STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD VS. VIKINGS
PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Can't throw the blame on QB Jon Kitna but for the first time this season, the Lions passing game had a serious malfunction. A big part of the problem was that the offensive line, already in mish-mash of unmatched parts because of injuries to LG Ross Verba and RT Rex Tucker, took another hit when RG Damien Woody left the game with a foot injury after five plays. Kitna was lucky to get two steps into his drops before he was swarmed by Vikings defenders and it cost the Lions dearly. The Vikings scored on a Kitna fumble and one of his three interceptions. The loss of WR Roy Williams on the third play (two before Woody went down) also took a toll. WR Az-Zahir Hakim did a good job of picking up the slack, although he was running some of Williams' routes for the first time.
RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- For the past two games -- against Green Bay and St. Louis -- it seemed the Lions were making progress with their running game but the were absolutely stoned by the Vikings defense. In 10 carries, RB Kevin Jones netted eight yards. The only play that really worked the entire game was a QB sneak from the eight-yard line on which QB Jon Kitna scored, running behind C Dominic Raiola. As with the passing game, the backup offensive linemen just couldn't get anything going. They got their lunch handed to them by Vikings DTs Kevin Williams and Pat Williams.
PASS DEFENSE: C-minus -- It helped that CB Fernando Bryant was back in the lineup with CB Dre' Bly but again the Lions failed to bring any consistent pressure and veteran QB Brad Johnson took advantage of the situation. He had only one pass play of more than 20 yards (a 21-yarder to Marcus Robinson) but had all the time he needed to take the Lions apart with shorter throws. For the third time in five games, the Lions failed to get a QB sack; they have only one in the last four games. They finally got their first interception of the season, by Jamar Fletcher in the second quarter.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-plus -- The Lions really believed they could hang their hat on their run defense but apparently the Vikings weren't impressed, and now coach Rod Marinelli has to be wondering. RB Chester Taylor enjoyed the first 100-yard rushing day of the season against the Lions, ripping off 123 yards on 26 attempts (frequently running inside) and adding another 31 yards on five receptions.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- The big mistake was an illegal block above the waist by LB Donte' Curry that brought back a kickoff return touchdown by Eddie Drummond early in the fourth quarter. It would have put the Lions up by 14 (24-10); instead, they got the ball at their own 10 yard line and on the second play QB Jon Kitna was sacked, fumbled and the Vikings recovered it at the goal line for a touchdown. P Nick Harris, who had only two touchbacks all of last season and specialized in dropping his punts inside the 20, continued to struggle in that area with two again Sunday, running his total for the season to six. Coverage teams were good and Drummond had a 29-yard PR.
COACHING: D -- Coach Rod Marinelli spent all of last week working with the defense, his specialty from his days as an assistant in Tampa Bay, and he gave the impression that he expected big things against the Vikings. Instead, the run defense vaporized and they continued to struggle against the passing game. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz finally let WR Mike Williams onto the field but after one dropped ball he was exited back to the bench for the rest of the game. With a 17-3 lead late in the third quarter, Marinelli, Martz or defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson couldn't figure out a way to get a win.