If you were, say, a fan of the New York Giants or Pittsburgh Steelers—somebody with no rooting interest in the Minnesota Vikings-Detroit Lions game—and just saw the score, 34-24 in favor of the Lions, you might assume that it was a well-played game.
The imagined storyline might be something like this: Adrian Peterson scored three touchdowns, two rushing and one receiving, but Minnesota couldn’t overcome either the Lions defense and the Matthew Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson connection and ended up getting beaten by a better team. That would be a reasonable assumption.
It would also be completely wrong.
This game was an absolute slop fest—Ndamukong Suh is clean by comparison (that hit on Sullivan, by the way, was absolute garbage). The only comparison I can think of is playing NFL Blitz with the “More Fumbles” cheat where every time somebody touches the ball, it is turned over—essentially turning what is supposed to be a football game into a rugby contest.
It wasn’t quite that bad, but the play on the field was awful. It began with a fumbled snap on a field goal by the Lions, continued when Ponder tripped handing Peterson the ball and ended only because a regulation game lasts just 60 minutes.
Trust me, both teams would still be turning the ball over right now if there were no game clock.
In the end, Minnesota came out on the losing end. They didn’t get beat as much as they beat themselves. A.D. was the only positive to emerge from Sunday’s performance as Ponder struggled mightily, overshadowing even the holes in the defense.
Winner: Peterson Might Be Superhuman
Adrian Peterson is not human.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) September 8, 2013
Like Lil Wayne, Peterson might not be a human being. This guy legitimately took the first ball he touched all the way to the house.
That’s right: 78 yards, broken ankles, the whole shebang.
When Dr. James Andrews said that Peterson had a “superhuman” recovery, I think he literally meant that he replaced the old, injured A.D. with a cyborg. I mean, how else do you explain a guy taking the first ball placed in his stomach all the way to the end zone?
That’s just unreal.
For right now, I’ll take Peterson’s word when he says he’s “all natural,” but it wouldn’t surprise me if we find out he’s like Darth Vader—more machine now than man.
You know what’s even more unbelievable than a “human being” (let’s use quotations from here on out) taking the first ball he touches 78 yards for a score? This same “human being” finishing the game with only 93 yards and one more touchdown.
Peterson got jammed up in the backfield during his next few carries and wasn’t able to generate any momentum. Part of this is just how he runs: He tends to get a few yards here and there before breaking one loose. Part of this is the offensive line: They can’t let defenders get into the backfield on running plays.
Most of this, however, is on Ponder. He just couldn’t get the passing game going, and he kept coughing up the ball.
Loser: Ponder is Very Human
The former No. 12 overall selection in the 2011 draft has been blessed with plenty of weapons around him: Three capable receivers (Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson and Jerome Simpson), two solid tight ends (Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson) and a Peterson in a pear tree.
Ponder is squandering that talent, however, and at this point, if I were the Vikings, I’d seriously consider Matt Cassel. Sure, he struggled in K.C., but that was a terrible situation, with a questionable OL and lackluster system. He played well in 2008 when Tom Brady went down and should at least get a chance to try and utilize the talent around him in Minnesota.
The Vikings cannot afford to go down 0-2, especially against the two (supposedly) weakest teams in the division, knowing that they have to play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4 and the New York Giants on the road, with the Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals all coming after the bye.
There is a conflict of interest in the front office that might keep Mr. Samantha Steele on the field in Week 2. Ponder is general manger Rick Spielman’s guy, and coach Leslie Frazier is playing for a contract. Frazier might want to put Cassel in to win in the short term, or at least create some change, but Spielman would like to see his pick succeed and might give him a longer leash than even his head coach.
If Ponder is under center against the Chicago Bears next week, and he likely will be, he is going to have to step it up. There is no sense in wasting Peterson’s prime, as well as the team’s receiving talents, on an inadequate quarterback.
I’m prepared to defend Ponder if he simply manages the game, but if he forces balls downfield, stumbles while handing the ball to Peterson and can’t see wide-open targets, he’s got to go. It’s that simple.
Loser: The Defense is Missing Williams, Winfield
Antoine Winfield retired after being cut by Vikings West the Seattle Seahawks and likely watched this game from his couch like the rest of us (if he did at all). Kevin Williams, on the other hand, was watching this game while recovering from an Ndamukong Suh-type hit delivered by Joe Looney of the San Francisco 49ers during the preseason.
It was dirty and the Vikings defense is suffering because of it.
The pass rush on Matthew Stafford was subpar all game, allowing the Lions quarterback to torch the Vikings' shaky secondary for 357 yards and two touchdowns.
That was hardly the only problem, however, as Reggie Bush (yes, that Reggie Bush) had 90 yards rushing and 101 receiving, becoming the first Detroit running back to do so since a man named Barry Sanders.
Bush fantasy owners will be quick to tell you that he should have had two more touchdowns (although those legions—the 10 people—who own Joique Bell have to be thrilled), but the former Miami Dolphin absolutely had his way with the Minnesota defense.
This is going to be problematic heading into Week 2 against Chicago. Give Jay Cutler and his receivers enough time and they will light up that secondary.
Williams will be back, but Chris Cook and Xavier Rhodes have to step it up as well.
This was an ugly game in general, but it stings more because the Vikings lost it. Peterson did his thing and Simpson had a big game (7-140-0), but otherwise it was pretty sloppy.
Ponder was the worst: He easily could have had two pick-sixes, but as it was he threw an interception early in the two-minute offense and even fumbled a damn handoff.
Let it be known: Minnesotans are nice people…unless you can’t hand off a ball to their superhuman player. Then we get quite nasty.
Tom Schreier covers Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports.