Grading The Game: Lions

If the Vikings are going to take what the defense allows, then they will always get higher grades in some aspects of the offense than others. But there is still only one consistent concern.

PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Backup Gus Frerotte proved his value to the Vikings when he entered the game with 43 seconds left in the first half and the Vikings leading 13-10. Frerotte threw five consecutive passes to lead the Vikings to a field goal 38 seconds later. His second attempt as a Viking was a 72-yard completion to Randy Moss. In his 12th attempt as a Viking, he set a Vikings' single-game record with two completions of 70 yards or more when he threw a 72-yard touchdown pass to Kelly Campbell. But he did throw an interception, the Vikings' first of the season, in the third quarter. Culpepper still hasn't thrown an interception since last season, and that includes the preseason. Campbell also showed he can be a capable starter when he replaced injured D'Wayne Bates (foot).

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- A week after rushing for 202 yards against Chicago, the Vikings basically abandoned the run. They had only seven rushes at halftime, and two of them were quarterback draws for touchdowns by Daunte Culpepper. The plan worked. The Lions played to stop the run, so the Vikings threw the ball 32 times and ran it 22. It was the first game this season in which the Vikings passed more times than they ran. Running back Moe Williams had 95 yards on 13 carries, but one of the carries was a 61-yarder. It was a great run by Williams, who hit the line directly behind center Matt Birk. With no hole whatsoever, Williams bounced to his right. Culpepper, who was finishing his play fake, alertly ran in front of Williams and cut down cornerback Dre' Bly. That allowed Williams to get to the outside. The Vikings had 127 yards rushing on 22 carries (5.8), but 16 yards came from Culpepper and 12 came on a reverse to receiver Kelly Campbell.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- In no way does the Vikings pass defense resemble last year's embarrassing outfit. Cornerbacks Brian Williams, Denard Walker and Ken Irvin provided tight coverage again, while safeties Corey Chavous and Brian Russell were hard-hitting ball hawks once again. Russell, Chavous and Walker had three interceptions, giving the team eight on the season, all by the secondary. Russell's interception at the Vikings' 2 was the turning point of the game. The Lions led 10-6 and were at the Vikings' 29-yard line late in the second half. Russell's pick led to a 98-yard touchdown drive that put the Vikings ahead to stay, 13-10. Russell also played a majority of the game in the box and came up with a game-high nine tackles. The Vikings sacked Joey Harrington and Mike McMahon twice. Lance Johnstone had 1.5 sacks, including a 9-yard sack of McMahon that pushed the Lions out of field goal range.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The Vikings held an opponent to less than 100 yards rushing for the third consecutive game. The Lions ran for only 77 yards on 26 carries (3.0) with a long of 15. The Vikings' decision in training camp to move rookie Kevin Williams from tackle to left end has worked out well. The Vikings, who used to be small up front, now have three 300-pounders on the defensive line in Williams, DT Chris Hovan and NT Fred Robbins. And right end Kenny Mixon is more than adequate as a run stopper. Linebacker Chris Claiborne had seven tackles in his return to Detroit.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Once again, Rusty Tillman's special teams were inconsistent. John Avery had a 47-yard kickoff return. But the kickoff coverage struggled again. Coach Mike Tice said the kickoff coverage has been the team's Achilles' heal since Day 1 this season. The Lions' first kickoff return was a 32-yarder that gave Detroit possession near midfield. The Vikings also allowed the Lions to average 17.5 yards on punt returns, including a 26-yarder by Eddie Drummond that gave the Lions the ball at the Vikings' 24-yard line. Punter Eddie Johnson averaged a season-best 47.7 yards, but had two touchbacks.

COACHING: A -- Mike Tice has managed his players expertly so far. He has given them Mondays off, but has worked them extra hard on Wednesdays and Thursdays. He's developing a mentally tough team, which helped when the Vikings fell behind the Lions 10-0 on the road. Defensive coordinator George O'Leary has the defense playing tighter coverage, which has resulted in eight interceptions. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has been able to make dramatic adjustments from week to week. He transformed the Vikings from a running team that ran for 202 yards against the Bears to a passing team that beat the Lions for two completions of 72 yards. Linehan and Tice also showed guts by having backup quarterback Gus Frerotte come in with 43 seconds left in the first half and throw five consecutive passes to lead the Vikings to a field goal 38 seconds later. The safe call would have been to take a knee and see how bad Daunte Culpepper's back was.

Viking Update Top Stories