10 points on the Vikings’ somewhat mistake-ridden victory over the Lions…
1. The Vikings have not been dogged by penalties this year; in fact, they were one of the least-penalized teams going into Sunday’s game. This was a somewhat stunning reversal from recent years when the team basically drove us nuts by getting called for dumb things (90% of which were Ryan Cook‘s fault). Against the Lions, they reverted to that previous infuriating form, getting hit with 13 flags for 91 yards. When you draw that much laundry, the natural reaction is to think the refs were just overdoing it, but in this case, the Vikings deserved pretty much every one of those. And I include the Ray Edwards helmet-to-helmet hit which, going by the rules as they presently exist, could not have been called any other way. Booing the refs for that was silly; the league deserves the criticism for being overzealous in their efforts to protect the quarterback, the refs are just calling it the way they’re told. That should’ve been a highlight defensive play for Edwards, but instead, it was a personal foul and probably a fine.
2. There was no excuse earlier this season when Adrian Peterson got stripped by Clay Matthews who proceeded to run the fumble into the end zone for six, and there was no excuse yesterday when Phillip Buchanon caught him from behind and popped the ball out to prevent six. Peterson can’t give up the ball there, period. And yes, I know he’s been better this year about the fumbling, but he needs to get even better. He needs to not assume he’s faster than everyone on the other team and can’t be caught from behind. I give him a pass on the failed toss to Percy Harvin because that play never should’ve been called in the first place.
3. Speaking of dumb playcalls: A hand-off to Jeff Dugan on fourth-and-short when you know the strength of the Lions’ defense is right in the middle of their line? Instead of just kicking the damn field goal? Or at least running a play-action or handing off to Adrian Peterson? Every week Chilly does something like this and gets hammered for it by the national media. That’s why you’re not hearing his name being mentioned in Coach of the Year talk. People think this guy is the beneficiary of great talent, and not some master orchestrator. They think he’s just a lucky SOB (except for the hair thing).
4. Sidney Rice is now one of the most dangerous deep threats in the league, right up there with Randy Moss. You can tell Brett Favre has great confidence in him and is not afraid to throw it to him in any situation or against any coverage. Favre now believes that he can throw it up there and Sidney will find a way to catch it. Too bad we can’t find a way to use Sidney more in the red zone and get him some touchdowns (he only has two; if he doesn’t pad that, it might keep him out of the Pro Bowl).
5. Leslie Frazier dialed up some mean pressure yesterday and kept it going pretty much the whole game. And I think that pressure really threw Matthew Stafford off and caused him to miss what could’ve been big passes as the game wore on. Obviously, with a young QB like Stafford, the book says to blitz him, and the Vikings did. Of course, their D-line got plenty of pressure itself, especially from Ray Edwards who played like a man possessed. And it helped that Calvin Johnson looks like he really doesn’t enjoy playing football right now and would prefer that Stafford throw it to someone else.
6. Starting to wonder if the main problem with the Vikings’ running game isn’t a lack of blocking from tight ends and receivers. Seems like when Adrian gets stuffed it’s mostly on the plays that are designed to go around the edge. His big runs tend to happen when the play goes inside and he breaks a tackle or otherwise makes someone miss.
7. Despite all the stumbling and mistakes, there were plenty of offensive highlights. My favorite was not one of Sidney Rice’s three ridiculous long catches (one of which should’ve resulted in a pass interference penalty on Rice) or one of Adrian’s runs – it was Percy Harvin‘s big play where he bounced off the guy – I think it was Jason Hunter but I forget now – and kept running. Clearly, Percy is a guy you have to wrap up securely.
8. Which of yesterday’s myriad penalties was the most infuriating? The Ray Edwards one was bad because it negated such an awesomely athletic play, and the Brian Robison offsides on the punt was worse because it gave the Lions a first down, but the one that got under my skin the most was an offsides by Cedric Griffin on an extra-point that let the Lions kick off from five yards further up, allowing Jason Hanson to kick it through the end zone and thereby rob Percy Harvin of a shot at a return. Jumping offsides on a punt is stupid and unforgivable, but going offsides on a freaking extra point? Did Griffin have ants in his saggy pants or something?
9. Kudos to Brian Robison for fielding a punt and not trying to run with it like he did with that kick against the Packers where he fumbled and gave them a chance to get back in the game. Who says a knucklehead can’t learn?
10. I don’t want to say the NFC North race is over, but, we lead the Packers by 3 games and it’s actually 4 because we have every tiebreaker over them, and we lead the Bears by 4 with two to play against them and they’re in such disarray that I can’t see them getting better than a split. So, yeah, I guess I’m saying the NFC North race is over.
Topics: Adrian Peterson, Brad Childress, Brett Favre, Brian Robison, Calvin Johnson, Cedric Griffin, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Jason Hunter, Leslie Frazier, Matthew Stafford, Minnesota Vikings, Percy Harvin, Phillip Buchanon, Randy Moss, Ray Edwards, Ryan Cook, Sidney Rice