The team’s reputation for defending the run precedes itself when facing Mike Martz and his game plan. Martz, for the most part, doesn’t even try to run the ball. This past week, the Lions only ran the ball 7 times for just 23 yards (3.3 avg.). The all pass, all-the-time philosophy was somewhat productive as quarterback Jon Kitna threw for 260 yards while completing 27-of-36 passes. But the end result was just 10 points on the scoreboard, seldom enough to win, so Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier & Co. get high marks for holding up their end of the equation.
No one player stood out or dominated in the trenches, but everyone that played made their contribution. Starting defensive tackles Kevin Williams (1 tackle, 1 sack, 1 quarterback knockdown) and Pat Williams (2 tackles) are the primary reason teams have virtually given up on trying to run the ball inside. The 9-yard sack by Kevin Williams pretty well shut down Detroit’s opening-game drive.
Kenechi Udeze was productive (1 tackle, 1 interception, 2 pass deflections, 1 quarterback hurry) from left end and also slid inside to tackle on passing downs at times. He lone tackle was to stuff T.J. Duckett at the point of attack for no gain. He showed good alertness to catch the fluttering Kitna “throw” and rumbled for a not-so-pretty-looking 37 yards. Udeze did pick up an offsides penalty in the fourth quarter that led to a Lions first down.
Erasmus James (1 tackle, 2 quarterback hurries) got the start at right end and was effective, though not dominant. His lone tackle dropped Kevin Jones for a 3-yard loss in the third quarter. James does look at or near 100 percent once again as he comes back from last season’s knee injury.
Ray Edwards made the biggest impact play of the game when he disrupted the Kitna pass that led to Udeze’s interception.
Spencer Johnson (1 tackle) was far more effective than his statistics might indicate. He one official tackle for no gain on a second-quarter stuff of Jones in the running game. He also put Kitna on the ground at least 3 times on the pass rush. Johnson also recovered a fumble caused on a sack, but the officials had ruled the play an incompletion, making it a dead ball.
Jayme Mitchell showed flashes of excellence in limited duty at left end. He recorded 2 tackles, including a second-quarter sack in which he simply beat left tackle Damien Woody one-on-one for a 12-yard loss. Mitchell showed a nice combination of both power and speed off the edge to make the play. Mitchell is an unheralded player who has been pretty effective whenever he’s gotten opportunities this season.
Rookie Brian Robison got some reps but did not record any official stats. DT Fred Evans served the first of a two-game suspension against the Lions. Rookie Conrad Bolston was activated from the practice squad to the active roster this week but did not dress.
With only 46 offensive plays – 7 running plays – nobody racked up real impressive tackle totals, yet all three ‘backers did a solid job.
E.J. Henderson had 4 tackles, 1 sack (for -8 yards), 1 quarterback hurry and a forced fumble that should have been a turnover, but was nullified by the official’s error.
Each recorded 7 tackles to lead the team. Each also recorded one pass breakup. McCauley allowed a couple modest completions to Mike Furrey early on but then pretty well clamped down in coverage. Griffin allowed a couple underneath completions and was also beaten by Roy Williams on a 43-yard reception, but he also stopped Williams for a one-yard loss on another catch.
SS Darren Sharper recorded 3 tackles and had a fairly quiet game overall. The same could be said of FS Dwight Smith (1 tackle), who was held out the opening series (with Mike Doss officially getting the start) for disciplinary reasons between Smith and head coach Brad Childress. Doss did not post any official statistics.
Backup safety Eric Frampton contributed on special teams, while Tank Williams was inactive after suffering a sprained knee last week. Cornerback Antoine Winfield was also inactive with a hamstring injury.
The Vikings defense continues to show vulnerability against the passing game with a sporadic pass rush at times, but they continue to do a nice enough job of bending without breaking for the most part. The offense, which controlled the clock and gave them a lead to play with, really helped out the defense this week.
Coming Soon: Special Teams.