowed rookie Sharrif Floyd to get his first NFL start of his career.
Here are the stats from NFL.com for the Vikings' defensive line against the Lions.
In Sunday's game, the defense was on the field most of the time as the Lions offense won the time of possession battle, keeping the ball for over 36 minutes of the game.
With the starters playing very sparingly during the preseason, they did not look ready for the track meet that developed in this game. Matthew Stafford was sacked only once as he picked apart the defense for 357 yards and two touchdowns.
Grade: D—There was too little pressure put on Stafford.
When the music stopped in the game of musical chairs being played for the Minnesota Vikings' linebackers, Chad Greenway wound up the starter on the strong side, Erin Henderson the starter in the middle and Marvin Mitchell on the weak side.
Their chief backups are Larry Dean, Audie Cole and Desmond Bishop, with Penn State rookies Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti making the team.
In Sunday's game against the Lions, the Vikings' linebackers had plenty of opportunities to make a play since the Lions ran 76 plays—43 passing and 33 running.
Henderson led all Vikings with seven total tackles. He also came up with a big interception in the second quarter, exactly one play after Christian Ponder threw an interception.
I don't recall ever hearing Mitchell's or Bishop's name ever being called during the game. Most likely because the Vikings played with an extra cornerback for most of the game.
Grade: C—The only game-changing play came with Henderson's interception.
The Vikings' cornerbacks knew they were going to have their hands full against the Lions on Sunday. They did a nice job of limiting Calvin Johnson to only four catches for 37 yards. What they weren't counting on was for former Viking Nate Burleson to catch six passes for 78 yards or Reggie Bush to catch four passes for 101 yards.
All told, Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford completed 28 of 43 passes for 357 yards.
Rookie Xavier Rhodes saw plenty of action in the game, making three tackles, but a pass interference call against him with the Lions facing a 3rd-and-5 on the Vikings' 27-yard line sticks out as one of the bigger mistakes for the Vikings. At the time, the Vikings were down by a field goal with just over eight minutes left in the game.
The penalty gave the Lions the ball on the 15-yard line and led to a Detroit touchdown, giving the Lions their final margin of victory.
Grade: C-—Considering they held Johnson to only four catches and 37 yards.
On a positive note, safeties Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford played very well, leading the team with seven tackles apiece along with linebacker Erin Henderson. But looking at it another way, if your safeties are making the most tackles, that means most of the play on defense is downfield.
In Sunday's game against the Lions, the Vikings were without Mistral Raymond, who was inactive due to a shoulder injury. The backups for the game were Robert Blanton and Andrew Sendejo.
Early in the fourth quarter, Smith made a great open-field tackle on running back Joique Bell on a 3rd-and-8 that forced the Lions to punt.
Grade: C+—That many tackles also means that many balls caught in front of them.
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Blair Walsh was perfect from 50 yards or further in 2012. He started the 2013 season by keeping that string in tact with a 52-yard field goal against the Lions on Sunday.
That's an incredible start considering he is working with a new holder and was 0-of-2 this preseason on attempts between 40 and 49 yards.
Walsh also put all five of his kickoffs through the end zone for a touchback, not allowing the Lions a chance for any return.
Rookie punter Jeff Locker handled the holder duties well enough, but his punting came up a little bit short. He finished with an average of 34.8 yards on five punts—down almost 10 yards from his average during his four years at UCLA. Hopefully, it's just opening-day jitters, and he will settle down and get a little more distance on his punts.
Punt returner Marcus Sherels only had one return in the game for six yards. Late in the game, he tried to decoy the coverage team on a punt that was downed at the 1-yard line with 4:25 left in the game.
Cordarrelle Patterson's regular-season debut was delayed a bit by Detroit kicker Sam Martin, who put the first four of his kickoffs through the end zone for a touchback. He did return the last two for an average of 27 yards. On his first return, he fielded the ball eight yards deep in the end zone and was one broken tackle away from a huge return before being tripped up at the 22-yard line.
He definitely flashed the potential as a threat to return one for a touchdown.
Grade: B—The long field goal helped, but Locke's average brings the grade down a bit.