The Minnesota Vikings disappointed fans once again as they blew another first-half lead in a 26-23 overtime loss to the Detroit Lions. As the Vikings drop their third game after a significant lead at halftime, there are all kinds of questions surrounding this organization as it gets nice and comfy in the basement of its division.
In the defeat, however, we saw a lot of things out of the Vikings that no one seemed to expect.
The return of Kevin Williams marked the re-establishment of the Vikings defensive line as one of the top front-fours in the NFL.
Though the Vikings secondary was certainly challenged in the game, it showed a lot of good things as well, as it silenced Calvin Johnson, Jr. through nearly three whole quarters.
These subtle optimisms did exist in other areas on the field, but the embarrassment was just as evident.
Here are the biggest winners and losers of Sunday's matchup between the Vikings and Lions.
With the return of Kevin Williams, the Vikings defensive line returns to the top of its class in the NFL. Going into the game, everybody was so high on Ndamukong Suh and the intimidating Lions front-four, but in the end, it was the Vikings who dominated their opposing offensive line.
DEs Jared Allen and Brian Robison got to Matthew Stafford a total of five times in Sunday's game. Up until this game, Stafford had not been sacked even once.
With "The Cowboys from Hell" (thank you, Justin LeClair) coming off the edge and Kevin Williams pushing right up the middle as usual, the pocket was almost non-existent for the Lions throughout much of the game.
Detroit's run game was pretty stagnant as well, as the Vikings defensive line held Jahvid Best to 14 yards on 12 carries.
Far and away the story of this group was Allen, who recorded three sacks and nearly forced Best down in the end zone late in the fourth quarter. Instead, Allen slowed down Best until his teammates could bring him down on the 2-yard line, much like he did most of the game. The two plays previous to that huge stop, Allen forced veteran LT Jeff Backus to false start two consecutive times.
Robison had a nice day as well, wrapping up Stafford for two additional sacks. Robison was slightly criticized as a replacement for Ray Edwards, who signed with Atlanta before the preseason. Robison proved exactly why I and the Minnesota Vikings seem to believe he has the potential to be a great edge rusher.
Perhaps the most comforting thing coming off this defensive line was the lack of penalties. Last week, both Allen and Robison made some simple mistakes that certainly worked in the favor of their opponents.This week, however, the studs on this defensive line looked like the most disciplined group of guys on the field—and rightfully so.
The Vikes' D-line played out of their mind against the Lions. They were perhaps the biggest winners in this matchup.
Of course, with the Vikings defensive line playing so well, the Lions offensive line looked horrendous.
After not allowing any sacks in two previous games, and one without letting Stafford even get knocked down, five sacks look pretty bad.
Like I said on the previous slide, the pocket was almost non-existent for most of the game. Even worse, they couldn't open up enough holes in the run game for their ball-carriers to get more than 20 combined yards.
Veteran LT Jeff Backus was pretty much Jared Allen's whipping boy in the game, as the All-Pro DE blew past him to record three sacks. On top of that, Backus was to blame for two false starts deep in the fourth quarter that ultimately pulled Detroit back to its own end zone with the game on the line.
Even though things worked out for Detroit in this matchup, it may want to seriously assess the direction of its offensive line because the Vikings aren't the only team with powerful edge rushers—they should have fun against Julius Peppers and the Chicago Bears.
Chris Cook was the Vikings' top selection in the NFL draft two years ago but hasn't showed much for it—until today.
The Vikings brought Cook in for his size and ability to cover large receivers, just like Megatron. Two meniscus tears and a slow start later, and that is exactly what Cook did.
When matched up with Johnson, Cook looked very impressive. Even though Johnson caught one touchdown over him, Cook was able to neutralize the ball many times in this game. Perhaps the most memorable of these plays came on a third down when he batted the ball away on a huge dive near the 25-yard line, forcing the Lions to punt.
If Cook can continue to play the way he did against the Lions, the Vikings secondary will have found a new potential star.
It seemed like every time I saw Calvin Johnson catching the ball, Cedric Griffin was two steps behind him.
I love Griffin and I think he is a huge asset to this team, but he just flat-out did not play well against the Lions. He is usually the best cover-corner on the Vikings roster, but it seemed like he just could not get his head in the game.
Though he is in no real danger of losing his starting job, it could be concerning for Griffin considering how well Cook played against an absolutely dominant Calvin Johnson.
Hopefully, Griffin will bounce back next week against Kansas City. The Vikings need to be able to rely on Griffin to keep opposing offenses from making big plays.
It's becoming more and more clear who Donovan McNabb's go-to-guy is in this receiver corps.
Jenkins led the team in receptions against the Lions with nine receptions for 88 yards. He made a few catches that he probably shouldn't have and bailed out his QB.
Jenkins is working himself into a starting spot amongst these receivers, and with his performance on Sunday, he probably put some more distance between himself and an unproductive Bernard Berrian.
Hopefully, McNabb will be able to continue to find Jenkins and get him the ball. It would be even nicer if he could find Jenkins in the end zone so the Vikings could actually put some points on the board in the second half.
Nonetheless, Jenkins looked pretty good against the Lions.
Another game, another week without a Bernard Berrian score.
To be fair, the one shot McNabb took to Berrian in the end zone was a horrible throw. Regardless, Berrian needs to establish himself as more of a threat offensively if he doesn't want to take a seat to guys like Devin Aromashodu.
I like Berrian as a person, but I would not be opposed to cutting him for a guy like Terrell Owens, who could still have some big plays left in him.
With the big game that Michael Jenkins had, Berrian's role will grow smaller and smaller. His release seems inevitable at this point, because without any production he is essentially a waste of roster space.
Sorry, Bernard, but you lose (and drop easy passes).
Well, Lions fans, you did it. Your team finally snapped a 13-year losing streak in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
The Lions improve to a 3-0 record, tying Green Bay for first place in the NFC North.
Another positive sign for the Lions was the fact that Stafford was sacked pretty hard, five times and walked away without any injuries. That being said, your explosive offense survives for another week.
As a disgruntled Vikings fan, I wholeheartedly congratulate you on a solid win, you deserve it.
To you few true Lions fans out there, you are the biggest winners of all. You didn't jump on the bandwagon this season, you stuck with your team through a terrible 30-plus years with nothing but heartbreak and disappointment—much like I'm feeling about my Minnesota Vikings right now.
The only thing I have to say to the Lions is: Beat Green Bay!
As the Vikings fall to 0-3, questions are surfacing more and more about the leadership of this team.
I've seen plenty of tweets calling for Leslie Frazier's head, but honestly I'm not putting the blame on him—yet.
Frazier's coordinators aren't doing their jobs very well. Bill Musgrave's offense is more vanilla than a Dairy Queen ice cream cone and the blitz packages Fred Pagac threw at Michael Vick last season just aren't coming to fruition in 2011.
Personally, I think Pagac's defense looked very, very good against the Lions. That being said, I think Pagac deserves to keep calling the plays on defense, but if the defense becomes an issue at any point, it might be a good idea for Frazier to take the reigns back and run the defense the way he sees fit.
Musgrave, on the other hand, is making me wish we had Darrell Bevell back in Minnesota—and that makes me want to cry. How do you give the ball to Toby Gerhart (playing fullback) on 4th-and-1 when you have the best running back in football standing in the same backfield? I'm continually baffled by Musgrave's hideous play calling.
Early in the game, there was a designed end-around to Percy Harvin that picked up a big chunk of yards and eventually set up an Adrian Peterson touchdown. In the second half, however, the offense looked like pick-up football.
I think we found the reason why the Vikings can't keep it together in the second half: Musgrave gets too comfortable and won't call any plays worth calling.
I know it's only Week 3, but I'm calling for Musgrave's head. The Vikings need to have their leadership step up and put a stop to this embarrassing streak of second-half collapses.
Vikings fans, I am sorry to say that after an 0-3 start and a schedule that won't get any easier (except against Kansas City next week), we are the front-runners for the Andrew Luck sweepstakes in the 2012 draft.
A month ago I couldn't wait for this season to start, and now—three weeks into the season—I already can't wait for it to be over. It's sad when it's September and you're already looking forward to the NFL draft so that you can finally feel like you've won something for a change.
Unless some kind of miracle happens for Kansas City next week, there is no way the Vikings lose to the worst team in football. Given the way things have gone so far, though, nothing will surprise me at this point.
Sorry, Vikings fans.
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