NFC North: Vontae Davis

Wrap-up: Lions 34, Dolphins 27*

December, 26, 2010
A few thoughts on the end of another late-game victory for the Detroit Lions:

What it means: The Lions won their third consecutive game, two of which have come on the road, and now have a chance to elevate out of the NFC North basement for the first time in three seasons. A victory in next Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Minnesota Vikings will ensure it. Sunday’s game should be an instant classic in recent Lions history.

What I liked: The Lions scored the final 17 points to complete a comeback from 10 points down in the fourth quarter. A 53-yard touchdown reception by tailback Jahvid Best, Dave Rayner’s 47-yard field goal and DeAndre Levy’s 30-yard interception return accounted for the scoring. Levy’s decision to cut back at about 10-yard line was a smooth, veteran and knowledgeable football play.

What I liked II: Cornerback Nate Vasher intercepted Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne to set up Rayner’s field goal and also made a textbook tackle of Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown on the final play of the game, keeping Brown in bounds with the Dolphins out of timeouts. Vasher seemed buried two years ago in Chicago, and his career took him to San Diego and finally to Detroit. But Sunday, we got a reminder of how good of a player he once was.

What I liked III: Nate Burleson’s 30-yard block of Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis in the fourth quarter allowed tailback Best to maneuver downfield for his touchdown. Burleson basically face-guarded Davis across the field and down the right sideline before pancaking him near the goal line. Best got the credit for the score, but it wouldn’t have happened if Burleson hadn’t stayed with Davis.

Secondary woes: The Lions began the game without safety Louis Delmas, who was deactivated because of a concussion, and I checked my Lions roster a few times to identify some unfamiliar numbers. At different point, you saw Eric King, Prince Miller and Tye Hill playing in the Lions’ beleaguered secondary. While Vasher bailed out the secondary, it’s worth noting that Hill should have intercepted a Henne pass late in the second quarter. But the ball glanced off his hands and into those of Davone Bess for a 13-yard touchdown that gave the Dolphins a lead heading into halftime.

What I wasn’t sure of: Receiver Calvin Johnson wasn’t on the field for much of the fourth quarter. Did he have an injury? There was no official announcement that I saw or heard. *Update: Johnson had an ankle injury.

What’s next: The Lions will return home for their season finale to take on the Vikings, who might or might not have played their Week 16 game against the Philadelphia Eagles by then.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Let’s hit some highlights and lowlights of Miami's 14-10 victory against Minnesota.

What it means: The Vikings are 0-2 and already two games behind the NFC North-leading Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. This is the tough early hole we wondered if the Vikings might fall in after their offense failed to come together during the preseason. The Vikings accumulated 364 yards Sunday against the Dolphins, but ultimately they have scored only 19 points in two games. Quarterback Brett Favre’s four turnovers were glaring, especially since one of them – a third-quarter fumble in the end zone – directly led to one of the Dolphins’ two touchdowns.

Critical call: Down by four points, the Vikings made the right call to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the Dolphins’ 1-yard line with 2 minutes, 21 seconds remaining. And for what it’s worth, I had no problem with them handing the ball to tailback Adrian Peterson, who ran like a beast for the entire game and had been plowing through the Dolphins’ defense through the entire drive. But on this particular play, Dolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby slipped unblocked through the right side of the Vikings’ line and was able to wrap up Peterson with help from cornerback Vontae Davis. On this play, Dansby simply won his 1-on-1 battle.

Critical call II: That was one of four fourth-down plays the Vikings went for. The only one that could be debated was the first. Coach Brad Childress elected to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Dolphins’ 26-yard line at the end of the Vikings’ first possession. I’m sure he was trying to instill some aggression in his moribund offense, but Favre’s pass was batted down at the line. Assuming Ryan Longwell had converted the 43-yard field goal, the Vikings would have been playing for a game-winning field goal on their final drives instead of needing a touchdown. Just saying.

Trending: Favre is more than halfway to his 2010 season total of interceptions. He threw three Sunday, including two on the Dolphins’ goal line, to bring his season total to four. If you recall, Favre threw seven interceptions in 16 games last season. The Vikings defense minimized the damage of two interceptions by recovering fumbles on the ensuing play, but regardless, Favre’s accuracy is far from mid-season form.

Would-be hero: Peterson ran hard and finished with 186 all-purpose yards. Had the Vikings pulled it out, he would have been the afternoon’s big talker.

What’s next: Vikings host the Detroit Lions next Sunday at the Metrodome.

Halftime: Dolphins 7, Vikings 0

September, 19, 2010
MINNEAPOLIS -- Some thoughts from the Metrodome:
  • The Minnesota Vikings' offense doesn't look much more in sync then it did 10 days ago in its season opener at the New Orleans Saints. Tailback Adrian Peterson is grinding out yards, having amassed 61 on 12 carries, but none have gone for longer than 15, and the passing game is not producing explosive plays. Quarterback Brett Favre is still favoring only two receivers, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and receiver Percy Harvin. He threw his first three passes at Harvin, and all of Favre's 13 completions have either gone to one of them or Peterson.
  • Favre has continued to miss his spots on some passes, and his pass behind Harvin at the goal line ultimately led to a spectacular interception by Miami Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis. Shiancoe bailed him out on low third-down pass and is the best thing going for the offense right now. He has four catches for 64 yards.
  • The Vikings have scored nine points in their first six quarters of play this season, and none in their past four. Their 10 first downs Sunday illustrate they are moving the ball but bogging down at the end of their drives.
  • The Dolphins immediately capitalized on two Vikings miscues. As we noted earlier, quarterback Chad Henne hit receiver Brandon Marshall on a 46-yard pass on the first play after the Vikings failed to convert a fourth-and-2 at the end of their first drive. And tailback Ronnie Brown ripped off a 51-yard run one play after Davis' interception, shifting the field position back into Miami's favor.
  • Harvin limped to the sideline at the end of the second quarter and is questionable to return because of a bruised hip that slowed him during practice this week.




Sunday, 9/21
Monday, 9/22