Review: Game 1, 2013: Vikings @ Lions

So by the time the Vikings had run their first play from scrimmage on Sunday, you had to think that this was going to be Adrian Peterson’s coming-out party for a 2500-yard season — after seeing him rumble for a 78-yard touchdown, how could you not? Sadly, that first play was not indicative of how the Vikings would perform in this game.

Where the Vikings Sucked

1. Zero pass rush. The Vikings never seemed to establish any sort of pass rush. Yes, Jared Allen had one sack, but it was on an obviously broken play. The rest of the day, Stafford seemed to have plenty of time in the pocket and was relatively unmolested while he looked for a target. To be fair, he did have a few passes batted down at the line (one of which was picked off), but all in all, this was one of my biggest points of concern.

2. Adrian Peterson shut down. After a monster run for a touchdown on the Vikings’ first play from scrimmage, AP was largely shut down. This, I attribute to great play by the Lions’ linebackers and safeties who were frequently filling the gaps made by the Vikings, and a lack of Jerome Felton, who is serving a 3-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy (DUI).

3. Chad Greenway. Looked frequently out-of-position and was unable to close the distance between himself and runners. Did this guy spend his off-season on the couch?

4. Defensive line. Other than a few batted-down passes, the defensive line looked non-notable. We were badly in-need of Kevin Williams (injured), and it showed. Jared Allen seemed largely dominated at the line, only getting in for a sack on a broken play, and everyone else had a quiet day.

5. Stupid play calling. Since Bill Musgrave’s arrival in Minnesota, the play calling has been, well, stupid. Sunday, I found myself actually wishing for Brad Childress’s “kick ass offense” to come back. Generally speaking, the calls were odd — on 3rd and 1, when you have AP on the field, you use him as a decoy and attempt to throw for a first down? Why? Because they know you’re going to run? No shit, you’re going to run — it’s 3rd and 1, for fuck’s sake, and you’ve got the best running back in the league. Ultimately, the play failed, but I wouldn’t be bitching about it if they’d run and failed to convert. Also, what’s with the slow, regular-pace offense when you’re inside 4 minutes and trailing? Pick it up, Musgrave.

There’s other things I could complain about here, including Ponder’s bad decision making (obvious), Jeff Locke’s terrible punting (less obvious), or even our poor tackling, but I had to limit it to five things, and the five above are what I first thought of when making this list.

Where the Vikings Looked Good

1. Simpson apparently can catch. Yes, he had one go off his fingertips for an interception, but when that’s balanced against 7 catches for 140 yards, who can argue? It was nice to see him hauling in passes, including that nice 47-yard shot in the 3rd quarter, and it gives me some hope that we might actually develop something of a passing game this year…if Ponder can pull his head out of his ass and stop throwing picks, and the offensive line can actually give him some time to throw.

2. Ponder threw accurate deep balls. 44-yard and 47-yard passes to Simpson, both of which were hauled in. To be fair, though, there wasn’t a lot of this…so it could be just a fluke. However, if this is indicative of improvement in this skill, Ponder’s only has two real issues left to deal with:

  1. His decision making
  2. His tendency to stare down his receiver

If he can continue to throw the deep ball, while making marked improvements in these two areas, we might actually have a quarterback. I am, however, not hopeful.

3. Megatron shut down. This has to be mentioned with the caveat that he had two touchdowns called back — one on review, and one on a penalty by Ndamukong Suh (who remains the dirtiest player in the NFL). Other than that, he was held to 47 yards receiving. This gives me hope for the Vikings secondary, but I do wish they’d try to talk Winfield out of retirement.

4. Harrison Smith is a beast. If we lost Winfield’s heart after last season, we found a new one in Smith. This kid is a fucking monster in the backfield and hits like a ton of bricks. If he can set the standard for play in our secondary, it’ll change the face of our defense.

5. Uhhhh… Yeah, seriously, I can’t think of another good thing we did on Sunday. Hmmm. We didn’t lose by more than 10 points. AP stayed healthy. And unless it hasn’t be reported yet, none of the Vikings were arrested post-game.

Conclusion

If we play like this all season, we’ll be lucky to go 7-9 and will likely finish dead last in the division. Obviously, one game isn’t enough to judge the whole season, so next week’s game at Chicago is going to be a good indicator of how things are going to progress.