Officiating has been worse than ever before in the NFL this season, but it wasn't until today that the referees had an effect on a Lions game. The main reason for that is because the Lions hadn't even been in a game for all 60 minutes until today, but they finally were and had a win taken away from them thanks in part to the officials.
The Lions outplayed the Vikings for the most part mainly because of the defense. The Vikings did have a few big plays, but the defense was able to contain Adrian Peterson, get pressure on Gus Frerotte, and most importantly, cause turnovers.
The offense did not play well at all for the Lions, but that was to be expected since Dan Orlovsky was starting. He didn't turn the ball over, but his biggest mistake proved to be costly. Orlovsky actually rolled out on a pass from the 1-yard line and ran right out of the back of the end zone for a safety. It was just a dumb mistake and in the end was the difference in this 12-10 victory for the Vikings.
- The Vikings got the ball first and were forced to punt. The punt was downed at the 3-yard line, putting Dan Orlovsky in a tough situation to work out of.
- The Lions only moved the ball 6 yards and had to punt as well. Nick Harris' punt went only 43 yards, but a personal foul penalty backed Minnesota up an additional 15 yards.
- Gus Frerotte completed a pass to Bernard Berrian for 33 yards, moving the ball into Lions territory. However, a holding penalty on the very next play would ultimately stall the drive. This time Minnesota's punt went into the end zone for a touchback.
- Orlovsky and company went three and out again after Kevin Smith caught a pass on third down and ended up a yard short of the first down marker.
- Minnesota moved the ball with a good combination of passes by Frerotte and rushes by Adrian Peterson. The Vikings eventually had 3rd and 1 from the Lions' 11-yard line. Peterson got the handoff and ran for 4 yards before Daniel Bullocks drilled him, knocking the ball loose. Dwight Smith fell on the fumble at the 1-yard line, giving the Lions possession.
- After two incomplete passes, Dan Orlovsky rolled out on 3rd down and ran right out of the back of the end zone. Even though the Lions were coming out of a timeout, Orlovsky appeared to have no idea where he was on the field. He simply took the snap and immediately ran out of bounds for the safety. It really was one of the dumbest plays I have ever seen simply because Orlovsky looked so clueless. The mistake gave the Vikings a 2-0 lead.
- The two teams traded punts for much of this quarter until the Lions finally got something to work offensively. Kevin Smith ran to the left side of the field and waited for a hole to open up. Once one finally did, Smith broke through the hole and was gone. He ran for 50 yards before finally being tackled at the Vikings' 12-yard line. The drive stalled immediately after thanks to a fumbled snap and a sack, but Jason Hanson did kick a 40-yard field goal to give the Lions a 3-2 lead.
- The Vikings couldn't move the ball on their next possession, and the Lions got the ball back with only 41 seconds left. Considering how inexperienced Orlovsky is, the coaches decided to just hand the ball off to Rudi Johnson and let the clock run out.
- At halftime, the Lions surprisingly led by a score of 3-2.
- Starting the second half, the Lions finally found the end zone after putting together a great drive. Rudi Johnson started the drive with three straight runs that totaled 14 yards. Orlovsky then found Roy Williams for 6 yards before Edwin Mulitalo got called for holding on the next play. A couple plays later, the Lions had 3rd and 19 and Dan Orlovsky made perhaps his best play of the game.
Orlovsky was flushed out to the right side and heaved the ball downfield to a wide open Calvin Johnson, who was literally standing by himself waiting for the pass to come in. The pass and catch resulted in a gain of 37 yards and put the Lions in position to score, which is exactly what they did two plays later. Orlovsky threw a pass to Calvin Johnson near the right sideline, and Johnson broke a tackle and jumped into the end zone for the touchdown to give the Lions a 10-2 lead.
- Leigh Bodden picked off Gus Frerotte on Minnesota's next drive, but the Lions went three and out after the turnover.
- On the very first play following the Lions punt, Frerotte hit Bernard Berrian for an 86-yard touchdown. Berrian made the catch and a couple Lions defensive backs were caught out of position. One overran Berrian initially before another took a poor angle and couldn't make a play. That allowed Berrian to run into the end zone for the score that got the Vikings within a point.
- Following a pair of three and outs by both teams, the Lions drove into Vikings territory thanks to a defensive pass interference penalty. Orlovsky threw a terribly underthrown pass downfield for Calvin Johnson, and the defender actually pushed Johnson out of the way. The penalty went for 39 yards, but the Lions were unable to take advantage of the opportunity and had to punt.
- The Vikings started to move the ball before the Lions' defense came up with another huge play. Corey Smith stripped Adrian Peterson of the ball and Leigh Bodden recovered it to give the Lions possession at their own 43.
- The first and what would be the only play of the Lions' next drive turned out to really be a turning point in this game. Orlovsky threw a pass downfield and it was hauled in by Calvin Johnson for a gain of 32 yards. Johnson got hit in the head by two Vikings defenders nearly at the same time but was able to make the catch. However, the ball was ended up in the hands of a Vikings defender after one of them took it out of Johnson's hands when he was on the ground.
The call on the field was a fumble, and the Lions challenged. No matter what the angle was, the replays showed that Johnson was on the ground before the ball came out of his hands. In fact, the only reason the ball did come out of his hands is because the Vikings defender took it from him. The ball didn't really come loose or anything like that, yet the referees upheld the call and prevented the Lions from adding at least a field goal if not another touchdown.
- Jared DeVries blocked a 38-yard Ryan Longwell field goal attempt to keep the Lions ahead for the time being.
- At this point, the Vikings had the ball on their own 20 with 4:41 left on the clock after the two teams traded punts. Minnesota needed only a field goal to win the game.
- Minnesota picked up a couple first downs before the Lions appeared to have them backed up enough to make a stop. An Adrian Peterson run that went for -5 yards and a false start that backed Minnesota up 5 more yards made it 2nd and 20. Frerotte threw an incomplete pass downfield for Aundrae Allison, but there was a flag.
Leigh Bodden, who had his best game ever as a Lion, got called for defensive pass interference, even though there appeared to be very little contact that had no effect on the play. The officials saw it differently, though, and the penalty gave Minnesota 42 free yards, putting them on the Lions' 26-yard line. Had the penalty not been called, Minnesota would have had 3rd and 20, and although anything could have happened, the odds definitely favor the defense in that type of situation.
- Following the pass interference penalty, Minnesota moved the ball down the field on the ground and eventually ran the clock down to 12 seconds. It was then that Ryan Longwell came out and kicked a 26-yard field goal, giving the Vikings a 12-10 lead and leaving the Lions with only 9 seconds left to pull off a miracle.
- As you probably figured, there was no miracle. Instead, Dan Orlovsky was sacked and the game was over. The Vikings won 12-10 in a game that the Lions really controlled outside of a few select plays.
I'm not going to say that Minnesota didn't deserve to win, because they made the plays necessary to be in a position to take the lead with a field goal at the end of the game. However, the Lions really got shafted by the officials on a couple plays that changed everything. Obviously Dan Orlovsky's safety turned out to be the biggest mistake of the game for the Lions and ultimately proved to be the difference, but it was the refs that prevented Detroit from making that mistake a non-factor.
The Lions are now 0-5 this season and still haven't won a game at the Metrodome since 1997. Even so, I liked what I saw out of the Lions today. The offense was pretty bad, but that was to be expected since it was Dan Orlovsky's first start. The defense, on the other hand, shocked me with how well they played. As stated already, they contained Adrian Peterson and caused turnovers to make this a game. Without them, the Lions would have had no chance of winning.
Detroit heads to Houston a week from today to play the Texans, who got their first win of the season this afternoon on a touchdown that was scored with only a few seconds left in the game. It should be an interesting matchup, and hopefully the Lions' defense will play as well as they did against Minnesota. One thing to keep an eye on this coming week is what happens with the offense if Jon Kitna is healthy enough to return. I doubt there will be a quarterback controversey, but it will still be interesting to see what happens.