PASSING OFFENSE: D - Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder had the worst game of his young career and was benched for the first time after turning the ball over four times. He threw three interceptions, the last of which was a throw across his body into triple coverage in the middle of the field. That followed a pick-six toss earlier in the game and was all coach Leslie Frazier needed to see to bench Ponder with eight minutes left in the third quarter. Ponder also threw two touchdown passes, while backup Joe Webb threw a third. But the Vikings were minus-6 in the turnover margin because of Ponder, who actually could have been picked off three more times. Right tackle Phil Loadholt also gave up two sacks to defensive end Cliff Avril, including a badly missed block on the Vikings' first snap of the game. Avril raced around Loadholt, stripped Ponder of the ball. Linebacker Stephen Tulloch fell on it in the end zone for a touchdown.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C - Toby Gerhart got his third consecutive start at running back as Adrian Peterson continues to heal from a high left ankle sprain. Once again, Gerhart ran hard with 90 yards on 19 carries. Webb, one of the best athletes on the team, set a record for rushing yards by a quarterback as he compiled a game-high 109 yards on seven carries, including a 65-yard touchdown on the first series after he replaced Ponder. No. 3 running back Lorenzo Booker, however, brings the grade down because he fumbled the ball twice in three carries. He lost one of them inside his own 20-yard line. That led to an easy Lions field goal, which ultimately meant the Vikings had to go for the winning touchdown instead of a field goal at the end of the game.
PASS DEFENSE: D - You'd think the Vikings would feel better following a game in which Calvin Johnson caught only three passes for 29 yards. But the Vikings weren't feeling too satisfied about their depleted secondary. In fact, veteran left cornerback Cedric Griffin was benched in the first quarter after giving up a 57-yard touchdown pass to Titus Young. Griffin, who has struggled all season as he's tried to return from torn ACLs in each knee the past two seasons, wasn't able to get a hand on or redirect Young on a go route. The safety to that side, Jamarca Sanford, bit on a pump fake to Johnson, who also was on that side. That left Young wide open behind Griffin. Once again, the Vikings struggled to cover a tight end over the middle. Brandon Pettigrew had six catches for 57 yards and a touchdown.
RUSH DEFENSE: A - The Lions have little interest in running the ball, so that helps when it comes to stopping them. They also were without running back Kevin Smith. Detroit ran for only 72 yards on 21 carries (3.4) with a long run of 11 yards. The Vikings didn't do anything to dominate in run defense, like they used to a couple years ago. The Lions just don't value the run, other than using it to try and balance their attack.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus - There were no major breakdowns or big plays, but the punt coverage team did contribute to a first-quarter meltdown that left the Vikings trailing 21-0 less than 10 minutes into the game. A 28-yard return by Stefan Logan set up a 34-yard touchdown drive. Punter Chris Kluwe had a rare touchback on his only other punt, giving him a net average of 24.5 on the day. Percy Harvin, who has started returning kickoffs only in critical situations late in the game, turned his only opportunity into a 47-yard gain.
COACHING: C - Give Frazier's crew an F for how the game started and an A for how it ended. Clearly, the Vikings were half asleep when the game began. Their first four offensive snaps produced a strip-sack-fumble for a Lions touchdown, a loss of two yards and an interception that led to another Lions touchdown. In hindsight, perhaps Frazier shouldn't have started Ponder. Because of a hip pointer, the rookie missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday, and took only a handful of reps on Friday. Ponder moved well enough in a pre-game workout at Ford Field to convince Frazier that he was good to go. But without practice and his mobility limited, Ponder responded with his worst game of the season. Risking further complications with Ponder's development, Frazier benched the quarterback in the third quarter. The spark behind backup Joe Webb led the Vikings from a 31-14 deficit to within one play of winning the game. They had the ball at the Lions' 1-yard line with nine seconds left in the game. Webb was stripped of the ball by linebacker D'Andre Levy. Levy then grabbed Webb's facemask, but was not flagged by the officials. The ball was recovered by Detroit near midfield, ending the game. Although Frazier and his coaches made their share of mistakes, they also get credit for how hard the team played to get back into a game in which they trailed 21-0 after 10 minutes.
Grading the game: Lions
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