Hey gang, Happy Friday. Now that we've said all of our Santa Clara soliloquies, let's do one more thing:
Forget about it. Done. Over. Finito. There's 15 games left to go, and we all know this team is a lot better than what they showed Monday night. So, let's turn the page and see what the Vikings need to do to beat Detroit. Because if Everson Griffen says they're going to beat Detroit, then they're going to beat Detroit. I mean seriously, would YOU argue with the man? I thought not. Anyway, let's get to it.
1. Hey, let's start with the defense. The last time I saw something over-pursue that much, it was the LAPD chasing down a white Ford Bronco. Seriously, the Vikings defense was a mess, and it was pretty much everywhere at once. No gap discipline, bad tackling, and missed assignments from darn near the first play to the last. It wasn't a Mike Zimmer defense we got accustomed to around these parts, and I would expect to see a vast improvement from week one to week two. Lions rookie RB Ameer Abdullah had an impressive debut against San Diego last week, and keeping him from doing another Carlos Hyde will be essential on Sunday. Not to mention Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, and Matthew Stafford.
2. Will the real Teddy Bridgewater please show up? Speaking of uncharacteristic play, I hadn't seen Teddy that shaky since his Louisville Pro Day. I fully expect to see a more poised and accurate Bridgewater on Sunday, and hopefully because of that, we can take Charles Johnson's picture off of milk cartons in the greater Eden Prairie area. Teddy's, too.
3. Adrian Peterson needs to get it going. if there was a word that was a common theme Monday, other than 'terrible' and all of her synonyms, it was 'uncharacteristic'. The defense was uncharacteristically bad. Bridgewater was uncharacteristically rattled and inaccurate. And Peterson was uncharacteristically invisible. One of the more fascinating aspects of the 2015 season was having AP and Teddy in the same backfield at the same time, and I still think it's going to be a good combination. Last week, San Diego backs had some success against the Lions, and I think we'll start seeing Peterson running well. He's averaged over 5 yards a carry and 100 yards a game in his career against the Lions, and that should continue Sunday.
4. But Neither Teddy or AP will get it going without better play from the offensive line. Of all the guys on the offensive line I thought might be terrible Monday night, Brandon Fusco wasn't one of them. But he was hideous, more hideous than Jake from State Farm. But Fusco's a guard, soooooo...
Yeah. Joe Berger, the guy we thought would be okay as John Sullivan's replacement, wasn't. And between those two, that's where most of the breakdowns came on Monday, other than TJ Clemmings recording his first sack as a starting right tackle. Like the other three things we've talked about, I'm not bailing on the offensive line yet. Look, Fusco and Berger are supposed strengths, and if they pick up their game while Matt Kalil, Mike Harris and Clemmings can maintain, this will be a league average line, minimum. And that's okay.
5. Blair Walsh. Oh, Blair Walsh...Look, he was 1-2 on field goals Monday, and he didn't miss an extra point. What's that? He didn't attempt an extra point? Oh, look at you with the big brain today. Speaking of big brains, it's a mental thing with him now; he hasn't lost any leg strength, as demonstrated by his booming kickoffs. I'm not bailing on him just yet, either. He seems fine in practice, and just needs to translate that into Sunday. I predict he's perfect from the field this weekend. How confident am I? I picked him up on my fantasy team. So there.
6. Explosive Plays. Lastly, the Vikings need to set the tone early with a couple of explosive plays. I don't know that they had any on Monday when the game was still competitive; and they rarely took a shot at one. Stretch the defense, use some misdirection, and open up the playbook a little. Get the Lions on their heels, and take them out of the game early. How do they do that? I said this in the SMR, and I'll say it again--get Cordarrelle Patterson and Stefon Diggs on the field at the same time. Those guys have to be accounted for, and they'll either get open if they aren't, or will allow for someone else to be open if they are. Phillip Rivers carved up the Lions defense for over 400 yards passing last week, and from watching chunks of that game, he left a lot more yards on the field.
Laying an egg the first game blows, and we were all unhappy about it. But now, we focus on the rest of the season, because it can only get better from here.
Skol Vikes. beat the Lions.