Last week we asked five big questions about Vikings vs. Lions. Now here are five big answers not necessarily related to the five big questions…
1. No, Percy Harvin can’t do it all himself.
Percy may seem like Superman but alas he is only mortal after all. The entire offense can’t run through him all the time and the Lions showed why. Detroit game-planned specifically to stop Harvin and for the most part they neutralized him. The Vikings’ whole thing with Harvin has been putting him in positions where the defense can’t deny him the ball, then letting him use his tailback skills to turn these plays into significant gains. So what did Detroit do? They jumped screen passes, almost picking the ball off on one occasion. They blew up an end around that they clearly saw coming from a mile away. At one point Bill Musgrave tried a direct snap to Harvin in the red zone but that play was sniffed out too. The Lions located Percy and came after him. With Percy taken away, there was almost literally nothing else out there. The biggest first half pass plays were both pass interference calls against Detroit on deep balls to Jerome Simpson. Even Kyle Rudolph couldn’t get anything going. The Vikings thankfully were playing with a lead for most of the day, thanks to their special teams, and they were able to run it effectively, so it didn’t hurt them to have their entire passing game go missing. Give Detroit credit for a good game plan in stopping Harvin.
2. Yes, ball security is very important.
This game was a great example of why coaches preach ball security. The Vikings didn’t do much of anything on offense but they also didn’t cough the ball up. They didn’t give Detroit any short fields to work with. They didn’t put the defense in any bad spots. If you’re one of those folks who’s inclined to always see the positive on Christian Ponder and basically ignore anything he does that’s not good, you’ve got this to hang your hat on for now: He’s not turning the ball over. He’s getting rid of it when there’s nothing open. He’s covering up when the pass rush gets to him. He’s not getting himself in trouble trying to make plays. Is there other stuff to criticize him about? Some people don’t want to hear this but, yes there is. He still doesn’t handle pressure well and he still misses open receivers. He had Michael Jenkins wide for a touchdown on one play and flat out didn’t see him. He locks in on his #1 option sometimes and doesn’t see anything else. I thought he took a half-step back in this game after playing very well against San Francisco. But that often happens to young QBs. It’s never a steady upward curve. There are going to be setbacks. Ponder will have plenty to work on in practice this week and that’s not a bad thing.
3. Yes, Adrian Peterson can carry the load.
I don’t think there’s much doubt anymore about Adrian Peterson’s ability to be a workhorse back. He can still tote the rock as much as you want. Peterson averaged almost 5 yards-per-carry on 21 rushes against Detroit. He had some holes but a lot of his production was just him fighting for the extra yardage. This was the first week where I really thought he cut loose. He may have held back a little the first few games, just out of natural worry about his knee, but now he’s 100% over that. He has confidence that the knee will be fine, and he’s back to punishing people. So I have to believe from now on the Vikes will allow the game to dictate his work load. No more artificial pitch counts. If they need him 25 times, he’ll get it 25 times. If they need him 15 he’ll get it 15. They probably could’ve run him 30 times against Detroit. And maybe they should’ve.
4. Yes, the secondary is getting better.
Two things stood out about the defensive approach Sunday. One, the Vikings didn’t blitz much. Two, they played more press coverage. Oh wait I forgot the third thing. Their defensive backs knocked the snot out of Detroit. Do you want a signature play for the Vikings’ defense so far this year? It’s not a pick and it’s not a sack. It’s Harrison Smith clobbering Calvin Johnson in the end zone and knocking the ball away. On the very next play, Brandon Pettigrew had a chance for a TD catch in the back of the end zone and seemed to go alligator arms. Was he thinking about Harrison Smith? I tell you, reputation is huge when it comes to playing defense. You get a rep for knocking people around and you will make certain offensive players think twice about laying out for balls. I think Harrison Smith is starting to get that rep. Receivers around the league are going to hear about him laying the lumber to Megatron and that rep will only grow. But it’s not just the physicality with these guys, they’re getting better in coverage too. Smith is learning to play centerfield and almost had him a pick on a deep ball to Johnson. I think Alan Williams’ plan is starting to come together. Jamarca Sanford even looked like a real football player on Sunday. That takes some doing.
5. Jared Allen is fine, thanks very much.
3 tackles behind the line and two hits on the QB including a sack. Just your usual day at the office for Jared against the Detroit Lions. But maybe that’s still not enough for people. This is what happens when you have 22 sacks in a season. Some people think you’re supposed to have 3 every game after that. Hey, did Jared start out slow this season? Did he get absolutely owned by Monroe in the Jacksonville game? Did he have his issues with Costanzo in the Indy game? Yup and yup. But he’s still an elite defensive end. He still makes an impact even when he’s not lighting up the stat sheet. The whole Vikings’ line played a good game against Detroit. They were in the backfield a lot. Allen, Everson Griffen and Letroy Guion combined to make 8 tackles behind the line. Griffen especially rose up huge in key moments. Maybe the biggest defensive play of the game was his sack of Stafford on fourth down with the Lions down close trying to score. The Vikings made plays all over the field on defense. And they weren’t playing against a timid or inexperienced quarterback this week. They held the Detroit Lions and Matthew Stafford to under 350 total yards. Even though the Lions ran 76 plays. That’s a feather in their cap. And they did it staying strictly with a four-man rush almost the whole game. So those guys up front must’ve done their jobs.
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