After the last craptastic game against the Seahawks some hack of a writer here at the Norseman wrote a piece detailing that Christian Ponder wasn't the answer. See, the week before, said hack had called for Ponder to tap into his inner Obi-Wan Kenobi, and to become more powerful than we could ever imagine... and he didn't do it.
And then he did.
Seriously, a huge kudos to Samantha Steele's boyfriend for his performance today. But... this piece isn't about gushing praise or optimism. This here is the long missing compliment sandwich piece, now garnished with those little pickles skewered on top with toothpicks. Let's get right to the feast, shall we?
Compliment: Where the hell has THIS offense been? And why did it show up when Percy Harvin, certified Swiss Army Knife, was down and out? Seriously, while the vast majority of us here sided with the decision to sit Harvin and not risk further injury, particularly with the bye week coming up and thus giving him even extra time to heal, said vast majority also felt that it was a death-knell for us going into this game. An amazing job all around, featuring 10 different guys making catches (well, yes, technically 11 counting Ponder himself), Adrian Peterson doing his natural thing, and even appearances (and a TD!) from the previously ghostly apparition otherwise known as Kyle Rudolph. Man, thank G-d I didn't actually drop him from my fantasy team, as I legitimately considered.
But: No seriously, where has this offense been? And why did it show up when PERCY HARVIN went down?! It makes no sense. Perhaps this was a sign that Ponder was way over-relying on his trusty security blanket, and freaking out when teams, you know... covered him. Honestly if you think about it, it makes no sense. If Michael Jenkins, Jerome Simpson, and Devin Aromashodu can all be participating members of this offense, it's a headscratcher that they haven't been thus far. I hope the team- namely, the offensive coordinator (who's going to remain employed now, dammit)- gets the message: spread the ball around. It can be done. And good things happen when you do it. As pleased as I am with that solid offensive performance yesterday, it does bug me a little bit that it took our number one WR being out for the offensive playbook to open up, and to have players (namely Jarius Wright) join in.
That said: Welcome to the NFL, Jarius Wright. Many (myself included) have been pulling for you to be put on the field, and I think you rubbed it right into the coaches' faces (in a good way) that they hadn't done so until now. The whole "he's the same player as Harvin, you can't have them on the field at the same time" is a load of garbage. You totally can have them on the field at the same time, and by G-d George have we seen now that it would be a really good idea going forward.
Compliment: What happened to Chad Greenway? Did one of the Lions players insult his momma like in The Waterboy? Seriously, hot damn did he have himself a game. Tackles, INTs, you name it he was there. And that was just a piece of this defense that found its footing again after a few middling performances. Part of it for sure was the offense remaining on the field longer than one minute (well, excepting those two absurd drives at the end of the first half) and giving them a breather, and part of it seemed to be guys feeding off each other. Whatever the reason, me gusta.
But: Chris Cook's absence was sorely felt. While he still made his mistakes on the field prior to his injury, his talent as a corner and his importance to this secondary was no better highlighted than Calvin Johnson's performance today. Yes, Megatron is Megatron, but he was far more the nonfactor in our first meeting with Cook blanketing him. We just don't have the guy on the defense right now who can do that, whether it's AJ Jefferson, Josh Robinson, or even the mighty Antoine Winfield. Hopefully this doesn't become too big of an issue down the road, and we can make sure as a defense that we just keep the game out of reach otherwise.
That said: The run defense, wow! We saw in our first meeting against the Lions that Mikel LeShoure was not going to have good days against us. Fortunately, he's the kind of running back we're good against- a larger power back, rather than a smaller speed back. Looking at the rest of the schedule the bigger names at RB that we will be facing are far more like LeShoure than Doug Martin, so that bodes well.
Compliment: Christian Ponder did have himself a helluva game, and I am man enough to admit I was very premature in my negative article on him recently. He played like his first-few-weeks-version of himself, spreading the ball around, scrambling for good gains, not turning the ball over. Even better he really didn't "dink and dunk" it behind the line of scrimmage today, instead moving the ball forward consistently. He had a few very, very nice passes today, and a salute to him for it.
But: Ponder must keep this up to revive our playoff hopes. Yes, 6-4 entering the bye is nice, and gives us momentum. But let's not forget that the schedule decidedly takes a turn for the uglier after our break. Hopefully, with Harvin returning, and with (again hopefully) Ponder having learned he can actually throw to other people, we'll be able to keep this up. However, as much as I am willing to call the dogs off Ponder, I'm still not going to say we're back on track for our playoff run. How we do after the bye rests largely on Ponder's shoulders.
That said: A week of rest should do this team good. Dings and nicks can heal, Harvin's ankle can hopefully mend, Jerome Simpson can see a chiropractor. If you missed it, when the sideline reporter was interviewing AP after the game she said at one point, "now you guys can take a week off and get some rest," and his cybernetic facial expression was priceless. If Adrian Peterson of all players is so relieved at the idea of a break, clearly this team needs it.
Compliment: The D-line had quite a performance today, constantly pressuring Stafford, jamming runners and receivers at or behind the line of scrimmage, and just generally abusing the Lions' O-line. At one point Jared Allen clear trucked Jeff Baccus for about six yards on a furious, if ultimately incomplete, attempt to smash Stafford. And a major hat-tip to Kevin Williams on a very key sack.
But: Where has Jared Allen been? This was the first game in a while that he hasn't had a sack so it's not like he's completely fallen off of the face of the earth, but he just doesn't seem quite the game changing presence he has been in seasons past. Yes, Allen is a bit of a hot-and-cold guy season-wise, so perhaps 2013 holds some serious destruction from his end. And considering the fact that this team- should all go according to plan- will be even better all-around come then, perhaps that's a good thing we're having to wait. Still, I would love to see him return to his old antics in the next few games, particularly against Green Bay.
That said: Remember that Ray Edwards guy? Yeah me neither. Holy crap is Brian Robison making some serious waves, albeit at times seemingly under the radar. Batted passes, pressure, tackles- the guy is a force on the weak side of the line. I honestly believe the guy is making a case to get a Pro Bowl nod, even if just as a replacement. What's even better is he's younger and fresher (thanks to his early seasons as a rotational/ situational guy), meaning he should remain a force on that side of the line for seasons to come. He patiently waited for his chance, and he's been rewarding the coaching staff's faith in dividends upon dividends.
Compliment: The Vikings won, the Lions lost, and the Bears lost. The Packers had a bye and so are excluded. That puts the Vikings at 2-0 in the division, has pretty much sealed the Lions' fate, and moves us a bit closer to both Green Bay and Chicago. For all our doom and gloom after the losses against Tampa Bay (FRRRRRDADADGADFDFADSF) and Seattle, we actually hold our fate in our own hands.
But: Chicago and Green Bay are both very, very threatening teams, even with Houston's ugly win. Early in the season I said if Jay Cutler went down, the Bears would sink just like they did last year. I believe I'm wrong. Yes, the Bears lost last night, a game featuring Cutler relegated to the sidelines thanks to a concussion- but it's not like he was wildly outplaying Jason Campbell up until then. That team rises and falls with its defense, and it's not Cutler in whose health their fate lies- it's in Brian Urlacher's. And even if he does go down at some point, that defense is thick enough to still cause lots of problems. Further complicating things is that while the rest of the NFC North is staring down daunting schedules, Green Bay has a relative cakewalk- they've got the Lions twice as well as the Titans, and unless the Giants can figure out what the hell is wrong with them in a hurry, that's another easy win right there. Already 1-0 in the division, if we're going to take the #1 NFC North spot, we must sweep them, which will be a very daunting task. And even still we may not be able to take it. They're only one behind Chicago and have knocked a win over them already; we may well have to bear the unbearable- another Green Bay NFC North champion.
That said: I do believe that if this team can play the rest of the season the way it did today, we have a legitimate chance at beating both Green Bay and Chicago. Sweeps? Mmm, I don't know about that, but at the least we should be able to split both of the series. If AP can continue to light up the field, if Ponder can continue to spread the ball around, move the chains, and not turn it over, and if the defense can continue to harass QBs and create turnovers, then we're going to be in every game from here on out. Of course, that's a tall order- this team just exited a pretty ugly slump, and there's always the chance they'll hit it again. However, this team clearly has the ability to play some serious football.
Compliment: Adrian Peterson.
But: No but. Adrian Peterson.
That said: Adrian Peterson.
So there it is folks. As always clean up after yourselves you slovenly Norsemen (and Norsewomen), and take this win for what it's worth: a chance to feel good for two solid weeks. We broke our slump, swept a divisional opponent, and just looked good all around, and even did it with Harvin sidelined. SKOL