NFC North: 2011 Week 8 coverage

Rapid Reaction: Lions 45, Broncos 10

October, 30, 2011
DENVER -- Some thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 45-10 demolition of the Denver Broncos:

What it means: As forcefully as possible, the Lions turned the page after a two-game losing streak. They head into their bye in excellent position at 6-2.

Defensive dominance: The Lions had two defensive touchdowns for the second time this season. (The first was in Week 4 against the Dallas Cowboys.) Defensive end Cliff Avril forced a Tim Tebow fumble and returned it 24 yards for a score in the third quarter and Chris Houston had a 100-yard interception return in the fourth quarter. Houston now has a career-high four interceptions this season. Tebow had a miserable game in his own right, but the Lions' pressure (seven sacks, including two from Avril) had something to do with that.

Offensive dominance: Quarterback Matthew Stafford showed no ill effects from a right ankle injury, completing his first seven passes and throwing for 269 yards and three touchdowns over three quarters. Again, the Broncos' incompetence should at least be noted. Rookie Titus Young didn't have a Broncos defender within 20 yards of him on a 41-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. But Stafford threw a beautiful, 56-yard scoring pass down the left sideline to receiver Calvin Johnson and made a nice personal comeback after two down weeks. Stafford appeared shaken up in his final series, but with a bye week looming, he has plenty of time to heal from this game.

MegatronWatch: Johnson's touchdown, one of six receptions he made for 125 yards, was his 11th of the season. Johnson joined Randy Moss (2007) as the only player since the 1970 merger to catch 11 touchdown passes over the first eight games of the season. Frank Clarke had 12 touchdowns through eight games in 1962 for the Dallas Cowboys, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Tebowing: Two Lions players "Tebowed" after big plays, setting off at least a few NFC North blog Twitter followers who considered it a disrespectful attempt to mock Tebow. I'm not sure about that but am open to your thoughts. Linebacker Stephen Tulloch struck the pose after a sack and tight end Tony Scheffler incorporated the move into a touchdown celebration. I guess it technically mocked Tebow's prayer post, but I'm not sure if we need to launch a congressional investigation about it.

What's next: The Lions return Nov. 13 at Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears.

Wrap-up: Vikings 24, Panthers 21

October, 30, 2011

A few thoughts on the Minnesota Vikings' second victory of the season, featuring a thrilling ending against the Carolina Panthers:

What it means: The Vikings avoided their worst start to a season since their inaugural 1961 campaign and are now 2-6 heading into their bye week. Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder got the first victory of his career. Let's be fair, however: It's always nice when the opposing kicker misses a 31-yard field goal with less than a minute remaining that would have tied the game.

PonderWatch: Ponder had a few off-target throws, including a pair to tight end Kyle Rudolph in the fourth quarter. But overall, he competed well and kept the Vikings in the game through some tough patches, most notably on third downs. He completed 18 of 28 passes overall for a pair of touchdowns and led a methodical seven-minute drive in the fourth quarter for Ryan Longwell's eventual game-winning field goal. Overall, a thumbs up for the Vikings' rookie starter.

Injury watch: We should note that two other players put forth remarkable efforts while dealing with injuries. Tailback Adrian Peterson has an ankle sprain but accounted for two touchdowns, including a powerful 9-yard run in the third quarter. Meanwhile, receiver Percy Harvin was in and out of the game because of a rib injury but ended up catching four key passes for 58 yards after scoring on a 10-yard run in the first quarter. Harvin's production came on top of a red zone fumble and a sideline altercation.

Stopping Cam: The Vikings' best defense against Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was keeping the ball away from him. Their offense held the ball for 32 minutes, 5 seconds. In the 27:55 the Panthers had the ball, Newton completed 22 of 35 passes for 290 yards and three scores. Newton also rushed for 53 yards. The Vikings did coerce two fumbles from him, including the one that ended up leading to Harvin's touchdown, but their secondary continued to be vulnerable without cornerbacks Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield.

What's next: The Vikings have a bye week and return to action on "Monday Night Football" at the Green Bay Packers.




Sunday, 9/21
Monday, 9/22