Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions Preview

Minnesota Vikings v Cleveland Browns

First, some observations from the win over the Cleveland Browns last week:

Adrian Peterson continues to improve, which is, you know, amazing that such a thing is possible. His 64 yard touchdown run was the best run I’ve seen thus far from him: Speed, power, vision, acceleration from a dead stop. Amazing. With 198 yards from scrimmage in his first game of the season, Peterson has set the tone for a possible league MVP season.

Percy Harvin has a lot more football savvy than we should be allowed to expect from a rookie receiver, but then we had the pleasure of witnessing Randy Moss‘ rookie season, so… Throughout the pre-season and during last week’s game, Harvin has showcased his soft hands. More importantly, though, the guy has shown a fantastic field awareness, the sense of knowing where defenders and his teammates are on the field. We’ve seen him routinely catch balls in tight coverage with two or more opponents collapsing on him just as the ball is reaching him and last week. Throw in his ability to make defenders miss, and it’s clear he’s going to be an exciting and contributing player from game one. Lastly, for a player who never returned kicks it sure looks like we can expect him to return at least one kick for a score this season.

With the exception of the bull rush by Shaun Rogers that resulted in a sack of quarterback Brett Favre, John Sullivan did a pretty good job in his debut as a starting center.

Phil Loadholt, on the other hand, had a pretty brutal game. While he did a generally good job in pass protection, he missed on countless block in the run game. He’s a rookie. It was his first game. Let’s hope he improves over the course of the season. Even so, he’s an upgrade over Ryan Cook.

The Vikings defense looks strong again, even with Jared Allen being shut down last week. Kevin Williams‘ sack was something to behold, absolutely blowing by his blocker to nail Brady Quinn.

The special teams have definitely improved despite giving up a return for a touchdown by Joshua Cribbs. The coverage units did a great job of containing Cribbs but for that one return. I think you gotta let that return slide because Cribbs will have his returns, he’s one of the best in the league. With Percy Harvin returning kicks and Darius Reynaud returning punts, the Vikings will greatly improve their average starting position on offensive drives; and it sure looks like we can expect a few kick returns for touchdowns this year.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions

It is, of course, easy to overlook the winless Lions but they always play us close. They did last year and there’s no reason to believe they can’t do that again this year.

Seeing how Drew Brees blew them up last week with six touchdown passes, expect Farve to more than he did last week. It is unlikely he’ll have to throw a lot more but with such a soft defense, he’ll certainly throw more than he did against the Browns.

It’s hardly worth saying because it is practically obvious, but expect Adrian Peterson to have another 100+ yard game.

The two primary things the Vikings need to worry about are 1) Calvin Johnson and 2) rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford. Ultimately, they need to blanket Johnson, and put pressure on Stafford to force him to make poor decisions.

The Lions are not at all the same team they were last year; new GM, new head coach, and 60% new players, so you can’t assume anything…except, perhaps, that at this early point in the season, they are a team that is still trying to figure out how to play together.

This game should be a blowout for the Vikings but considering the history of the rivalry, I won’t got there. The Vikings will win, though.

Brett Favre’s Vikings Debut


I have to admit I was amped up to watch Brett Favre‘s debut as a Viking, if for no other reason than the strange spectacle of seeing him in purple.

The debut itself turned out to be anticlimactic if not predictable. Expected to play just one series, Favre returned for another after his first was cut short by Naufahu Tahi‘s missed block (one of three for the night). The offense played like one that had had only a few days of practice with a new quarterback. It will take more than a few days for receivers and quarterback to adjust to one another.

What Favre did show has got to be encouraging for Vikings fans.

You wouldn’t know that from reading an AP piece published shortly after the game, though. That piece placed the blame for the lack of offensive production squarely on Favre’s shoulders, saying he missed on all but one pass and even the completion was barely catchable:

His first pass was off target, intended for fullback Naufahu Tahi. Rookie Percy Harvin snagged a low throw into tight coverage on the next play, setting up fourth-and-1 near midfield. But Adrian Peterson, who carried 10 times for 44 yards, was smothered in the backfield for a big loss.

Favre was off the mark twice more on the next possession, misfiring toward Jaymar Johnson after an apparent route miscommunication and then chucking one out of everyone’s reach on the pressure by May

Well, that’s the easy story to write; the one you can file in time for your post-game deadline. But it was hardly accurate.

The pass to Tahi was thrown to the opposite side of the defender, to an open space where had Tahi adjusted, he could’ve caught the ball. The completion to Harvin was thrown in tight between two defenders; throwing the ball low greatly reduces the odds of it being picked off, it’s harder for the defenders to get to and if the ball is tipped by the receiver or defender, it is much more likely to hit the ground than to pop up in the air where it can be easily intercepted. The pass to Johnson was similar to the one to Tahi, away from the defender but catchable if the receiver adjusts. The only pass that was possibly errant was the last one when Favre was hurred by a linebacker blitz; even that one was thrown to an empty space in the field where it wouldn’t be picked off.

This type of sports “reporting” drives me nuts. It reveals one of two things: 1) Laziness or 2) a failure of understanding of the game.

Anyway, Vikings fans should be encouraged that they now have not just a veteran, but a Hall of Fame-quality quarterback who knows exactly what to do with the ball.

We should also be encouraged by the play of Tavaris Jackson. After a familiar shaky start, Jackson directed two impressive scoring drives that had offense running on all cylinders. But then that’s been his thing; shaky…impressive, shaky…impressive. Jackson needs to show consistently sound decision making before he’ll inspire enough confidence from coaches, let alone Vikings fans…and throwing the ball from five yards beyond the line of scrimmage doesn’t cut it.

Rookie reciever Percy Harvin proved he can catch the ball, a receivers’ skill Vikings fans are a bit insecure about since the Troy Williamson fiasco.

Thankfully for the audience, the game turned into an exciting one after the disappointment of the opening two series.

I’ll leave you with a Brad Childress dream, as mashed up by nadasfan: