4 Key Takeaways From Sunday's Loss To Detroit

Posted Sep 8, 2013

The Vikings came into their season opener in Detroit on Sunday like a bang, but left in a whimper. Adrian Peterson slashed through the Lions defense on the first play from scrimmage for a 78-yard touchdown run, but turnovers and mistakes after that marred the effort and the Vikings came away with a 34-24 loss.

So what went wrong? Let’s take a look...

Too many turnovers
This can be identified as a main factor in nearly any loss, but turnovers were especially costly for the Vikings on Sunday. The fourth and final turnover was really of no consequence because the game was decided. But here’s a closer look at the previous three…

-- Christian Ponder’s first interception – on a ball that went off Jerome Simpson’s fingertips – was essentially a non-factor because the Vikings defense collected an interception of their own on the next play.

-- Ponder’s second interception was much more costly. It came with 2:22 to play in the 1st half and the Vikings driving to try and extend their lead. Instead, the Lions took possession on their own 30 and drove 70 yards for a touchdown right before the half.

-- The next Vikings turnover came on a fumbled handoff exchange between Ponder and Adrian Peterson. Trailing 27-24 early in the 3rd quarter, the Vikings defense came up with a stop and the Vikings offense setup shop at their own 22. Ponder found Jerome Simpson for 15 yards on 1st down and it looked like the Purple had some momentum. But on the third play of the drive, Ponder took the snap, turned to hand the ball off to Peterson, and was tripped up by an offensive lineman. This caused the fumbled exchange, and the Lions recovered. Detroit turned that into seven points eight plays later, and the lead grew from three to 10.

Couldn’t get the running game moving
The Vikings offense is predicated on establishing the running game. Everything else plays off of that. On Sunday in Detroit, the running game never got going after Peterson’s 78-yard run. In fact, Detroit held the reigning MVP to 15 yards on 17 carries the rest of the game. With the ground game serving as no threat, the play-action pass game wasn’t effective. When those two elements of the Vikings offense aren’t working, it’s hard for Ponder and Co. to put up points. Granted, that Lions front is about as good a front as the Vikings will see all season. But that’s no excuse. The Vikings have one of the best blocking groups in the NFL, in my opinion, and they won’t be pleased with their performance on Sunday. They will bounce back and find a way to improve, and hopefully it will be in time for next week’s game in Chicago.

Too much Reggie Bush
Mark down Reggie Bush as one of the early favorites for “best offseason acquisition.” The Lions used Bush perfectly on Sunday, handing him the ball to dart through a Vikings defense that was set on not letting Calvin Johnson beat them; Johnson was held in check with just four receptions for 37 yards. And then using him in the screen game to shake free from defenders in open space and pick up chunks of yardage. Bush had 90 yards rushing on 21 carries and 101 receiving yards and a touchdown on four receptions; the touchdown reception was a middle screen that went for 77 yards.

Untimely penalties
I’m not one to typically point to penalties as a critical variable in the outcome of a football game. But the Vikings were stung and stung badly by two penalties in particular at critical junctures in the game. With Detroit up three in the middle stages of the 4th quarter, quarterback Matthew Stafford dropped back on 3rd and 18. He threw incomplete, but on the play Letroy Guion hit him in the helmet just after the ball was released. The referee threw a flag for roughing the passer, giving the Lions a 1st down at the Minnesota 32. Three plays later, after the Vikings appeared to have made another stand, a late flag came in from the back of a play and cornerback Xavier Rhodes was flagged for pass interference. The ball looked uncatchable and the receiver who was interfered with was out of bounds and ineligible, but the penalty stood and the Lions drive was extended once again. Ultimately on that drive, the Lions scored a touchdown to go up 34-24 with 6:51 to play in the game.