Drive-By-Drive Breakdown of Vikings' 27-13 Win Over Lions

Here is a drive-by-drive look at how the Vikings beat the Lions by a score of 27-13.

1st Quarter

  • The Vikings started the game with the ball and had a good drive going until Adrian Peterson's fumbleitis returned.  He has had problems with fumbling against the Lions before, and this time a bad exchange on a handoff caused Peterson to lose control of the ball.  It bounced quite a ways away from him and went right into the hands of Ernie Sims, whose recovery gave the Lions the ball at their 48.
  • Calvin Johnson got the Lions' first drive going with an 11-yard gain on an end-around.  Following a false start and a 2-yard run by Kevin Smith, Brandon Pettigrew made his first catch in the NFL to pick up 8 yards.  Calvin got the ball again on 3rd down on a toss out of the backfield.  He came in motion and lined up behind Jerome Felton, and Matthew Stafford faked the handoff to Felton and pitched it out to C.J. for the first down.  Smith was then stuffed for no gain and an end-around to Yamon Figurs resulted in a loss of two yards.  Pettigrew picked up 11 on third down, setting the Lions up with a 4th and 1.  They went for it, and Smith picked up the first down.  He lost 2 yards on the next play, but Aaron Brown came in and gained 7 to make it 3rd and 5.  Stafford had Calvin open in the end zone, but his pass dropped short and was incomplete, bringing up fourth down.  Jason Hanson kicked a 30-yard field goal, giving the Lions their first lead of the season.
  • The Lions' defense dialed up the heat and Jason Hunter sacked Brett Favre on second down.  That came after Percy Harvin handed the ball off to Peterson in the Wildcat, which went for only a gain of 1.  Favre found Chester Taylor on 3rd and 14, but he only picked up 9 yards, forcing the Vikings to punt.
  • Kevin Smith went for gains of 6 and 3 yards, putting the Lions in a 3rd and 1 situation.  Stafford went to his favorite target, Calvin Johnson, for a gain of 5 yards to move the chains.  Stafford then found Jerome Felton, who broke a tackle and turned a relatively routine catch into a gain of 21.  Smith followed that up with a gain of 6 as the first quarter came to an end.

2nd Quarter

  • The first play of the second quarter was another rookie mistake by Matthew Stafford.  He rolled to the right and tried to force a pass to Calvin Johnson.  It didn't look like he even saw Chad Greenway, who cut in front of Calvin and intercepted Stafford's pass.
  • The defense bailed out Stafford by forcing the Vikings to go three and out again.  This time the Vikes had 3rd and 1 and gave the ball to Adrian Peterson.  You would think Peterson could pick up a yard, but Larry Foote and Marquand Manuel had other ideas.  They both put a hit on Peterson, knocking him back for a loss of a yard and bringing up fourth down.  The Vikings lined up in an odd formation on the punt, trying to make it look like they might fake it.  I don't blame anybody for thinking a fake was possible, as Tarvaris Jackson was one of the upbacks.  The Vikings did just punt it away, but it definitely will give future opponents something to think about.
  • Matthew Stafford scrambled away from pressure on 3rd and 8 and dove for the first-down marker, but he came up a yard short.  The Lions challenged the spot, but the call was upheld, forcing the Lions to punt.  They also lined up in an odd formation, and Nick Harris even sprinted up to get under center.  He later ran back to his normal spot and the Lions shifted into their regular punt formation.  I'm guessing they were trying to get the Vikings to jump offside, but no one took the bait.
  • Larry Foote sacked Brett Favre on the first play of the Vikings' next drive, dooming it from the start.  Harvin took a handoff out of the shotgun and only gained a yard, and a pass to Visanthe Shiancoe was incomplete.  Dennis Northcutt took the punt back to the Lions' 25.
  • Detroit really lived up to the running the ball part of its mantra on this drive.  Kevin Smith ran for 13 and 12 yards, and then Maurice Morris came in and went for 8 and 7.  Stafford completed a 2-yard pass to Casey FitzSimmons, and then Smith came back in and ran for 2 more.  This is when the Vikings started racking up penalty yardage, beginning with a flag on Kevin Williams for unnecessary roughness after the previous play.  Smith lost control of the ball after he was on the ground and Jared Allen tried to wrestle it away from him.  Gosder Cherilus, who has a history with Allen, grabbed him by the collar to get him off Smith, and at that point Williams came over and knocked Cherilus to the ground.  Cherilus sold the hit and drew the penalty.  After another Smith run, the Vikings committed another personal foul, putting Detroit on the 7-yard line.  Smith lost a yard on the next play, but Stafford made up for it by hitting Calvin Johnson for a touchdown.  Calvin held on to the ball to give to Stafford since it was his first career score in the NFL.
  • Now trailing 10-0, the Vikings needed to get something going before halftime.  For the first time all game, the Vikings started to move the ball and put together a good drive.  Peterson got the drive rolling with a big run, and after that it was really all Brett Favre.  He moved the ball with a bunch of short passes, which is how the drive ended when he found Shiancoe in the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown.
  • The Lions couldn't get anything going to end the half, so they let the clock run out and took their 10-7 lead into the locker rooms.

3rd Quarter

  • The Lions got the ball to start the second half and had a chance to increase their lead.  Problem is the drive was doomed from the very beginning and set the tone for how this half of play would go.  On the first play of the drive Matthew Stafford was nailed by Jared Allen, who blew by Jeff Backus and forced a fumble.  Brandon Pettigrew fell on the ball, and the play resulted in a loss of 7.  Kevin Smith picked up 5 on second down, and Ray Edwards sacked Stafford for a loss of 9 on third down.
  • Unlike most of the first half, the Vikings were able to convert their third downs on this drive, at least initially.  Minnesota moved the ball mainly through the air at first, though they got a little help from the officials later on in the drive.  Marquand Manuel was flagged for illegal contact on an incompletion that would have stopped the drive at the Lions' 32.  The penalty kept the drive alive, but it came to an end shortly after when the Lions' defense came up with a stop.  Ryan Longwell came in and tied the game up with a 26-yard field goal.
  • The turning point of this game happened two plays into the next drive.  Kevin Smith fumbled the ball and Minnesota's Chad Greenway recovered.  Adrian Peterson got the ball on the very next play and broke to the outside for a 27-yard touchdown.  Anthony Henry lost contain, and Louis Delmas was unable to cut Peterson off before he reached the end zone.  Just like that the Lions went from leading to now trailing 17-10.
  • Despite the fumble, the Lions went right back to Kevin Smith, who picked up 4 and 9 yards.  He failed to gain anything on his next carry, though.  Stafford dropped back to pass and faced immediate pressure again, but he managed to get rid of the ball.  On third down he hit Calvin Johnson for a gain of 8, leaving the Lions 2 yards short of a first down.
  • Detroit punted the ball away and forced a three and out.  It looked like one of the Vikings' first half drives, especially when Andre Fluellen sacked Brett Favre on third down.  The sack was mainly the result of great coverage, as Favre had time but eventually was tackled by Fluellen.
  • The Lions got the ball back with decent field position and moved into Vikings territory on an 8-yard pass to Will Heller.  The pass followed a couple more good runs by Smith, who picked up a yard after the pass to Heller to make it 3rd and 1.  Even though the ground game was working, the Lions opted to pass the ball, which proved to be a costly move.  Stafford rolled out to the right and had nobody open, so he threw it away.  With 4th and 1 at the Vikings' 42, I thought Detroit would entertain the thought of going for it, but they punted the ball away.

4th Quarter

  • The Vikings added another field goal, this time from 46 yards out, to extend their lead to two possessions.
  • The Lions needed a big play to get back in the game, and it looked like they got it in the form of a 43-yard pass to Calvin Johnson.  It was a routine catch, but Calvin made a couple moves and turned it into a big gain, getting all the way down to the Vikings' 34.  There was a flag, though, and Gosder Cherilus got called for a chop block, negating the big gain and backing the Lions up half the distance to the goal.  It was a really, really weak call, and it wasn't even Cherilus who should have been mentioned.  Stephen Peterman was the one who did the cut block, and apparently the reason it was a penalty is because the refs thought Cherilus did it to an engaged blocker.  That wasn't the case at all, but the big play was already a distant memory.

    Stafford threw a perfect pass to Calvin a couple plays later for a gain of 22 to move the chains, but he balanced it out with another costly mistake shortly after.  Stafford threw a bad pass into traffic and Chad Greenway was there for another interception.  He returned it to the 16-yard line, setting up a Brett Favre touchdown pass to Percy Harvin a few plays later from 3 yards out.  The Vikings now led 27-10, and this game was as good as over.
  • The Lions converted a couple third downs and one fourth down during a 15-play drive that ended with a 48-yard Jason Hanson field goal.  It appeared Brandon Pettigrew moved the Lions down to the Minnesota 18 on a gain of 16 yards, but a block in the back on Dennis Northcutt negated that play, eventually leading to the field goal.
  • Jason Hanson attempted an onside kick, but none other than Chad Greenway recovered it, sealing the game for the Vikings.  Greenway could have tried to return the kick since he had open field, but he fell to the ground and let the Vikings' offense run the final 2:37 off the clock.  The Vikings picked up a first down, and then Tarvaris Jackson took a knee three times to end the game.  The Vikings won 27-13.

It may seem like I'm beating this point to death, but I keep coming back to the fact that the Lions just aren't a talented enough team to get away with making mistakes like Matthew Stafford's interceptions and Kevin Smith's fumble.  Just when it looked like they had control of a game, they let it fall apart on only a few plays.  The ones that come to mind are the fumble on the first play of the half, which gave the Vikings a boost of momentum.  The next two plays are Smith's fumble and Adrian Peterson's proceeding touchdown run, which essentially deflated the crowd and the team.  The Lions had a chance to fight back with Calvin Johnson's big gain, but the penalty took the wind out of the Lions' sails again.  Just a couple plays later Stafford was picked off again and that was the nail in the coffin.  It's amazing how only a few plays can change a game so drastically, but that's exactly what happened in this case.  The Lions were right there, but ultimately luck sided with the Vikings and talent took over to do the rest.

I don't think the Lions will win a game until one of the following scenarios or a combination of them plays out:

  1. The Lions face a team that is on par with them talent-wise, creating a level playing field where either team can win.
  2. The Lions play an absolutely perfect game with no costly penalties, turnovers, or bad plays on defense.
  3. The Lions play relatively well and their opponent just has an absolutely terrible day on both sides of the ball.

Detroit's opponent next week, the Redskins, certainly has more talent than the Lions, but they are a prime candidate for a combination of scenarios two and three.  Yesterday they barely beat the Rams (the score was 9-7), and in general it seems like they are a team that is prone to an upset.  I realize that the Lions haven't had much success against the Redskins over the years, but like we saw today and really like we saw last week, all it takes is a few big plays to turn the outlook of a game upside down.  Obviously the Lions will need to play well, but if the Redskins make a few costly mistakes and the Lions don't for a change, then that 19-game losing streak could come to an end next week.  I have a hard time believing the streak will stop at Chicago, against Pittsburgh, or at Lambeau Field, so this could be the Lions' best chance for a win until they play the Rams after their bye week.  I may be grasping at straws by trying to look for the positive in all this, but to me, if the defense can play as well as they did yesterday, all it takes is a breakout game by Matthew Stafford and the Lions could be looking at their first win since late 2007.

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