Breaking down the tape from the Vikings' 24-10 win over Detroit
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Here's the tale of the tape from the Minnesota Vikings' 24-10 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday, with grades on a scale of 0 to 5 in parentheses.
Brett Favre all but gave up on going deep despite the Lions' increasing use of single-safety coverage. Of Favre's 23 completions in 34 attempts (67.6%), only four (17.4%) traveled more than 10 yards in the air -- a 14-yard in to WR Greg Lewis on the Vikings' first play, a 24-yard touchdown to WR Percy Harvin against blown coverage and adlib throws to Harvin (for 15) and WR Hank Baskett (for 18) after breaking the pocket. When Favre did try to go over the top, a shot to his arm caused an interception, WR Bernard Berrian couldn't get separation and Baskett mistimed his jump in the end zone. Favre's other interception on a screen pass was the product of an incredibly instinctive play by Lions DT Corey Williams. A third interception and a lost fumble were wiped out by penalties. The TD pass to wide-open Harvin nearly was overthrown. Three times, Favre seemed to be expecting something different from his receivers. He took a needless sack on a bootleg. Favre managed the game well enough to win, but the Vikings won't be complete offensively until they can do something -- anything -- on the perimeter. Five backside option throws against soft coverage yielded three completions for 16 yards and drops by Baskett and Harvin, the latter when the Vikings were trying to chew clock in the closing minutes. That couldn't have sat well with coach Brad Childress.
Running backs (4½)
The Lions loaded up the box with eight or nine players on 34 of 68 snaps (50%), including 21 of 35 (60%) while at times employing a de facto 4-4 front after halftime, Yet they still couldn't contain HB Adrian Peterson (55 snaps), whose 80-yard touchdown run showed off his speed, power and improved patience. He also had a 6-yard score, broke a tackle at the line for a 19-yard burst and finished with 160 yards on 23 carries even though a 36-yarder was negated by a penalty. Peterson's only glaring mistake was a dropped pass on third down to end the Vikings' opening series; he caught the other five balls that got to him for 30 yards, including a 17-yarder. Backup HB Toby Gerhart (15) saved a touchdown with a diving tackle of Williams after the interception, rushed three times for 12 yards (4.0 average) and lost a fumble when DE Lawrence Jackson stripped him with the Vikings in field-goal range in the fourth quarter. He got six snaps on third downs but wasn't tested in pass protection. FB Naufahu Tahi (17) continues to lead well in limited action.
Despite all the practice he's missed, Harvin (46 snaps) seems to be settling in -- and the Vikings made the sure they got the ball in his hands. He took two end-around runs for 13 yards, bailed out Favre with a diving grab on the touchdown and finished with 62 yards on six catches, four of them from the slot. That's where he has to do his damage. The word is out on Berrian (40), who looks old and can't outrun anyone if he's jammed at the line. Now he's resorting to flailing his arms and trying to draw flags -- it worked twice against CB Jonathan Wade. Berrian mostly has held up well as a blocker, but twisting CB Nathan Vasher by the jersey wiped out a long run for Peterson. Extended action for WR Greg Lewis (34) suggests maybe coaches are losing faith in Berrian, too. Lewis caught three passes for 30 yards but twice adjusted his route away from a pass. Baskett (18) played a lot for a player who just arrived, suggesting Childress is eager to deploy a bigger target on the perimeter. He mostly played the "X" position, got free for an 18-yard catch when protection broke down, dropped an option pass and failed to high-point what would have been a 39-yard TD pass against smaller SS C.C. Brown. WR Greg Camarillo (15) can't seem to get a bigger role on offenes but nonetheless caught as many passes as Berrian (two).
Tight ends (3½)
Favre's favorite target through two games, Visanthe Shiancoe (27 snaps) had only one catch for 7 yards before leaving with a hamstring injury. That left Jimmy Kleinsasser (53) and Jeff Dugan (28) to go the rest of the way, and both factored favorably. The Vikings chipped or kept in an extra blocker on 18 of 32 dropbacks (56.3%) -- repeatedly slanting the line in the second half to double multiple rushers and leave a single edge block to Kleinsasser, who held his own against the Lions' ends. That adjustment helped reduce pressure on Favre, and Kleinsasser also slipped out for two catches. Dugan had one reception, busted a tackle for a first down and threw a key backside cutoff block on Peterson's long TD run. He could have finished better against Jackson before Gerhart's fumble.
Offensive linemen (3)
With C John Sullivan out after one snap, Ryan Cook took over and delivered a remarkably serviceable performance, given his lack of work at the position. He let Williams power past to drop Peterson for loss on his first snap, missed a couple of second-level blocks that disrupted run plays and took a silly clipping penalty. But Cook held up well in pass protection, appeared to fare well overall with line calls and showed surprising power at times against a tough Lions front. It was a far cry from Cook's struggles at center early in the preseason. LT Bryant McKinnie had some trouble with the Lions' twists, allowed two QB hits early -- one against veteran RE Kyle Vanden Bosch, who otherwise was held quiet -- and had a hand in three runs for loss. LG Steve Hutchinson continues to be the unit's rock. He got Williams totally turned around on Peterson's long TD. RT Phil Loadholt continues to have issues with penalties (two) and speed rushes -- LE Cliff Avril beat him outside to hit Favre's arm, forcing the interception -- but played better overall. His run blocking remains mediocre. RG Anthony Herrera had his hands full with rookie DT Ndamukong Suh and gave up two QB hits, plus a third pressure. The Lions blitzed seven times in 32 dropbacks (21.9%); four got home.
Defensive linemen (3½)
UT Kevin Williams (55 snaps) continues to be the unit's top performer. He beat almost everyone on the Lions line at one time or another to hit Lions QB Shaun Hill once, pressure him five times and deflect two passes, including a break-up that prevented a huge gain on a third-down screen to HB Jahvid Best. Williams also tackled Best for no gain and blew up a third-and-short run in the backfield. LE Ray Edwards (53) didn't register a tackle but was productive with three QB hits and five total pressures. He drew a holding penalty against Lions RT Gosder Cherilus and was flagged for offsides and roughing the passer -- the latter bad luck after Edwards soared over FB Jerome Felton's cut block. NT Pat Williams (31) anchored and fought his way to four tackles (three solo). RE Jared Allen (61) played the most snaps of anyone and remains an enigma. He got his share of one-on-one chances against LT Jeff Backus -- the Lions chipped or kept in an extra blocker on 17 of 45 dropbacks (37.8%), slightly more often than the Vikings rushed five or more (13 of 45, 28.9%) -- but his only two QB hits were the product of an Edwards pressure and a late loop, respectively. Three games and the All-Pro has one sack on a clean-up job. DL Brian Robison (22) saw his most extensive action this season, cleaned up Kevin Williams' pressure for the Vikings' only sack and lost contain on WR Stefan Logan's end-around run for 21 yards. DT Jimmy Kennedy (23) made his first appearance since his knee injury, drew a holding call and got in on three tackles (two solo). DT Letroy Guion (18) was pretty much invisible.
SLB Chad Greenway (66 snaps) played the entire game and was tireless as ever, though the Lions made him chase plenty by throwing in his direction 10 times. The Lions running game never got going -- Best, backup HB Maurice Morris and FB Jerome Felton combined for 36 yards on 15 carries (2.4 average) -- in part because Greenway kept slamming into gaps and pursuing for a team-high nine solo tackles. He did let Morris get away on a catch-and-run for 16. MLB E.J. Henderson (57 snaps) keeps playing physically in the run game -- his cutdown of Felton against RG Stephen Peterman's pulling block was impressive -- but he just doesn't look totally comfortable making quick cuts in space since his leg injury. TE Tony Scheffler used a stutter move to get across Henderson's face for a 5-yard touchdown. If they aren't already, coaches have to consider redistributing more of Henderson's nickel snaps in obvious passing situations to WLB Ben Leber (37), who made a good read to drop off in zone coverage and intercept Hill's fourth-quarter pass for Morris. Best's quick-cut run for 16 yards came at Leber's expense in the backfield.
Defensive backs (3½)
With CBs Cedric Griffin and Chris Cook (39 snaps) back in action, the Vikings opted to play sides against the Lions' star WR Calvin Johnson instead of shadowing him. The gambit paid off -- matched mostly against Cook on the left side against the Vikings' nickel and LCB Antoine Winfield outside in base, Johnson had just six catches for 56 yards and Hill only threw his way seven times. The entire group played far more press coverage than Asher Allen and Lito Sheppard had been, with a lot of Cover-2 help over the top. Cook got the bad end of Johnson's leaping 21-yard catch in the second quarter but matched the 6-foot-5 receiver punch for punch when they lined up regularly in the fourth quarter. Griffin had a flying ankle tackle on Morris among his three takedowns and gave up nothing significant in coverage. Winfield was everywhere as usual, making nine tackles (eight solo) and sealing the win with an interception off Scheffler's fingertips. SS Husain Abdullah tailed Scheffler for one pass break-up and stripped TE Brandon Pettigrew for another. He's so rangy he can get away with both backing out of blitzes to cover and sprinting up to make tackles at the edge. There were no plays to be made over the top against him or FS Madieu Williams, who has been steady and had six tackles.
PK Ryan Longwell remained perfect on place-kicks, including a 31-yard field goal. Five kickoffs averaged 3.66 seconds of hang time, and though four of five reached the goal line or farther, Detroit's drives started at the 34, 28, 29, 23 and 35. That's not where the Vikings want to be. On the other hand, three of P Chris Kluwe's five boots pinned the Lions at their 8-, 15- and 4-yard lines, respectively. Another was a poor kick with 4.1 hang that went to the wrong side of the field, only to be muffed by Logan and recovered by Greenway to set up the Vikings' first touchdown. LB Jasper Brinkley and S Jamarca Sanford both took borderline penalties for illegal blocks that wiped out good punt returns by Camarillo, who ended up with only a 5.6-yard average on five chances. There's no reason to even think about giving Berrian another shot at that role. Harvin's two kick returns averaged 20.5 yards. Sanford had two teams tackles and downed a punt.