In a 34-24 loss to the Detroit Lions that could have been worse if not for plenty of Lions mistakes to counteract the Minnesota Vikings' blunders, blame can be placed up and down the line.
A normally stout run defense wasn't very good without Kevin Williams in the middle. Christian Ponder had one of his worst games as professional with three interceptions and a fumbled handoff when he got tripped. But one of the factors contributing to the loss was the offense's inability to get the running game going with any effectiveness after Adrian Peterson ripped off a 78-yard touchdown run on his first carry of the season.
"It was just a breakdown from us up front or along the entire offense," center John Sullivan said. "It's just the way these games go. It's disappointing for us, but at the same time we're not going to hang our heads."
Certainly, some credit has to go to a stout Lions defensive front, one of the best in football with Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ezekial Ansah – first-round picks in 2010, 2011 and 2013, respectively. But the Vikings have had success before against the Lions.
In 11 previous games against Detroit, Adrian Peterson has rushed for 100 yards or more seven times and had 36 rushes of 10 yards or more – averaging three or more per game. Sunday, his 78-yarder was the only one longer than 7 yards and he had six carries that were stopped for a loss and another for no gain.
"We played a good front yesterday. We think we have a very good offensive line as well. We didn't play as well on a consistent basis that we need to win a game like that. In order for us to do what we need to on offense, we need to count on our offensive line to be a dominant factor for us and we were not yesterday," head coach Leslie Frazier said.
"There were times they physically did better than we did. We had our share of wins at the line of scrimmage, but their defensive line did a really good job. They did a good job of handling our front at times and we've got to get better in some areas."
The Vikings had their best rushing success in the middle, where they averaged an NFL-best 10.1 yards per run in Week 1, but most of that can be attributed to Peterson's first carry. They averaged only 2.7 yards per carry running over left tackle or left end. Worse yet, they averaged a 1-yard loss on four runs over right tackle or over right end.
Sullivan said some of the mistakes made up front were physical, others were communication issues. But after watching the film Monday afternoon he saw some positive things, too.
"There were plenty of good things on tape. I know that nobody wants to hear that after a loss. We take it upon ourselves," he said. "There was a lot to build off that was good. We've just got to clean up a few mistakes. Small things on offense can kill you on drives. I'm not going to say things aren't clicking. Obviously we had one big (run). We just need to eliminate negative plays. It's not what you want to do as a running offense – getting behind the ball and having 4- and 5-yard losses a couple times on first down. We just have to clean up a little bit and things will be totally smooth."
Whether it was the offensive line failing to create the holes or Peterson not making the right reads, Frazier took a broader approach to the question.
"We didn't win sometimes in pass situations. We didn't win enough times in run situations. We got some things we have to work on and get better at," he said. "Our guys know what has to be done for our offense to be successful. There's not one thing you can point to and say this is why we didn't perform as well as we should have yesterday."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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