Before I get too far into the crapfest that was the majority of the Minnesota Vikings' 34-24 loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 1, allow me to get to the few Vikings that played well on Sunday.
I don't know where this version of Jerome Simpson came from, but it's nice to see him. Simpson finished the day with seven receptions for 140 yards, including grabs of 47 and 44 yards. The 47-yarder came on a beautiful diving catch and led to Adrian Peterson's 4-yard touchdown catch that got the score to 27-24. Jerome Simpson, #4 receiver is a heck of a lot better than Jerome Simpson, #1 receiver that really isn't a #1 receiver.
Harrison Smith had a few really nice hits in coverage today, and played a role in holding Calvin Johnson to just 37 yards on four catches. (Granted, he didn't do much as far as stopping Reggie Bush, but neither did anybody else.)
Blair Walsh kicked the heck out of the ball this afternoon, extending his streak to 11 consecutive 50-yard field goals to start his career. He also didn't give the Lions an opportunity at a kick return all day long.
Adrian Peterson reminded us that he's pretty good at football on the Vikings' first play from scrimmage with a 78-yard touchdown. He shows up every week, so it's a bit superfluous to put him on this list, but I want to make sure he's on there.
That's pretty much everybody. The rest of the team was pretty bad.
As I said in the first recap that I put up, Christian Ponder was Christian Ponder. He made a few nice throws in this one, and he mixed in a few inexplicably stupid ones as well. The one that wound up being intercepted at the end of the first half was inexcusable. He was close enough to the sideline and out of the pocket where he could have just flicked his wrist and put it out of bounds. I don't know if he was trying to get it out of bounds or if he thought he could hit Greg Jennings on the play, but it was an awful decision compounded by an even more awful throw.
That's what Ponder is right now, unfortunately. The occasional flashes are canceled out by things that just make you shake your head. He needs to know when it's time to fight another time.
But Ponder is most assuredly not alone on the list of reasons that the final score wound up the way that it did.
If you look at the boxscore, the Vikings only took five penalties in this one, which is generally not bad. However, they took incredibly stupid penalties at inopportune times, most notably twice on the drive that followed the Vikings getting back to within 27-24. The Vikings actually stopped the Lions twice on that drive, but two penalties kept the drive alive for Detroit. One was questionable, as Xavier Rhodes was called for pass interference on a throw that went well over the head of Calvin Johnson. The other one was not, as on a 3rd-and-18 play, Letroy Guion hit Matthew Stafford in the head on what would have been a stop, drawing a roughing the passer penalty and keeping the Lions' drive alive.
The defense as a whole looked atrocious. The Lions were starting Riley Reiff at left tackle, a guy they had so much confidence in that they were talking about moving him to guard at the end of 2012. They lost their starting right tackle, Jason Fox, early in the game and were playing the backup for the majority of the contest. Despite that, Stafford didn't face a whole lot of pressure. And when he was finding guys, it was usually Reggie Bush, who absolutely obliterated the Vikings on Sunday with 191 total yards of offense. Of course, the defense was probably gassed after being on the field for 21 of the 30 minutes of the first half, but it seemed like the Detroit offense was a couple of steps ahead of the Vikings' defense the entire afternoon.
The special teams, outside of Walsh, weren't great either. Jeff Locke had a pretty rough debut as the Vikings' punter, averaging just 34.8 yards per punt and giving the Lions short fields to work with on more than one occasion.
Truth be told, if the Lions could have stopped shooting themselves in the foot in the first half, this game probably would have been decided significantly earlier than it was. They botched a field goal attempt on their opening drive, had what looked like a touchdown catch by Calvin Johnson overturned (on what was the right call). They had a touchdown taken off the board thanks to a personal foul penalty on Ndamukong Suh on what should have been a pick-six by DeAndre Levy off of a deflection by Simpson. Detroit wasn't really that far away from putting up a 50-spot in this one. . .the Vikings were relatively lucky that things were as close as they were, given the circumstances.
It was an ugly loss for the Vikings on Sunday afternoon at Ford Field, and it was truly a group effort. Hopefully this team can get themselves together before next Sunday at Soldier Field. . .a place that, incidentally, they pretty much never win at. Getting into an 0-2 hole not just in the overall standings, but in the division, after the first two games of the season is going to be a pretty tough hole to dig out of.
Can the Vikings learn from this loss? Sure, they can. Will they? Unfortunately, we have to wait seven days to find out.