Grading The Game: Lions

Yes, the grades are better than they have been most of the season after a 27-14 win over Detroit, but let's remember that it was against the punchless Lions.

PASSING OFFENSE: C — This grade isn't a poor reflection of how Brad Johnson played in his first game replacing Daunte Culpepper at quarterback. Johnson proved to be exactly what the Vikings needed: a game manager. He passed for only 164 yards and leading receiver Travis Taylor caught four balls for a grand total of 27 yards. But Johnson did not throw an interception and had a rating of 115.0.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B — The Vikings put together their third 100-yard rushing game of the season as a team, and Michael Bennett contributed only the second 100-yard performance by an individual. Bennett, the forgotten man in the offense, had a season-high 18 carries for 106 yards and also caught a 5-yard touchdown pass. Bennett's re-emergence in the offense had to be partially attributed to an offensive line that put together its most complete performance of the season. It didn't hurt matters that Pro Bowl defensive tackle Shaun Rogers sat out because of a knee injury.

PASS DEFENSE: B — After a miserable performance a week earlier at Carolina, the Vikings rebounded against a Detroit offense that won't strike fear in the hearts of anyone. The Lions had the overmatched Joey Harrington at quarterback and the depleted receiving corps had to rely on Scottie Vines. Nonetheless, the Vikings did their job, getting interceptions from cornerback Antoine Winfield and free safety Darren Sharper. Coach Mike Tice was much more involved with the defense during the week leading up to this game and it showed as the Vikings used different alignments to confuse Detroit and also switched to a dose of cover-two in the second half. Winfield, who openly complained about the scheme against the Panthers, had a team-high 11 tackles and also broke up two passes.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus — Back to playing a 4-3 base defense after three games in a 3-4, the Lions rushed for only 58 yards and quarterback Joey Harrington led the way with 17 yards on four carries. Kevin Williams looked far more comfortable back at the 3-technique after struggling to make things happen on the end and situational pass rusher Lance Johnstone contributed two sacks of the team's four sacks.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B — This continues to be the Vikings' most consistent unit. Signing Koren Robinson was worth the investment, simply because of what he provides on kick returns. He averaged 33.7 yards on three returns and had a long of 49; Mewelde Moore had a 30-yard punt return in the second quarter to set up a touchdown. Paul Edinger made two of three field-goal attempts, making kicks of 21 and 40 yards and missing from 52. Coverage on Detroit's Eddie Drummond was good both on punt and kick returns.

COACHING: B — Mike Tice spent the week focusing on the defense and it paid off as the unit, switched from a 3-4 back to the 4-3, was much improved. The one thing to keep in mind is Detroit's offense looked offensive and wasn't helped when running back Kevin Jones left in the first quarter because of a nerve contusion in his arm. Backup quarterback Brad Johnson, stepping in for the injured Daunte Culpepper, appeared very comfortable with the offense. The key for this week is to see if the staff can prepare the team to even look competitive in a road game.




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