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Looking Deeper Into The Week One Loss

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

So, as I mentioned in the Open Thread, I finally went ahead and got the Premium Stats package from Pro Football Focus. They're generally regarded as being pretty accurate when it comes to judging how players perform in each game in various aspects.

From what I can tell, the folks from PFF use a fairly straightforward color scheme when it comes to player grades. Anything in the white category, ranging from anywhere between -1.0 and +1.0, are varying degrees of "average," whether it's slightly above or below. Players that grade exceptionally poorly, meaning anything below -1.0, get marked in the red, while those that have a good game, anything above +1.0, get coded green.

If I'm wrong on all of this, someone else with the PFF Premium Stats can feel free to toss a correction out there.

So, from looking at what the folks at PFF came up with for the Vikings, here's how things broke down.

On offense, PFF has grades for 17 different Vikings' players. Of those 17 players, eight of them wound up in the "red" as far as grades are concerned. In those eight "red" players were four of the five members of the offensive line. The only one that didn't get marked down as having a "bad game" was, surprisingly, Charlie Johnson (who actually graded out just slightly above average). The other four members of the Vikings' starting offensive line. . .Matt Kalil, John Sullivan, Brandon Fusco, and Phil Loadholt. . .all wound up in the red, and all graded pretty poorly in pass protection as well. In fact, the only member of the Vikings that wound up in the "green" in pass protection was. . .drum roll. . .Adrian Peterson.

Yeah, when your star running back is the only player that grades well in the "pass blocking" realm. . .well, I'm no expert, but I think that's pretty bad.

The other four members of the Vikings' offense that wound up "in the red" were quarterback Christian Ponder (as you'd expect), fullback Zach Line (largely because of a bad run blocking grade), tight end Kyle Rudolph (also largely due to a bad run blocking grade), and wide receiver Jarius Wright.

Conversely, there were three players that wound up in the green for Minnesota. . .wide receiver Jerome Simpson, Peterson, and tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison. I have a feeling that Ellison might start seeing more snaps than Line here in the near future. . .he was only on the field for 10 snaps against Detroit, while Line was there for 17.

One other thing from the offense. . .PFF shows the Lions with 16 quarterback hurries on 34 dropbacks for Christian Ponder. Conversely, it only shows the Vikings with 8 quarterback hurries on 39 dropbacks for Matthew Stafford. That strikes me as being kind of bad, too, considering how good we thought the Vikings' offensive line was and how poor we thought Detroit's offensive line was.

There were 15 players that PFF has grades for on defense after the first game of the year. Again, there were three players in the green, and none of them come as a surprise. They're defensive end Jared Allen (the Viking that graded highest overall on either side of the ball), defensive end Brian Robison, and safety Harrison Smith. Six of them wound up in the red, including all three starting linebackers. Yes, even Marvin Mitchell, who graded out pretty terribly despite only being on the field for 15 snaps. How bad was it for the linebacker corps?

Of the 46 inside linebackers, both 3-4 and 4-3, graded by PFF (that played at least 25% of their team's snaps), only two graded lower than Erin Henderson.

Of the 30 4-3 outside linebackers graded by PFF (that played at least 25% of their team's snaps), none graded lower than Chad Greenway. And if you expand the OLB rankings to include all the 4-3 OLBs that PFF has grades for, Greenway is still dead last (out of 43), while Mitchell checks in at #39.

Throw in JaMarca Sanford ranking 66th out of 70 safeties, and there wasn't a whole lot to be happy with on the Minnesota defense on Sunday. Both starting defensive tackles, Fred Evans and Letroy Guion wound up in the red for Sunday's game, too. In addition, punter Jeff Locke graded out the lowest of the 32 NFL punters, and #31 wasn't even close to him. On average, the Lions started their drives at their own 37-yard line, while the Vikings started theirs at their own 22.

What's the point of this breakdown? To underscore something that quite a few people seem to be missing in the aftermath of Sunday's season-opening loss.

The Minnesota Vikings, as a team, on both sides of the football, got their asses kicked at Ford Field on Sunday. As mentioned in the first recap, had the Lions been able to resist the urge to put their feet upon their own genitalia in the earlier stages of the game, things probably would have been decided much earlier than they were.

I understand the urge for many. . .and I do mean many. . .to put this solely at the feet of one person, that being Christian Ponder. That's incredibly short-sighted. . .and I'm sure that will get me labeled as a "Ponder apologist" or what have you. Frankly, I'm to the point where I don't give one-tenth of one damn about that. I think he's still, clearly, the best option currently available on the Minnesota Vikings' roster, and I don't think it's particularly close.

Furthermore, I don't think Ponder is responsible for the Vikings, apparently, not realizing that the Detroit Lions had acquired Reggie Bush until they saw him in pre-game warm-ups (because there sure as hell wasn't an answer for him anywhere). He also wasn't on the field for 469 yards of offense rolled up by the Lions on a day where the Vikings' secondary managed to hold Calvin Johnson to thirty-seven yards with a long reception of thirteen.

I've resigned myself to the fact that, regardless of how the rest of this team performs, that this season is going to be much the same as last season was. . .one gigantic gripefest about the team's starting quarterback. If it makes people feel better to put all the blame for things like that atrocity we saw on Sunday on the shoulders of one guy, then that's fine. At this point, the old adage "quarterbacks get all the credit when their team wins and all the blame when their team loses" is completely false. The guy gets no credit when he plays well and all the blame when he doesn't.

And if people want to throw Matt Cassel out there, that's fine, too. Personally, I think that if Cassel was some sort of savior, he'd be starting somewhere else and not backing up in Minnesota. The guy got benched last year in favor of Brady Quinn. Nobody should get benched in favor of Brady Quinn. Ever. At this point, Cassel should basically be looked at in the same light as the first runner-up in the Miss America pageant. . .the only way he gets to wear the tiara is if something awful happens to the person above him on the ladder.

I'm not absolving Christian Ponder of blame for Sunday's loss. . .far from it. He certainly could have played a better football game in many respects. But the guy had plenty of help losing this one. Both sides of the ball, all things considered, were relatively awful.