NFC North: 2012 Week 4 Wrap-ups
September, 30, 2012
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
A few thoughts on Minnesota's 20-13 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ford Field:
What it means: The Minnesota Vikings are 3-1 and in sole possession of first place in the NFC North, pending the Chicago Bears' outcome Monday night at the Dallas Cowboys. The victory was coach Leslie Frazier's first in the NFC North (in eight attempts), and overall it snapped the Vikings' streak of 11 consecutive losses in division games. Meanwhile, the Lions' mostly listless performance dropped them to a stunning 1-3 on the season.
Brutal teams: According to STATS Inc., the Lions are the first team since at least 1940 to allow a punt and kickoff to be returned for touchdowns in consecutive weeks. Sunday, it was the Vikings' Percy Harvin (105-yard kickoff return) and Marcus Sherels (77-yard punt return). Harvin wasn't touched on his game-opening return, setting a tone of Lions malaise for the rest of the game. Harvin now has five touchdown returns in his first four NFL seasons. And Sunday was Sherels' birthday. So there's that.
Disjointed offense: We should give some credit to the Vikings for carrying over their hard-hitting defensive play from last week's victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Safeties Jamarca Sanford and Harrison Smith were especially impressive. But the Lions' offense continued to look out of whack. They committed anywhere from three to six drops, depending on how tough of a grader you are. One came from tight end Brandon Pettigrew in the end zone (again), while Smith dislodged the ball from Calvin Johnson in the end zone as well. The Lions left Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen unblocked on a fourth-down play in the red zone, and they didn't score a touchdown until Matthew Stafford nudged the ball over the goal line with 2 minutes, 58 seconds remaining.
PetersonWatch: The two special teams touchdowns overshadowed a relatively punchless day for the Vikings' offense. Tailback Adrian Peterson had his first 100-yard game of the season (he finished with 102), but the Lions were well-prepared for the manufactured touches the Vikings usually get to Harvin. As a result, the Vikings couldn't move the ball through the air at all. Quarterback Christian Ponder completed 16 of 26 passes for 112 yards. But the Vikings did make one downfield play -- a 27-yard pass to receiver Jerome Simpson -- that forced the Lions to use their timeouts on defense in the fourth quarter. Simpson also drew two pass interference penalties on deep throws.
What's next: The Vikings return to the Metrodome to host the Tennessee Titans. The Lions have their bye week and will return Oct. 14 at the Philadelphia Eagles.