The other day I hit a squirrel.  I didn’t mean to and I did everything I could to safely miss the thing.  I went right and so did the squirrel.  I went left and the squirrel reversed course and stayed right in front of me.  This went on for a number of slight swerves when suddenly a definitive “THUD” made the outcome of this little episode quite clear.

On Sunday afternoon, the Detroit Lions played the part of my car, doing seemingly everything they could to keep that squirrel (the Minnesota Vikings) alive.

In the end:  THUD.

Things started out fairly promising.  A botched field goal attempt led to the Vikings first offensive snap, which Adrian Peterson took to the house from 78 yards out, but it was all downhill from there.  Here are my graded observations from the action:


Watching Adrian Peterson take that ball 78 yards for a touchdown really gave me hope about this game.  Hope is officially dead for a week one win, but runs like that still give me hope for the rest of the season.  In the hours following this loss I had to keep reminding myself just how ugly that loss to Indianapolis was last year and that the 2012 Vikings were able to turn things around, so the 2013 version might be able to do the same.

When you look into the Vikings defensive secondary you see a lot of guys that have question marks.  A guy that has defined himself as an exclamation point is Harrison Smith, though, and he looked to be in Pro Bowl form Sunday.  He was second on the team with 10 tackles, but any Lion on the receiving end of those hits would probably tell you they should count each Smith hit as two tackles.  The guy didn’t have any real game-changing highlights Sunday, but he is a consistent force in that secondary, and is like a missile when it comes to taking down the ball carrier.

As far as I can tell there were no serious injuries sustained by the Vikings on Sunday.  Yay.


Some people in the live chat were dogging on Jared Allen a little bit, but I just didn’t see where the disappointment was coming from, as he was all over the place.  Not only did Allen have the team’s only sack and hit Matt Stafford three times, but he batted down two passes.

In fact, I was a big fan of how our defensive line got their hands in the air with Kevin Williams (notorious for knocking passes down) on the sideline.  Sharrif Floyd also got his hands on one and so did Fred Evans, whose tipped pass turned into an Erin Henderson interception.

While I thought Chris Cook looked incredibly soft and second-rate, I also thought rookie Xavier Rhodes had a nice debut, and was largely responsible for Calvin Johnson’s quiet afternoon (remember, though, two near-touchdowns were taken away).  Rhodes ended the day with just three tackles to his name, and was responsible for one penalty for roughing up Megatron a tad bit too much, but his physical play and consistency was an encouraging sign of things to come.

The early gaffe of Jerome Simpson led me to believe he was having just another “typical” game, but after drawing a couple of interference calls, he began to heat up.  Simpson ended the day as the Vikings most targeted receiver (8 total) and snagged seven catches for 140 yards.  His diving no-look grab that went for 47 yards was one of the best deep pass plays we have seen out of this offense in years.


Our special teams unit wasn’t exactly the powerhouse many of us expected to see.  Jeff Locke was inconsistent (42.2 yard average), as was his coverage team, in the punt game.  Blair Walsh stood out for his booming kickoffs and 52 yard field goal.  Cordarrelle Patterson was an adequate-but-unspectacular kick returner (27 yard average) on his two attempts.  Marcus Sherels was only allowed one punt return attempt and it had mediocre results (6 yards).  The Vikings have sacrificed quite a bit to have an elite special teams unit, but they looked pretty ho-hum on Sunday.


The Vikings had to play in the nickel formation most of the game, which meant Marvin Mitchell barely saw the field, but the Vikings linebackers were completely outmatched by the talented offense of the Lions. Outside of Erin Henderson’s interception (with the assist from Evans) they looked pretty inept in pass defense.  They didn’t account for any quarterback pressure or a single tackle for a loss all game long.  The lack of athleticism in this group will plague the Vikings all season, especially when you add a mobile quarterback into the list of options for opposing offenses, and I’m not sure it is something that can be “fixed” until next offseason.

The play of Christian Ponder was not very inspiring.  His failed attempt at a throwaway, which resulted in an interception, was simply awful decision making.  Ponder ended up completing 18 of 28 passes for 236 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions, and a quarterback rating of just 63.1.  He took three sacks, ran the call four times for just 12 yards, and lost a fumble to bring his turnover count to four.  There were times when Jerome Simpson and some sketchy offensive line play hurt Ponder bad, but he was also bailed out by some very nifty catches from Simpson and Greg Jennings, so I’m not sure how much excuse-making is allowable at this point.  Overall, he looked overwhelmed and underprepared, which is the exact opposite of what us fans so desperately hoped to see out of him this week.


Why do we allow teams to take Adrian Peterson out of the game by refusing to throw the ball to him?  Where were Cordarrelle Patterson’s touches that made Percy Harvin such a stat-machine last year?  Why was Ponder’s back to the line of scrimmage so often?  And on third and short, what the hell was that?  Why are we paying Jennings so much money to take over the role of Michael Jenkins when Michael Jenkins is available for the low cost of, well, anything.  Where was the play action or misdirection?  Did we replace our offensive line with the case of “Little Giants?”  Is Pro Bowler Kyle Rudolph hurt?  Does Jarius Wright still exist?  All the overly-sarcastic questions are ones that Bill Musgrave may soon have to answer to in a very real way if he doesn’t get his act together.  Clearly all the fault doesn’t lie with Ponder, and one has to wonder if Ponder wouldn’t be more productive under a different coordinator, but I’m getting ahead of myself… by at least five weeks.


  1. Agree with your grades Adam.
    Disappointing game, what was worse is we still had a chance with about 5 minutes left and those two stupid penalties…
    The decision by Ponder at the end of the half was a killer. He’s gotta know better than that. He takes off running and there’s a fair chance he gets away. Hell, take the sack and you’re better off.
    I expected better of the D, for sure.
    Really have to find a way to get a win next week….

  2. good write-up, adam. how musgrave has stayed on as the OC this long should be investigated by the NFLBI. the guy is better suited to be a librarian or accountant, not an nfl football coach. he’s holding back everyone

  3. Adam its finally happened, I agree with an entire article! Especially Harrison Smith, I liked him from the start but never expected him to be this good.

  4. So, was the squirrel the reason for the trip to the emergency room last week?
    Good article Adam. Agree with all except the part about you getting ahead of yorself by 5 weeks.
    We should get rid of Mugrave NOW!

  5. Both our D and O lines have declined significantly. Used to be our pride, but always missed good DEs. On OFF always had good lines but, lacked skill positions. Common knowledge says you build a team from the interior lines and out from there. Our O lne has been mediocre since Tice left.

  6. As sometimes happens Buds is right. Both lines were terrible.

    43 pass attempts by the Lion. One sack as a team and 3 tipped balls? Stafford is known for that side arm slinger thing he does and most teams tip a couple balls each game. Those stats don’t give your old pal the warm fuzzies. The fact that on three different occasions, Matt Stafford was heard counting “12 Mississippi, 13 Mississippi, 14 Mississippi” before he threw the ball shows this guy had a TON of time out there.

    Didn’t Jared play against some left tackle who was playing his first pro game at left tackle? And… we are talking about batted balls? Sheesh. A few years back Jared would have schooled this guy. He was very average Sunday. I like Jared, Fred expects much more out of him than he delivered Sunday.

    The biggest problem the Lions had on Sunday was to decide if they wanted our defensive line look bad against the pass or the run. So… they chose both.

    Bjohnny ask Adam if he’s sent that squirrel to you Fedex…..Freds hears they taste like chicken.

    • I’ve never had squirrel Freds.

      One thing that I noticed was the lack of intensity except for Smith, he’s loaded with it at all times. After that cheap shot on Sully they should have gotten a little pissed and fired up but they didn’t.

    • Which means the big oaf learns nothing. What he needs is a good ass-kickin’

      I’m too far away to do it…who’s closest to Detroit? Adam?

        • Shoot! I was just checking out flight times and such. Glad you jumped in there Coach, it’ll save me a bunch of $ flying down there and kicking his ass. I just know you’ll do as good a job on him as I would have.
          Be scared Suh, be VERY scared. . .

          • Don’t be surprised if Suh is listed as Questionable, or maybe even Doubtful, on Thursday. Just sayin’…

        • Thanks Coach. No need to give him the full Gillooly treatment yet, just send a strong message. Never mind, I don’t want to limit you. I trust you’ll do what’s needed.

  7. Do Frazier/Spielman have the awareness to recognize how poor the offense is schemed….and do they have the guts to cut Musgrave loose early in the season? The play calling continues to be baffling, despite a very good O-line, and well above skills group. If you can’t come up with blocking scheme adjustments….and you top plays are 2 yd outs to the fullback on 3rd and 10, at some point that has to stick out on film.

    • More jump passes Freds. Kind of miss those.
      I think it’s pretty well known that draws and screens are a way of slowing down a pass rush. I guess Muskrat didn’t get the memo.

    • what plays, freds? you goin fishin??? cuz you be baitin with that question. i know you ask that because whatever response you’re given is an easy target with asking who will run these plays, and we know ponder has ‘limitations’, but i’ll indulge you because muskie deserves being called out, because maybe it goes beyond him, maybe it’s more systemic, maybe it goes higher than our coaching hierarchy. even favre butted heads with our control freaks on the sidelines, and maybe by extension, in the front office, when he changed plays at the line of scrimmage. arrogance can be a dangerous thing

      we need to call plays that adjust to the defense presented. not running repeatedly right into the strength of the lion’s defensive interior. coaching and giving permission to the QB to change the play before the snap. when you see 8 or 9 in the box, you don’t just run it anyway. when what you’re doing isn’t working, do something else, try the hurry-up, QB draws, read options, keep picking on their rookie at left corner, and like johnny says, draws and screens, anything to get going

      this should have all been figured out during the prep week with a better game plan and a contingency plan in case what you did plan doesn’t work. we spent a lot of money and used the draft during the off season getting two WRs that can take advantage of defenses that focus on AD, which is what every defense we play does, so spread them out, throw on 1st and 2nd downs more often. try something different, anything, use your musty grave imagination

      • Good insight CAL, especially the part about how Freds thinks. You’ve exposed the crafty old corner once and for all. I also agree that our offensive game plan could use some expansion.

      • Cals,

        You are a bad bad man.

        You’re old pal Freds was simply asking a simple question. Freds is very inquisitive and just wanted to dig deeper on the play calling question. He was not fishing….Freds is not that kind of guy.

        Thank you.

    • I think I’d start with the run vs pass before I got any more specific.

      MVPeterson, 18 rushes.
      Ponder, 28 passes.

      Makes sense right? Peterson couldn’t possibly carry this team, what has he ever done to prove he’s a decent RB?

      Let’s put it on the shoulders of a proven commodity like Ponder. Yeah.

      After that? Musgrave, your small vanilla cone sucks.

      • (Ahem) Say… uh… you got a little sarcasm there on the side of your mou… oh, wait, it’s running down… uh… better change shirts again, Tomb.

        I don’t think the 28 passing attempts were the problem. I think the fact that several landed in the hands of a Lion was the bigger problem. (Throwing so many while rolling left may have also been a problem.) Peterson gained less than a yard per carry after the first one. Maybe it was time to give it up after 17 more? Even the MVP needs some blocking.

        • Landing in the hands of a Lion is indeed the problem, but that’s what you get with Ponder. Inaccuracy, and poor decision making.

          Peterson gained less than a yard per carry after the first one. Yes, that’s not good. However, what happens when you keep feeding him. He wears defenses down. Let’s pluck from our history books Peterson’s record setting day against the Chargers with his 296 single game rushing yards on 30 carries.

          1st half: 43 yards
          2nd half: 253 yards

          Some people might look at that and think “jumpin’ jeebers, he gets stronger with every carry, maybe we ought to feed this guy!”

          While others (I’m looking at you Musgrave) look at it and think “Ponder’s the man, tell Peterson to stand down.”

  8. If only Musgrave could have remembered what he called on that first run. Was it Peterson Right or Peterson Left? Or perhaps Detroit made an adjustment. There are those who would suggest that we aren’t going anywhere if AD has to carry the ball 30 times a game, but you suggest 18 is not enough. Personally, I would like to think that our balance should be 25 passes by Ponder, 20 carries by Peterson, and 15 carries by other backs / receivers / QB’s (including the apparently obligatory 3-5 sacks per game!). No more than 4 punts would also be favorable.

    • “Perhaps Detroit made an adjustment.”

      See that’s the disappointing part, back when the league decreed that the Vikings were not legally allowed to make in-game adjustments. At least I assume that’s what happened, because otherwise it seems like it would be a good idea.

  9. Peterson getting bottled up was simply a result of not having a passing game that made them pay for putting everyone in the box. Detroit decided that the occasional deep ball to Simpson was much less of a concern than Adrian getting to the second level. And I don’t want to shock anyone, but that’s a smart move, and not a difficult decision to make.

    Ponder put his weaknesses out there for everyone to see against Buffalo in the preseason, and until he elevates his play defensive coordinators have a very simple game plan: stop 28.

    • So that’s it? Nothing can be done unless Ponder learns to not suck?

      Of all the football games I’ve seen, from Arena to High School to College to NFL, I’ve seen oodles of playcalls, some vastly different. Some with merit, some not. Seems like someone who’s entire life is devoted to football could figure SOMETHING out.

      In any case, AD faced a full box all of last year, and still damn near set the record. Doubtless he misses his Felton, but still…I’m just sayin’. I mean, I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’

      • I don’t care how Ponder’s play is elevated, it just needs to happen. Play calling and coaching may make a difference, maybe not. The fact remains, however, that the passing game was not able to make the Lions D pay for paying so much attention to AD. Some NFL D-lines are talented enough (like the Lions) to bottle up Peterson in a one dimensional offense, yes.

        With that being said Musgrave is Ponder’s only remaining excuse. With a second round tight end, an expensive O-Line, a top five pick at LT, a big money free agent WR in Jennings, a first round WR rookie… It is Musgrave that has officially run out of excuses.

        • Just to be clear, I was in no way giving Ponder a free pass. The game plan he’s been given should be enough to win games. The reality is, it ain’t happening. The other reality is, we’re clearly pretty much stuck with Ponder for the time being.

          My only point is, we know what DOESN’T work, so let’s try something, anything, different. See if we can’t win a ball game or two, despite the suckness of one Reach, Big.

    • I can’t disagree with you there, Adam. (But have you kept your resolution intact to this point? :-) ) It is hard to imagine that the presence of AD can’t be more of an advantage to us in the passing game. Whether it’s Ponder, Musgrave (or the league, as Tomb suggests), we need to better exploit that defensive game plan you suggest. Otherwise, go to the single wing so AD has another blocker to utilize.

      Bob Griese comes to mind. Wasn’t really all that great of a QB, but he sure had some good numbers and a couple rings, mostly from play-action to Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick. Those two would run over and around you for awhile, then Griese would perform a nice fake and turn around with the ball in his hand. Dolphin receivers open everywhere and linebackers twisting their ankles and knees trying to get into coverage. (To be fair, linebackers were a tad slower in those days.)

  10. Maybe a simple visit to the eye doctor could help Ponder? Looking at plays where he has a clean pocket and doesn’t see the wide open receiver is really starting to wear on me! Grrrr

    • Here’s a game plan, courtesy of Tomb: don’t just start the play with your WR’s in a bunch formation, but have them run their entire route in a bunch formation, then accuracy won’t be near as important…just need to hit one of the three receivers in the general vicinity. It’s be like one receiver with 15 foot arms. We can call it the Zone Receiving Package.

      Sure you’ll get some picks, but we’re already getting those, so make it interesting at least.

        • Tomb……funniest I’ve read in a lonnnnnnnnnng time…….I’m still lol while writing…….buying into the fact that this coaching staff has a future…………….expensive…………….reading a comment like yours after this week’s game…………PRICELESS!

  11. I was beginning to wonder if you were even IN the office. That, and I assume you have your sights firmly focused on that #4 spot.


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