The disparity between the Vikings and Lions is obvious after a walk through the rankings and numbers.
There was a time when it was hard to envision Daunte Culpepper
being in another uniform. After a solid start to his promising career, he has become an NFL nomad, having made subsequent stops in Miami, Oakland and Detroit. What once looked to be a strong and promising career has taken a steady downturn.
One has to wonder how Culpepper's career may have taken a different path if not for an injury suffered on the final play of the first quarter of the Vikings' game with the Carolina Panthers Oct. 30, 2005. The knee injury he suffered on the fateful hit forever altered his career. Once one of the most successful running quarterbacks in the league, that injury all but took away his effectiveness as a scrambler and forced him to be a pocket passer. But what makes it more troubling is that the injury was completely unnecessary.
On the play in which Culpepper shredded three knee ligaments, the Vikings were trying to add a spark to their running game. The team was suffering in the run offense at the time – this was pre-Adrian Peterson
and Chester Taylor
. Culpepper wasn't scrambling on the play. It was a designed quarterback draw designed to spring Culpepper up the middle for a substantial gain. As drawn up, the play worked to perfection. The offensive line opened a massive hole that Culpepper ran through and got to the third level of the defense untouched. There in lay the tragedy of that event.
Panthers defensive back Chris Gamble
was the first reach Culpepper. Gamble, who was giving up about 60 pounds to Culpepper, was almost obligated to go low on Culpepper since he had a full head of steam going. Trying to cut Culpepper's legs out from under him, he instead caught him with his leg planted in the ground and ripped the three knee ligaments simultaneously. While reports say that Culpepper later thanked Gamble for injuring him – the story saying that had he not been injured, he would still be in Minnesota – it is clear that the knee injury irrevocably changed Culpepper's career for the worse.
As the Vikings meet the Lions today, Culpepper will be facing his old team for the second time (he played the Vikes last year with the Raiders). But the Daunte Vikings fans see today is a shell of the prospect that earned the respect of the NFL earlier in the decade. He was never the same after the shot to his knee and, to make it worse, it came on a play that was drawn up and executed to perfection – but left the franchise quarterback at risk as a result.
VIKINGS-LIONS BY THE NUMBERS
The Vikings have the 16th-rated offense in the NFL (fourth rushing, 25th passing) and the eighth-ranked defense (second rushing, 21st passing). The Lions have the 30th-ranked offense (30th rushing, 26th passing) and the 31st ranked defense (32nd rushing, 19th passing).
The Lions have been outscored 91-41 in the first quarter of games this year, 223-109 in the first half of games, 170-94 in the second half and 393-203 overall.
The 393 points allowed by Detroit are the most of any team in the NFL. The 203 points is the fourth lowest total – only Cincinnati (151), St. Louis (159) and Oakland (172) have scored fewer.
The Lions' scoring would be even worse if not for the kicking of ageless veteran Jason Hanson. He has made all 13 of his attempts from 40 yards and beyond, including seven from 50-plus – making kicks of 51, 52, 53, 53, 53, 54 and 56 yards to salvage drives with points.
The Lions have almost a seven-minute average disparity in time of possession – holding the ball on average for 26:36, while allowing opponents to keep it for 33:24. In contrast, the Vikings have an average time of possession of 31:27.
Detroit has just two interceptions this season. To complicate matters, they have minus-2 yards in interception return yardage. Opponents have picked off 15 passes and returned them for 304 yards – an average of more than 20 yards per return – and a whopping five of them have been returned for touchdowns.
The Lions defense has allowed opponents to rush for 2,123 yards, a league-worst 5.1-yard average and 22 rushing touchdowns. Opponents have run the ball 171 more times than the Lions and gained 1,183 more yards on the ground.
The Vikings have rushed 110 times more than their opponents>
Lions quarterbacks have been sacked 45 times, while their defense has supplied just 23 sacks through 12 games.
Lions QBs have a combined passer rating of 70.9, while opposing QBs have put together a passer rating of 110.9. Only two quarterbacks in the league have a passer rating of over 100 – led by Tony Romo of Dallas with a rating of 103.2.
The Vikings have a combined passer rating of 75.1, while opponents have a combined passer rating of 80.6.
Vikings opponents have made just 12 of 21 field goal attempts from beyond 30 yards this season.
In their first four games, the Vikings never scored more than 20 points in any game. Their record was 1-3. In the last eight games, the Vikings have scored 28 or more points six times and have a record of 6-2.
With a 100-yard game today, Peterson will tie a franchise record with eight 100-yard games in a season – a mark currently held by Robert Smith in 2000.
Despite being in just his second season, Peterson has 13 100-yard rushing games, just four behind Vikings great Chuck Foreman's career total for second place in franchise history. Smith leads with 29 career 100-yard games.
With just 30 yards today, Peterson will pass his own rushing total from 2007 (1,341). He needs 211 yards to set the all-time single season record of 1,521 yards set by Smith in 2000.
Since joining the league, Peterson has averaged 102 rushing yards a game. Second place in that span is Brandon Jacobs of the Giants, who has averaged 89 yards a game. He is averaging 109 yards a game this season.
Peterson passed Fran Tarkenton into 10th place on the Vikings all-time leading rushers list with 2,652 yards. He needs 144 more to pass Terry Allen into ninth place.
With five points today, kicker Ryan Longwell will move into 23rd place on the all-time NFL scoring list, passing legendary Lou Groza, who is currently 23rd with 1,349 points. Longwell needs just 22 points in the final four games to pass former Vikings great Fred Cox (1,365) into 22nd place on the all-time list.
In the first meeting of the season between the Vikings and Lions, Kevin Williams tied a franchise record with four sacks.
The most yards ever thrown by a Vikings passer against the Lions will be Detroit's starter today. On Dec. 19, 2004, Culpepper threw for 404 yards and three TDs against the Lions.
The Vikings have dominated the Lions throughout their history. While the team has a losing record against Green Bay (46-49-1) and are slightly over .500 against Chicago (51-43-2), the Vikings are 62-30-2 all-time against the Lions, including wins in 12 of the last 13 meetings.
Over the last six games, the Vikings have averaged 29 points a game. Only Baltimore (30.6) and the Giants (30.1) have averaged more.
The Vikings are tied with the Saints for first place in the NFL this season with 13 touchdown plays of 20 yards or more.
Bernard Berrian has five catches of 48 yards or more this season.
Only Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez and Kevin Boss have more touchdowns among tight ends than Visanthe Shiancoe.
Since the start of the 2006, nobody has recovered more opponent fumbles (46) than Detroit. The Vikings are third with 44.
Both the Vikings and Detroit have struggled with interceptions. The Lions rank 29th in interceptions per passes thrown, while the Vikings rank 30th. Only St. Louis and Houston are worse.
The Vikings defense is second in average gain per rushing attempt (3.2 yards). The Lions are dead last (5.1 yards).
The Vikings are for 16th in the league in giveaway/takeaway ratio at zero – they have 23 takeaways and giveaways. Detroit is tied for 29th at minus-9 – 14 takeaways, 23 giveaways.
Surprisingly, the Lions are second in the league in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns at a 66.7 percent clip inside the 20 (21 chances, 14 TDs). The Vikings are 28th with 33 red zone opportunities and just 14 touchdowns (42.4 percent).
Defensively, the Vikings are seventh in the red zone, allowing 17 touchdowns on 36 chances (47.2 percent). The Lions are 27th, allowing 30 touchdowns on 48 chances (62.5 percent). No team has allowed opponents into the red zone more often or surrendered more touchdowns than the Lions.
The league average for third-down conversions is 39.1 percent. The Vikings are bad at 34.5 percent, but Detroit is even worse – converting on just 27.1 percent of their third-down chances.
Neither team has had a 300-yard passing game this season. Both have allowed three opposing QBs to top 300 yards.
The Vikings have four 100-yard receiving games – all from Berrian – while the Lions have three – all from Calvin Johnson. Both teams have allowed four 100-yard receivers.
While Peterson has seven 100-yard rushing games this year, Detroit has just one – from rookie Kevin Smith. The Vikings have yet to allow an opponent to top 100 yards rushing, while the Lions have allowed nine – most in the league.
Peterson leads the NFL in rushing with 1,311 yards – 83 yards more than second-place Clinton Portis. Smith is 23rd in the league with 629 yards.
Peterson is second in the league in combined rushing/receiving yards with 1,405 – just 10 yards behind Portis, who faces the Ravens in the Sunday night game.
Johnson is tied for 27th in the league with 53 receptions. Bobby Wade leads the Vikings with 40, which ties him for 55th in the league.
Johnson is fifth in the league with 971 receiving yards. Berrian is 17th with 795 yards.
Of receivers with more than 25 catches, Berrian leads the league with an average of 20.9 yards per catch. Johnson is third with an 18.4-yard average.
Chester Taylor is tied for fourth in the league with 21 receptions on third down. He is the only running back in the top 18 third-down receivers.
Longwell is eighth in the league among kickers with 101 points. Hanson is 29th with just 67 points.
Jared Allen is tied for ninth in the league with 10.5 sacks. Kevin Williams is tied for 12th with 8.5 sacks. Dewayne White leads the Lions with 5.5 sacks, good for a tie for 22nd place.
Ben Leber is tied for the league lead with four defensive fumble recoveries. Antoine Winfield is tied for eighth with two fumble recoveries.