Notebook: Lions cornerback says Vikings lineman tried to injure him
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Detroit Lions cornerback Chris Houston pounded a fist on the Metrodome turf as he rolled on the ground near the line of scrimmage following Adrian Peterson's 61-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter Sunday.
It turns out that not only was Houston in pain after suffering a sprained right ankle, but he also felt he had been the victim of a cheap shot from the Vikings and therefore was angry.
"A lineman just fell on my ankle on purpose," Houston told the Detroit Free Press. "I went to cut him and he was flying open and as he went down he put both his knees on my ankle on purpose. But it's part of the game. I'll be OK."
Houston did not know which Vikings lineman landed on him, but a replay confirmed Houston tried to go low on Vikings right guard Brandon Fusco, who was kicking out on the play. When Fusco flipped over Houston, he landed on Houston's ankle, but there was no clear sign of intent.
Houston did eventually get up and walk off the field. He didn't need crutches after the game.
That, however, didn't make him any happier.
"Yeah, definitely," Houston said when asked if the felt the play was dirty. "I was on the ground so I didn't get to see who it was but as he pulled I cut him and he was flying over top of me, you could feel him land on my ankle on purpose. But I'll be OK."
Taking it public
It sounds as if Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams may have raised a few eyebrows among the players last week when he criticized some members of the defense for loafing at times in last weekend's loss at Seattle.
"We made comments on the side all week," defensive end Jared Allen said with a chuckle. "I don't know if you heard them, though. We're not supposed to talk about things in the paper. We're supposed to keep that in house, but I guess that's just for the players."
Changes in the nickel
Henderson and Chad Greenway stayed on the field in the nickel to start the season, but the combination was switched to Greenway and Brinkley after Henderson suffered a concussion in Week 2 at Indianapolis.
When Henderson returned, Brinkley maintained the job, but it appeared in recent weeks that he might have been wearing down with all the extra snaps.
At times Sunday, Greenway and Henderson were paired together when only two linebackers stayed in the game and at other times it was Greenway and Brinkley.
"We wanted to be able to take something off of Jasper," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "We wanted to see his play improve and we thought this would help that and I think it did. I think it helped to take some of that off of his plate to concentrate on what we're doing run defense wise and pass defense wise on first and second down."
Asked about the change, Brinkley said: "It's good, but at the same time you'd like to stay in the game and keep the flow going. I think it's a good transition. Keep us fresh, being able to run around all day. Run and tackle."
Brinkley said that when he's in the game, he's getting the defensive signals into his helmet and making the calls. When Henderson replaces him, he takes over communicating the assignments.
Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford both saw time at strong safety on Sunday as Raymond returned after missing six games because of a partial dislocation of his right ankle suffered in Week 3 against the San Francisco 49ers.
Raymond, who first came into the game on the Lions' third offensive series in the first quarter, finished with one tackle.
"I think he did pretty good," Frazier said of Raymond. "I'll have to talk with him a little more. Just listening to what the coaches were saying on the headset, they thought he was doing pretty good, moving around fairly well. I know he was a little concerned about his conditioning and where he was as I talked to him during the week. I think the reps that we gave him he functioned well."
Said Raymond: "I've been waiting a long time for that. It felt really good to be able to get out there and contribute. ... It didn't feel like I was starting over. Obviously, there are going to be some things that I've got to get caught back up on but for the most part I feel good."
Sanford, who got the start, had two tackles and forced a fourth quarter fumble by Lions receiver Calvin Johnson. That turnover gave the Vikings the ball at the Lions 45-yard line and the drive ended with 33-yard field goal by Blair Walsh to give the Vikings a 34-17 lead.
"It went well," Sanford said of sharing playing time. "I'm just glad to see Mistral back. We bring more to the team (this way). The better we are in the back end the better we are as a team."
The wait is over
Greenway's first quarter interception of a Matthew Stafford pass was the sixth of his career and his first since he intercepted an Eli Manning pass in the Vikings' regular-season finale of the 2009 season. Greenway did not have a pick in the 2010 or 2011 season, despite having several opportunities.
Greenway said he could not tell if the ball he picked off Sunday was tipped first. It was intended for tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Greenway returned the ball 3 yards to the Lions 25 and the Vikings ended the ensuing drive with a 48-yard field goal from Walsh.
"I think it was tipped because it was wobbling when it got to me, so maybe his arm was hit or something, but I don't give a (bleep)," Greenway said.
Asked how it felt to finally get an interception, Greenway said: "I've been in position to make plays and dropped the ball. As a player, I put a lot of pressure on myself to go make those plays. That's what I get paid to do. I'm so happy you guys have no idea. I hope they come in bunches now."
The Lions finished with 60 yards rushing on 17 carries and were led by running back Mikel Leshoure's 43 yards on 13 carries.
That ended a streak of four consecutive games in which an opposing running back went over the 100-yard mark.
"We struggled with stopping the run the last two, three weeks," Frazier said. "That was a heavy emphasis, just like it was a week ago but we didn't get it done. This week we got it done. We went back to the drawing board on some things and our guys responded.
"The turnovers were a heavy emphasis this week as well. Not giving the ball away. It's a combination of the two. We had fallen far behind in that area. ... We needed to get the turnovers, not give the ball away, and then be able to stop the ball on defense."
The Vikings had a fumble recovery and interception and did not turn over the ball.
Back in the mix
After catching only two passes in the past three games and being shutout in two of them, tight end Kyle Rudolph caught a team-leading seven passes for 64 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. He was targeted a team-high nine times.
Rudolph's production did not come as a surprise since Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave both made it clear last week that they needed to get the tight end back into the passing game.
"Going into this week we knew it was important that everyone had to step up, not just the tight ends," Rudolph said. "We had to win this week going into the bye week."
On Rudolph's 20-yard touchdown reception from Ponder early in the fourth quarter, Lions safety Ricardo Silva failed to wrap up Rudolph and receiver Michael Jenkins threw a key block that took cornerback Jacob Lacey out of the play.
"I've got to give all the credit to Michael Jenkins on that one," Rudolph said. "He made a huge block. There was no one there. So any time you have an opportunity to walk in, that's a good feeling."
Not a good idea
After Stafford found Pettigrew for a 16-yard touchdown in the third quarter, Lions kicker Jason Hanson tried to catch the Vikings by surprise by kicking short. Defensive lineman Christian Ballard picked up the ball and started to run with it.
That proved to be a bad idea when Ballard fumbled near the Vikings 40-yard line. Fortunately for Ballard, he recovered his miscue.
"Going forward, we're going to have to tell Christian Ballard we found out he is definitely not Adrian (Peterson's) replacement in the backfield," Frazier said. "But, hey, he's trying to make a play and fortunately for us, it worked out."
Tight end John Carlson returned after missing two games because of a concussion and caught one pass for 11 yards.
The Vikings swept the Lions for the first time since the 2009 season. The Vikings have now swept Detroit 23 times in 52 seasons, the most times they have swept any opponent. The Lions have only swept the Vikings five times.
Tom Pelissero contributed