The difference is that now the Vikings appear to be balancing out there offensive game plan as defenses commit resources to stopping Adrian Peterson and the Vikings' rushing attack.
"Sometimes defenses are not going to let you do certain things. You always strive for balance, but sometimes if teams are going to play to stop the run, then you've got to hurt them in the passing game. We did a great job of protecting and obviously (quarterback Gus Frerotte) and everybody did a great job of making plays (against New Orleans)," center Matt Birk said. "You always want to be explosive, but that's just how it went last night. … We really started throwing the ball downfield there in the second half and it was Gus checking to the right protection and guys getting open, just making plays. Big plays, that's what wins games."
It's probably more than coincidence that the Vikings' four longest pass plays of the season have come in their two wins, with completions of 36 and 33 yards against New Orleans on Monday night and passes of 48 and 34 yards against Carolina on Sept. 21.
"We're doing a good job moving the ball in the passing game, so if they continue to want to focus on the run, then we're going to continue focusing on passing it and taking what we can get in the run game. As long as we win, that's all you can ask for. I'm happy," Peterson said.
"Eventually, they're going to have to bring a guy or two out if we continue to improve in our passing game and make big plays. But until then … as long as we get the same results and come out with a win, either way, running the ball or receivers making big plays, that will work for me."
Wide receivers Bernard Berrian and Bobby Wade are the main recipients of the passing influx in the last three weeks with Frerotte at quarterback. The five longest passes of the season have come from the arm of Frerotte, and four of those five have gone into the hands of Berrian. Meanwhile, after catching three passes in the first two games, Wade has caught 18 passes in the last three games. Berrian also caught three passes in the first two games with Tarvaris Jackson as the starting quarterback and has 14 catches in the last three weeks.
On the flip side is Peterson. He rushed 48 times for 263 yards in the first two games. In the last three, he has rushed 56 times for 189 yards. The low point in production of his young professional career came Monday night, when the Saints held him to 32 yards on 21 rushes – a 1.5-yard average.
"After the game, I started thinking to myself, What was it they were doing? After I watched the film and studied the film, there were really a lot of things we were doing wrong – missed blocks here or missed reads by the back. We've just got to be patient and the run game will come along," Peterson said.
"During the game it can get frustrating, but this is the league. … We went out there and picked up the one or two yards. It wasn't pretty, but it helped."
And that might all change this week, as Peterson and the Vikings offense get back in the Metrodome. In two games against the Lions, Peterson has rushed 35 times for 182 yards, a 5.2-yard average, and two touchdowns.
The main goal, however, is to get a win.
"We always want to get (Peterson) going," said Birk, "but the most important thing is we always want to win the game. If teams are just hell-bent on stopping the run, then we've got to do what we did (against New Orleans). It's always a work in progress. Week to week is its own deal, but we won the game and that's the most important thing."
Linebacker Erin Henderson is questionable with a concussion and Vinny Ciurciu is probable with a knee injury. That leaves just three healthy linebackers – starters Ben Leber, Chad Greenway and David Herron – for Sunday's game against the Lions.
"We basically went with five last week, so there are no mandates on that, how many people you have up," head coach Brad Childress said.
Leber said he doesn't think about the depth at linebacker and that's intentional.
"I think if you think about it, it's one of those karma things – if you think about it, it may happen," he said.
TAKING THE BLAME
While Chris Kluwe handled it well when he was singled out for failing to punt the ball out of bounds twice against the Saints, special teams coverage man Eric Frampton said that allowing Reggie Bush to score on two punt returns was a team effort.
"When we lose together, when we screw up together, we've got to take it," Frampton said of the criticism of the coverage units.
Frampton is a former member of the Lions, having played in five games for them early in the 2007 season before the Vikings claimed him off waivers for the final nine games last year. The safety admitted to wanting to play well Sunday against Detroit.
"I think any rookie that comes into the league that gets tossed around like that, I guess you develop these feelings of wanting to play real well in the game just to show them what they missed out on," Frampton said. "Of course that's there for me. But more so I want to look at the picture of the whole season. Everyone knows that special teams, we haven't been performing too well, or as good as we can."
The two teams both employ the Tampa-2 defense, but Frampton said he believes the Vikings are more aggressive with their defense.
For the Lions, CB Travis Fisher (knee) and QB Dan Orlovsky (ankle) were limited. QB Jon Kitna (back) and G Stephen Peterman (hand), along with WRs Roy Williams (hip) and Calvin Johnson (knee), did not participate. Kitna and Peterman are doubtful; Fisher, Johnson and Williams are questionable; and TE Casey Fitzsimmons (elbow) and Orlovsky are probable.