Sunday, September 20, 2009
Detroit holding its own against Minnesota
By Kevin Seifert
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
DETROIT -- Yes, you read that correctly. Detroit has a 10-7 lead here at halftime. And it’s been no fluke. The Lions controlled the entire first half until the Vikings mounted a 76-yard drive over the final five minutes to get on the scoreboard. Here’s what stood out to me in the first half:
- The most impressive thing the Lions have done is run on the Vikings’ usually-stout interior defense. Tailback Kevin Smith has 48 yards on 14 carries, while Calvin Johnson lined up once as a tailback and has gained 16 total rushing yards. Overall, the Lions are 3 yards shy of 100 team rushing yards in the half. I don’t have a schematic explanation other than Smith seems to be finding extra yardage on every run. No huge holes, just really smart running.
- Minnesota right tackle Phil Loadholt has had a hard time with Lions defensive end Jason Hunter, who is replacing injured starter Cliff Avril. Hunter blew past Loadholt for one sack. The Lions also sacked quarterback Brett Favre on a three-linebacker blitz in the second quarter.
- I’m thinking Lions right tackle Gosder Cherilus has sufficiently gotten under the skin of the Minnesota defense. You’ll recall Cherilus had a low block on Vikings defensive end Jared Allen last season. Sunday, Cherilus grabbed Allen by the collar to get him out of a pile. The aggression enraged Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who drilled Cherilus hard enough to earn a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The play helped set up the Lions’ touchdown, an 8-yard pass from Matthew Stafford to Johnson.
- Adrian Peterson fumbled on the Vikings’ first possession, his fifth fumble against the Lions in the past 2 1/2 games. Overall, the Lions have done a pretty decent job of bottling Peterson up.
- We briefly discussed the Vikings’ bizarre punt formation in the second quarter. Well, Detroit answered on its next possession with almost the exact same spread formation. Punter Nick Harris briefly stood under center before the Lions collapsed the formation and punted from a normal alignment. (They were also called for illegal formation because they didn’t set themselves before the snap.) Are we seeing some kind of new trend?
- If you know the history, you aren't surprised that this game is close. Seven of the last nine games between these teams in Detroit have been decided by seven points or fewer.