With little fanfare, the Detroit Lions' sleeping offense took the field in Minneapolis, leaving the defensive line to once again shoulder the heavy end of the stick if the visitors were to taste road victory for the first time in a small eternity.
The symbol of infinity would be emblazoned in purple and gold, upon each retina of every Detroit Lions fan by late afternoon on Sunday, September 26, 2010.
That 40-year-old “has been” apparently “still is.”
Despite Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre’s two interceptions, the cagey veteran was especially slippery on a field, far reminiscent of “The Met” and one Francis Asbury Tarkenton of Vikings lore.
The wise Viking field general led his team with consistent poise, while taking a real drubbing from the Detroit Lions defensive line. Although the sack totals were low, the hits were unrelenting, and at the end of the contest, Brett Favre had withstood the best efforts of LDE Cliff Avril, DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Corey Williams, and RDE Kyle Vanden Bosch.
If you like to watch the battle for the line of scrimmage, today’s game was right down your alley. The hogs got after it all day.
When all was said and done, it was the blocking by the Vikings offensive line' and poor tackling by the Lions' back seven that allowed an 80-yard touchdown run to Minnesota star running back Adrian Peterson, who finished the contest with two touchdowns and 160 yards on 23 carries. When you average close to seven yards per carry on more than 20 carries, chances are you’re going to win.
“Run the ball and stop the run” was the classic recipe used to defeat the Detroit Lions.
Who’da thunk it?
For the first game of the season, Detroit Lions rookie running back Jahvid Best was held out of the endzone, and limited to a long run of 16 yards and a total of 26 yards on seven carries.
I don’t think it is fair for the feature back to get seven carries and then have any right-minded individual expect a “W” in the win-loss column at the end of the day.
Something about Einstein and insanity comes to mind, and doing things the same way but expecting different results or something like that.
These guys will drive you insane all right, and Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is making me believe his was the brain labeled “abnormal.” (Yes, you have your Gene Wilder thinking cap on.)
The Lions' offense appears to be bereft of imagination, and far from anything that would bear the superlative “effective.”
Failure to get production that matters from the key elements purported to Lions fans as “the answer” to offensive woes only widens the chasm of disbelief for using the team’s top resources on the offensive side of the ball.
It is painfully evident that the Detroit Lions, as a whole, have yet to separate themselves from the moribund seasons of the past couple of years. Even though they are more “competitive," they still lose at an alarming rate.
There is little in which to find solace when your team continuously finds itself on the short end of the stick, and always “too little too late.” There’s more clichés to be said about this team than the nervousness of a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
When looking at the inequities on the Detroit Lions team, it is as if you have Henry Winkler as Coach Klein saying to the defensive line as Bobby Boucher, “you know you’re going to have to do this all by yourself.”
You know it’s coming, they know it’s coming, but regardless their best efforts, it isn’t enough if the rest of the machine isn’t functioning to capacity. The bottleneck for offensive production seems in many ways to lie somewhere between the offensive coordinators' ears.
Leadership is lacking, and is clearly to blame for this fiasco.
On the defensive side of the ball, the back seven isn’t doing enough to shore up the defense, and has become the collective Achilles’ heel. It is very frustrating to watch the linemen get after it, only to see the rest of the troops fail to perform “according to Hoyle.”
Brett Favre spent all afternoon picking on Jonathan Wade, and in the end, it proved to be a serious difference maker.
After lousy plays by cornerback Jonathan Wade, Vikings wide receiver Hank Baskett (yes, Kendra Wilkinson’s hubby—poor guy), and Minnesota right offensive tackle Phil Loadholt, it was Detroit Lions defensive tackle Corey Williams who would make a doosey of a play!
A pass intended for former Stanford running back Toby Gerhart was gobbled up by big Number 99, and holy smokes, did the big man make the most of his opportunity. Corey Williams looked like a freight train hell-bent for leather.
With Vikings rookie running back Toby Gerhart looking to catch a Brett Favre pass, it was the mammoth Williams who looked sure of hands and fleet of foot as Corey snagged the pass away from Gerhart, and made a very athletic interception return, running 27 yards to the Minnesota 12-yard line.
Largely during the first quarter, the Lions appeared listless on offense, and until the interception by the huge defensive tackle, I was really wondering how the Lions were going to be able to flip the field and generate some points.
With reasonable time in the pocket, Detroit Lions quarterback Shaun Hill slid the pocket to the right and fired a five-yard strike to tight end Tony Scheffler coming across the middle, and the Detroit Lions took the lead on the road, 7-0, with 3:04 remaining in the first quarter.
The Lions made the Vikings pay by turning the Williams interception into seven points. The proud faithful had been rewarded, for this battle at least.
Unfortunately for Detroit Lions fans, the 48 minutes of football that followed would prove to be anticlimactic.
A rusty DeAndre Levy allowed Adrian Peterson to escape his clutches on what was a high tackle attempt. Peterson would have none of that, and turned a would-be loss into a 19-yard gain.
It happened lightning fast; what an explosive and exciting player “All Day” is.
On a third-and-seven, DT Corey Williams provided pressure up the middle, and Turk McBride was right there too.
Despite forcing Favre and the Vikings off the field on third down, Stephan Logan muffed a punt and Favre would waste no time making the Lions pay.
Favre threw a quick-strike 499th career TD pass to WR Percy Harvin—blown coverage, straight up, by Chris Houston, and no help over the top by C.C. Brown.
The back seven—back two—served it up on a silver platter to the 40-year-old wonder.
“Same old Lions,” snatching defeat from the jaws of victory with :52 remaining in the first quarter.
I am officially going insane.
On the ensuing first-down play, RG Stephen Peterman drew a false-start flag, and then Best would take a delayed handoff to the 32-yard line.
On second-and-6, Hill make a good throw to Pettigrew, who made a very nice, tough catch to end the first half.
Entertaining, competitive, and seething.
It didn’t take the visiting Detroit Lions but two minutes to give back a hard-taken lead. Such is the essence of being a Detroit Lions fan: be prepared to be mad, because no lead is safe for very long.
No lead is safe; no harmony is lasting. The only constant is the wailing and gnashing of teeth.
The beauty of the hard work created by Corey Williams, in an instant, was given away by Stephan Logan.
Early in the second quarter, Jahvid Best flashed outstanding quickness, vision, balance, and speed in racing down field for a solid gain and first down. The following play, he lost a yard.
Calvin Johnson made the biggest catch of the first half all season, when he went high into the sky over rookie CB Chris Cook.
Hussein Abdullah put a lick on Tony Scheffler’s rib cage, and Scheff lay on the carpet of the Mall of America Field at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
An inside handoff to FB Jerome Felton produced a 15-yard run, which was negated by No. 51, center Dominic Raiola’s holding penalty.
A Best run attempt to the left side was stopped for no gain.
On third-and-20, Jahvid Best put Jason Hanson in field-goal range, but the kick was no good wide to the left, as the seventh-leading scorer in NFL history was unable to convert the 44-yard attempt.
Jonathan Wade made a tackle on Bernard Berrian, but the play was good enough for a first down. Favre came right back at Wade again for another gain, when Wade whiffed on the tackle the second play.
Favre marched his team down the field, culminating with a five-yard Adrian Peterson touchdown run. The play was well-blocked by the Vikings offensive line, and Peterson had no trouble reaching the endzone, making the play look textbook.
The Vikings had now scored back-to-back touchdowns on consecutive possessions: a 24-yard TD pass from Brett Favre to Percy Harvin and a six-yard TD run by Adrian Peterson.
The Minnesota playmakers were making plays when their team needed them. The same could not be said on the Detroit sideline.
Yet another end-around was handed off to Stephan Logan, and Logan looked like he was shot out of a cannon, as he scampered 21 yards to the Minnesota 43-yard line.
Pettigrew failed to hold on to a Shaun Hill pass that hit him in the hands, but the big tight end was well defended.
The following play, Chris Cook, the Vikings' senond-round draft pick, jarred the ball loose from Pettigrew, and Brandon had dropped two passes back-to-back to force another Lions punt. Pettigrew was still reeling from Abdullah’s shot, and when he heard footsteps, could not maintain focus to retain possession of the ball.
After an Adrian Peterson run for loss of a yard, Favre hit Harvin for an adjusted (coach’s challenge) 15-yard gain as the two-minute warning expired. Favre was exceptionally elusive, just as he has always been for Detroit defenders, and turned an impending sack into a large gain by his receiver over Jonathan Wade.
Phil Loadholt was caused to false start by an exceptional hard count by Favre, making it second-and-10 with 1:27 remaining in the first half.
With stout pressure by the defensive line, left defensive end Cliff Avril beat Loadholt around the corner, tipping a Favre pass that deflected into the waiting hands of recently acquired cornerback Alphonso Smith.
Alphonso Smith was specifically acquired for his “ball skills.” To that end, Saint Alphonse made Favre pay when he snagged the wayward pass.
Derrick Williams finally made a play, when he made a super-athletic play and came back to QB Shaun Hill, holding on to the ball after being upended in acrobatic fashion.
After a Detroit timeout, kicker Jason Hanson would add three points to the Lions' total before the expiry of the half with a 33-yard field goal.
When you trade sevens for threes on the road, you’re going to get beat.
When you fail to catch the ball, pass catchers, on the road, you’re going to get beat.
When you fail to reduce your cushion in the secondary and don’t tackle well, you’re going to get beat.
When you commit avoidable penalties on the road that kill drives, you’re going to get beat.
In a real battle between division rivals, the Detroit Lions were most definitely in the game with the Minnesota Vikings, down by a score of 14-10.
At the half, Shaun Hill was a very respectable 12 completions out of 18 attempts for 95 yards and a touchdown pass. Hill easily should have been 15-of-18, had the Lions' pass catchers done their jobs.
Shaun Hill did a very good job of managing the game based on lackluster playcalling during the first quarter.
At some point, Schwartz and Mayhew will really need to set down in a round-table format with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and let him know his creativity needs to increase an hundred fold.
Despite being down only four points to the winless Vikings, I couldn’t help but be upset that the Lions had pretty much been gift-wrapped opportunity after opportunity.
Regardless, Stephan Logan’s outstanding display of quickness and hustle on his 21-yard end-around gain, it doesn’t begin to offset the muffed fumble that led to the 24-yard touchdown pass hookup from Favre to Harvin.
A moment’s lack of concentration caused immediate change of the ebb and flow of the game, from being high atop the emotional rollercoaster to plunging to immediate depths.
Two Favre interceptions were not enough to propel the Lions to the lead on the road.
Coming out in the second half, a slippery Favre found Visanthe Shiancoe for a solid gain. Later in the Minnesota drive, CB Alphonso Smith made a nice open-field tackle on Adrian Peterson to force third-and-11.
The following pass was intercepted by CB Chris Houston, but Houston was called for an illegal contact penalty—leaving the Vikings on offense.
Favre would complete a 10-yard pass to TE Jeff Dugan to the Detroit 18-yard line on coverage by OLB Ashlee Palmer.
Greg Camarillo easily worked Chris Houston toward the end zone and worked back for a reception—a large cushion made the play possible.
After an “incomplete pass” that resembled a lateral (recovered by a Lions defender, no less), kicker Ryan Longwell connected on a 31-yard field goal to put the Vikings ahead 17-10.
Shaun Hill showed veteran patience in the pocket, and threw a bullet to Calvin Johnson for an 11-yard gain and a critical first down.
Pat Williams did the rag-doll toss with Derrick Williams and drew a flag to help continue the Detroit Lions drive. While I didn’t wish that on “D-Will”, that stuff is always funny to me to watch somebody go flying.
It seemed like for the first time, with any consistency, Jerome Felton was finally being worked into the gameplan.
On a third-down attempt, the Vikings defense completely owned the Lions' offensive line, leaving a sprawled Dominic Raiola and kneeling Rob Sims in their wake, reestablishing the line of scrimmage two yards into the Detroit offensive backfield.
When it mattered, as it did in this case, the offensive line was not able to hold up their end of the bargain. The Lions would be made to pay for their ineptitude on the following Vikings possession.
In an instant, Adrian Peterson launched out of the Minnesota backfield and never looked back, racing for an 80-yard touchdown run.
You go to the well enough times, and eventually you're going to strike, and that’s exactly what happened when the Detroit Lions defense was unable to contain Adrian Peterson as he run up the middle for the Vikings score.
With 3:01 remaining in the third quarter, the Minnesota Vikings held a 24-10 lead over the visiting Detroit Lions.
Stephen Peterman was flagged for holding on a screen, causing a first-and-20.
Holding on RT Gosder Cherilus was the very next call.
Vikings LB Chad Greenway provided tremendous pursuit after QB Shaun Hill, causing the pass to be incomplete.
Time to brawl, lads!
Rey Edwards, meet Rob Sims. Rob Sims, meet Rey Edwards.
Shaun Hill said hello to Jared Allen, and vice versa.
“Offsetting penalties” seemed only fair for the modest mêlée, and the Lions' offense was forced once again to punt.
With emotions still running high, a trio of hankies left no culprit punished for offensive pass interference, as Jonathan Wade was flagged away from the play and Chris Houston for illegal use of the hands.
The siege of Jonathan Wade continued as Favre connected with Jim Kleinsasser for a seven-yard gain.
Jonathan Wade was again flagged, this time for pass interference against Bernard Berrian, allowing the Vikes to move the chains again after a third-and-five situation.
Favre went back and threw up a jump ball for Hank Baskett, and C.C. Brown caught up to Baskett and the throw, breaking up the play. Ndamukong Suh delivered two hands to Favre’s chest immediately following the throw, sending Brett to the turf.
Vikings punter Chris Kluwe hit a beauty of a 35-yard punt that was downed at the Detroit four-yard line.
Field position was, again, not in the Detroit Lions' favor on the road.
A rushing attempt and two short passes by Maurice Morris did nothing to gain a Lions first down, and the Lions went three-and-out and punted again.
Lo-Jack would get the first Favre sack of the day, despite the defensive line hitting him repeatedly. Favre was every bit as slick as Vick was the week before.
Louis Delmas would recover a Toby Gerhart fumble to give the Lions' offense possession for the third time on the afternoon. Lawrence Jackson had contained Gerhart, while Iowa rookie Amari Spievey delivered the hit that jarred the ball loose.
Despite driving close to the Vikings' goalline, it was not to be, as Shaun Hill was intercepted by Vikings linebacker Ben Leber.
Upon getting the ball back, Hill would again be intercepted in the endzone, as a tipped ball off the hands of TE Tony Scheffler found its purchase into the hands of the covering Minnesota cornerback, Antoine Winfield.
The 22nd consecutive road loss was ensured.
All in all, the Detroit Lions' offense was unable to help shoulder the load that is required for team victory.
When the defense is repeatedly thrown back onto the field, when the offense fails to deliver and the momentum shifts, there is only so much blame the defense must bear.
The defense is allowing too many big plays, and those plays end up being the deciding factors in the game.
The part that is “same old Lions” is where they take the lead and then give it back, and fade to create the hole out of which they are never able to climb.
Jonathan Wade was identified by Brett Favre as the weakest link in the Detroit secondary, and the Lions were made to pay often, either via penalty or coverage mistake or poor tackling. The reasons why the St. Louis Rams parted ways with Wade are rolling in like the high tide.
Shaun Hill connected fairly well with the tight-end group, but they have yet to leverage the relationship to victory.
Seven carries for Jahvid Best is never going to be enough to win a football game, nor the 26 yards he gained with a long run on the day of 16 yards. One and 5-8 yards per carry will never be enough.
It has been established early on this year that the Detroit Lions' offensive line is not able to carry the day in terms of moving the line of scrimmage in their favor when it matters the most.
On Sunday afternoon, September 26, 2010, it was the Minnesota Vikings' offensive line that neutralized the Detroit Lions' defensive line, and the Vikings' defensive line was far more effective than the Lions' offensive line.
If you control the line of scrimmage, you’ll win the battle at the end of the day, and that’s exactly what the Vikings did, which has been their method of operation for several years.
Lions fans must remain steadfast in their hope that the Detroit Lions front office will acquire the talent that will be able to one day protect the quarterback and control the line of scrimmage. The defensive line looks good, very good at times, and appears to be growing as a unit every Sunday.
The scars of an offensive line still unable to run the football, the pains of a defensive secondary that is far from rebuilt, and offensive weapons that are not have led to an 0-3 start for the Detroit Lions. The front office must spend top resources to secure starting-caliber talent in the defensive backfield in the 2011 NFL Draft.
At this point, it seems that the Detroit Lions would be at least two drafts away from playing truly competitive football in the NFC North, and the notion of a winning season feels like a journey of an unknown and unspoken distance.
Sisyphus, I feel you dog. I feel you.
GO LIONS WIN!