It’s not often you can go on the road against a divisional opponent and not score an offensive TD but still win the game. That’s exactly what the Vikings did today against Detroit though. Their formula was not exactly what you could call orthodox. They got two return TDs, one from Percy Harvin on a kickoff and one from Marcus Sherels on a punt. It’s a good thing too because the offense was not exactly on fire, producing only 227 total yards and a couple field goals. The biggest plays of the first half were pass interference calls on Lions defenders for grabbing Jerome Simpson on deep sideline routes. Had it not been for Adrian Peterson running like a man possessed, the Vikes would’ve had very little going on offense.
The Vikes really won this game on special teams and defense. We talked about the two long returns. Defensively, they did a solid job all day. They held the Lions to just 55 yards rushing on 20 attempts. They didn’t get a ton of consistent pressure on Matthew Stafford but they were able to dial it up in key situations. No play was bigger than Everson Griffen’s fourth quarter sack of Stafford on fourth down with Jared Allen on the sideline suffering cramping issues. They made some good plays in the secondary too, none bigger than Harrison Smith’s play to break up a would-be Calvin Johnson TD reception. Jasper Brinkley, Antoine Winfield, Chad Greenway and Jared Allen also stepped it up and made plays. It was the Vikes’ best all-around defensive effort of the year so far. And it happened despite the offense’s inability to sustain drives and eat clock.
There’s plenty to pick apart with the offensive performance today. Christian Ponder looked uncomfortable in the pocket again and may have rolled out prematurely in some situations. The best you can say for Ponder was that he protected the ball. He did make one really huge throw to Jerome Simpson to get a first down while the Vikes were trying to eat clock late in the fourth. Mostly, the offense was Adrian Peterson finding small holes and punishing Lions defenders to gain extra yards. AD cracked the 100-yard mark for the first time this year and looked ferocious doing it. Percy Harvin made a big contribution with his kickoff return but was invisible in the second half on offense. The Lions really keyed in on Percy, jumping those screen passes and forcing the Vikes to go away from their main weapon. With Harvin neutralized, the Vikings passing game looked lost.
Yes they won the game, and yes Ponder has had a good year, but there are still plenty of things to work on. Hopefully as Simpson gets into the flow more, the Vikes will find that deep passing game and open things up. The Vikes were able to get by for a couple weeks playing super-conservative, throwing short things to Percy and letting him roll up YAC, but defenses are adjusting to that and it won’t be there to the same degree from here on out. At some point, they’ll have to find other things. It’s just reality.
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