Lions' running back tandem of Bush and Bell flatten Vikings in loss
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
'The moment,' or play in the game that solidified the outcome, came with the Minnesota Vikings down 27-24 early in the fourth quarter, when quarterback Christian Ponder tripped over guard Brandon Fusco's foot and delivered a sloppy handoff to running back Adrian Peterson, who never had control and lost the fumble.
The Detroit Lions' next drive went for 40 yards on eight plays with a touchdown for the 34-24 score that stood as final.
But really, the game was heavily favored to Detroit's side when Minnesota had no answers for the Lions' running back tandem of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell.
Veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams is 33 and on the decline of his career, but his absence was felt in Sunday's loss as he was sidelined for the first time since 2011 with a hyperextension and severe bone bruise in his left knee.
Bush and Bell were deployed in a variety of fashions, through the air (nine catches for 168 yards combined) and on the ground. But without Williams, other Vikings defenders were getting chipped, double teamed and were hesitant to rush the passer at times due to multiple screens.
The Vikings could get to quarterback Matt Stafford, but couldn't bring him down, registering just one sack by defensive end Jared Allen. However, the defensive line batted at least four Stafford passes -- two from Allen, one each from Sharrif Floyd and Fred Evans.
When the Vikings pinned their ears back to attack Stafford, they were burned by quick passes designed against the blitz or numerous protection schemes that proved successful.
The defensive line, sans Williams, also struggled against the run.
A season after holding the Lions to fewer than 60 yards on the ground in each game, the Vikings were burned in the 2013 opener.
Bush finished with 191 total yards, including a 77-yard reception for a score on the Lions' second drive of the final half. Bell finished with 92 total yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
The Vikings gave up 117 rushing yards and combined with Stafford's efficiency, gave up 469 yards of total offense on Sunday.
Simply put, the Vikings' typically dominant defensive line looked lost without their anchor in the middle. The blame can't all be placed on Williams' replacements, but the attention he draws can't be ignored.
Defensive tackle Letroy Guion made the start in place of Williams, but finished with just two tackles. Rookie defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd made an appearance, even registering a pass deflection, but didn't record a tackle.
Williams said he would be "shocked" if he didn't play in Week 2 at the Chicago Bears.
The Vikings can only hope so, because on paper, this was supposed to be one of the easier road games of the season.