The Vikings defense generated 5 turnovers and put another six points on the board. They intercepted 3 passes, forced 3 fumbles, recorded 4 quarterback sacks and stuffed Detroit’s running game to just 2.7-yards-per-carry (21-56) rushing.
But they also gave up too many big plays in the passing game, allowing 359 net yards passing, as their pass rush was inconsistent without blitzing and Jon Kitna generally picked them apart using the no-huddle blueprint.
UT Kevin Williams was responsible for the team’s defensive touchdown, forcing a fumble when he penetrated to hit quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan 4 yards deep in the backfield. He also deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage and finished with 2 total tackles. On the downside, he had a foolish encroachment penalty on fourth-and-1 to give the Lions an easy first-down. Still, Williams gave the interior offensive line of Edwin Mulitalo (LG), Damien Woody (RG) and Dominic Raiola (C) all they could handle, frequently requiring double-teaming, stuffing the inside run and creating a surge that freed up others.
NT Pat Williams was a rock against the run, posting 4 tackles. He also recorded his first sack of the year (a 2-yard loss) and was credited with 1 pass deflection and 1 quarterback hurry, despite getting fewer-than-usual reps because of the 4-receiver passing set the Lions often deployed.
RDE Ray Edwards finished with 2 tackles, 1.5 sacks (for 12 yards in losses), 2 quarterback hurries, 1 pass deflection and 1 fumble recovery, which he returned 9 yards for a touchdown. He nullified an incompletion by lining up offsides on one play in the first quarter and was generally held in check by left tackle Jeff Backus for much of the first half. But Edwards wore him down as the game went on and made virtually all his impact plays in the second half.
Rookie Brian Robison actually started the game at left end. He finished with 2 tackles, including one for a 1-yard loss when he stuffed running back Brian Calhoun on a run up the middle. He was otherwise pretty well contained by right tackle George Foster most of the time.
Kenechi Udeze still saw his share of reps at left end and recorded his second sack of the season with a 16-yard gimme on a fumbled snap by Kitna in the first quarter. Udeze was also credited with 1 quarterback hurry.
Jayme Mitchell got some reps at left end and was active, tenacious and disruptive, even though he did not record any official statistics.
With the Lions often in pass mode, DT Spencer Johnson got quite a few reps. He was flagged for a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on a very close call early in the third quarter. He was otherwise quiet, recording no official stats.
Darrion Scott also got a few reps but did not make an impact.
E.J. Henderson finished with 7 tackles, shared a sack with Edwards (an 8-yard loss) and was credited with 1 quarterback hurry. Henderson was often drawn deep into coverage in the passing game. Against the run, he was stellar, where his three tackles were for no gain, minus-1 and minus-4. The season is only two games along, but Henderson has played at a Pro Bowl level thus far.
Chad Greenway recorded 6 tackles, most of them downfield or in the passing game. He did have one stop for no gain at the line of scrimmage on third-and-1, stuffing Tatum Bell to force a fourth-and-1 late in the second quarter.
Ben Leber saw his playing time somewhat limited as the Vikings opened and were in the nickel much of the time. He finished with 2 tackles, including stuffing Calhoun for no gain to force a punt in the fourth quarter.
Darren Sharper would have gotten a game ball had the Vikings won. He had 2 drive-killing interceptions – one in the endzone, the other as the Lions entered field-goal range in Vikings territory. Sharper also broke up 2 passes and was responsible for a third turnover when he forced a fumble with a tackle on Roy Williams after the catch. He finished second on the team with 8 total tackles.
Dwight Smith also had a strong game at the other safety spot, although he left the game briefly with cramping. Smith finished with 4 tackles, 1 interception, 2 PBU and 1 quarterback hurry on the blitz.
Tank Williams spelled Smith when he was out briefly. He was in on one tackle but did not make any distinctive plays good or bad.
Antoine Winfield led the defense with 9 tackles and recovered the fumble forced by Sharper. Unfortunately, many of his tackles came after a catch downfield, although he was not ever truly beaten in pass coverage.
Cedric Griffin got his share of action at right corner. He blew up an end run by Bell for a 3-yard loss on one play. On the downside, he picked up a 16-yard pass interference penalty in coverage on Roy Williams, had a 5-yard facemask penalty on a tackle on Shaun McDonald and got walled off on a jump-ball touchdown catch by rookie Calvin Johnson. Griffin finished with 8 tackles, 1 TFL and 1 forced fumble (when he hit O’Sullivan near the sidelines).
Rookie Marcus McCauley started as the nickel corner and recorded 7 tackles and 2 PBU in pass coverage. He also batted a ball near the line of scrimmage that resulted in a 9-yard completion by Kitna…to himself. McCauley left too much cushion at times and at least twice missed badly trying to tackle after the catch.
The formula when facing the Vikings defense remains the same. Spread them out and pass, pass, pass. Until they can get consistent pressure without blitzing, that will be the game plan they will see. On the bright side, teams have all but given up even trying to run the ball on them. And overall, you should win when you allow just 20 points in 4-plus quarters of football and create 5 turnovers, including one defensive touchdown.
Coming Soon: Offense