Sunday, September 30, 2012

Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Vikings 20, Lions 13

Vikings-Lions Box Score (ESPN)

The Vikes just picked up their third win of the year, and it is still September. They just got an NFC North win (and are now 2-0 in the NFC, something that--do you believe I'm saying this?--can be relevant for playoff tie-breakers). And they got a road win, something that still feels like it should be cherished.

A win for special teams
When you have a player as dynamic as Percy Harvin, it makes a lot of sense to give him the ball on kick returns. Considering how often Harvin catches the ball around the line of scrimmage, relying on him to advance the team down the field on offensive plays, or to get 100+ yards of offense, can really wear him down. If you give him a chance to pick up a lot of yardage and help the team's field position on one play, he can be a game-changer without taking hit after hit.

And Marcus Sherels' punt return was just joyful to watch--I've got little more to say about it.

A win for defense
The Vikes were aided today by a lot of Lion errors, but it is remarkable how well the defense schemed and performed. The run defense was drop-dead dominant, recalling the Viking defense we've grown accustomed to. But many of the Lion pass plays just looked awkward. Often Matthew Stafford had time to throw, but showed himself not terribly instinctive in the pocket. Sometimes he checked down, sometimes he attempted (a little erratically) to scramble, and often enough he seemed to duck before the pass rush was actually there on him. Brian Billick kept telling us about the passive, deep cover-2 to take away the deep stuff and force the Lions to try sustain drives with short stuff. They obviously couldn't--in part because the Vikings did a superb job tackling today.

A win for the running game
Adrian Peterson averaged 4.9 yards per carry today, and he did not not by relying on one or two big plays, but by constantly grinding, and grinding, and grinding, getting consistent chunks of yards. The offensive line blocked very well today, and Peterson showed great burst: that combination makes the run game potent.

Jerome Simpson, and why you should throw deep
The Vikings averaged 4.3 yards per pass attempt today (which includes the 27 yard late pass to Jerome Simpson, a call both gutsy and smart: plowing into the line for no gain three times and letting Detroit use its timeouts would not have left the Vikes in a good spot at the end): the pass game really wasn't working today. The Vikes have been relying on short passes with yards after the catch, and when that is the core of your passing game, teams can step up to stop it.

But the Vikings attempted three deep throws to Jerome Simpson (including that late completion). On the first two, Simpson drew pass interference penalties, and the Vikings were able to move the ball far downfield. Those two drives each resulted in field goals.

Good things can happen when you try to throw deep. Jerome Simpson obviously adds a new element to the Viking offense, and they should continue to try throw it to him deep at least two or three times a game.

Hell, I don't want to spend too much time on analysis. I want to bask! Skol Vikings!


  1. "Marcus Sherels' punt return was just joyful to watch" I'm sure you've heard that it was his birthday, too. That made me smile. I like the guy - he gets a bad rap as a local who wouldn't have a job if not for the Vikings' need to always roster a local guy. He's not great, but he's not too shabby either.

    I'd like to know how many (well, few) blitzes MN ran during the game. It looked like they were getting very consistent pressure with just four, and that helps out the rest of the defense tremndously.

    Peterson is very fun to watch in a different way than in the past. Without that top gear he uses to make the entire back 7 of every defense miss, he's adjusted his technique to play off of his quickness and power (but no longer speed). I'll bet FootballOutsiders stats are going to love his success rate this year.

  2. It's very encouraging to see some of the young guys on defends showing life. Everson Griffin, Guion, Josh Robinson, even Brinkley. It just seems like in the past they've relied on their ageing stars to hold everything together without letting the Tyrell Johnson's of the worlds undermine everything. It's fun to see some young depth contribute. Detroit has a legit passing game, and while the Lions shot themselves in the foot with some drops, the Comings defended clearly wasn't easy to solve yesterday.

    While I'fe heard some reasonable theories for Ponder's regression back to Captain Checkdown/Game Manager (due to the run game dominating and playing with a lead the entire game) I am disturbed by his performance yesterday. There were a couple times he seemingly didn't make ANY reads and simply fired the ball to a completely covered option (I recall one play in particular where Harvin was targeted despite the fact he was literally stiff-arming a defender away on a little screen play before Ponder even delivered the ball; amazingly he still caught but was brought down for a loss or minimal gain.)

    I'm not makjng any conclusions or anything, and I understand a young Qb isn't going to show steady, cumulative improvement every week. I just wish we 'd notice less of that type of stuff. (I also find it sort of amusing that when Ponder was drafted, the draftniks and even the team made him out to be a cerebral, near NFL -ready type prospect when in fact he's more of an athletic type who seemsto struggle to make reads and decisions consistently.) After his performance against the 49ers, Bill Simmons compared him to Rich Gannon, which I can sort of see. I just hope, if that's the case, that he "gets it " a little sooner than Gannon did.


  3. Jianfu:

    I'll be focusing on another positive in my post, which will be up here soon (I hope), but I hear you. A Vikings win on the road can wallpaper over the fact Ponder couldn't get much going in the passing game yesterday and the Vikings offense only scored six points. The Lions secondary isn't supposed to be very good, so I'm concerned. I'll wait until after the Titans game before letting that concern overtake me.