Grading the game: Lions

It was a division win Sunday, but a close victory over a winless team this late in the season will tend to show a number of flaws – early precision being one of them. The grades reflect an average outing for the Vikings in Detroit.

PASSING OFFENSE: C — Quarterback Gus Frerotte threw two interceptions before being replaced by Tarvaris Jackson after suffering a back injury late in the first half. When Frerotte departed, he had passed for only 70 yards and no touchdowns. The interceptions were especially troubling considering Detroit had only two for the entire season entering the game and one of those came Oct. 12 against Frerotte at the Metrodome. That means Frerotte has thrown three of the four picks that the Lions have this season. Jackson, who was benched after the Vikings lost the first two games of the season, was effective in the second half, completing eight of 10 passes for 105 yards with a touchdown, no interceptions and an impressive 143.8 rating. His touchdown toss, an 11-yarder to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, gave the Vikings a fourth-quarter lead that they would not relinquish. Shiancoe had a season-high five catches for 65 yards. His 25-yard reception in the first half was the Vikings' longest pass play of the day. Bernard Berrian led Vikings wide receivers with three catches for 29 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C — Adrian Peterson rushed for 102 yards on 23 carries — his eighth 100-plus yard rushing day this season and second against Detroit — but those numbers could have been overshadowed. That's because Peterson fumbled three times and could have had a fourth had it not been overturned after coach Brad Childress threw his challenge flag because he felt Peterson was down before he lost the ball. Peterson got lucky in that none of his three fumbles resulted in turnovers. Peterson now has fumbled seven times this season and five have come against Detroit. He lost two of those in Minnesota's victory over the Lions in October. Veteran Chester Taylor actually averaged more yards per carry than Peterson, gaining 27 yards on six attempts. That is a 4.5 average. Peterson averaged 4.4 yards. Taylor also had a 17-yard run for a touchdown on the Vikings' opening drive of the third quarter.

PASS DEFENSE: B — Lions quarterback Daunte Culpepper threw for only 220 yards and for the most part the Vikings were able to keep the damage to a minimum. Culpepper's biggest strike of the day was a 70-yard touchdown to Calvin Johnson on a third-quarter play in which the receiver got behind cornerback Cedric Griffin. Safety Darren Sharper tried to help but could not get over in time. The Vikings did sack Culpepper three times with right end Jared Allen getting two of those and left end Ray Edwards getting the other. Allen also had two of the Vikings' six quarterback hurries despite suffering a knee injury in the first half that kept him out for a few plays. Aside from his touchdown catch, the Vikings and Griffin did a good job against Johnson. He had only two other receptions for 14 yards.

RUSH DEFENSE: B — The Vikings run defense, led by Pro Bowl tackles Kevin and Pat Williams, held an opponent below 100 yards rushing for the ninth time in 13 games this season. Rookie Kevin Smith had 63 yards on 22 carries for the Lions, a 2.9 average, going against the Williamses. The two played despite the fact the NFL had suspended them for four games last week for violating the league's steroid policy. The Williamses were among those who went to court in an attempt to continue playing and have, for the time being, received a judge's approval to remain on the field. Culpepper, a former Viking who used to strike fear in the heart's of opponents when he would run the ball because of his size, only had 7 yards on three carries and failed to get even a yard on a fourth-and-1 from the Vikings 6-yard line late in the second quarter.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus — Kicker Ryan Longwell made field goals from 35 and 50 yards to provide six crucial points in a narrow victory. The Vikings still don't appear settled on a punt returner. Wide receiver Bernard Berrian returned one punt for 6 yards and receiver Aundrae Allison, inactive in the previous game, also got a chance to return one but only picked up 1 yard. The Vikings seem to have found a competent kickoff return man in Darius Reynaud, but the rookie receiver suffered a toe injury that could affect him. Reynaud has nice instincts and averaged 25.8 yards on four returns Sunday. That included a long of 43 yards. Chris Kluwe averaged 57 yards gross and 40.5 net on two punts. The Vikings coverage units gave up an average of 24 yards on kick returns, with the long going for 38 yards, and 13 yards on one punt return.

COACHING: B — Brad Childress deserves credit. While his team came out flat against a dreadful Lions club in a building that had plenty of empty seats and lacked atmosphere, the Vikings rebounded after Childress gave his players a talking to at halftime. The Vikings outscored the Lions 17-10 in the second half en route to the 20-16 victory. Childress had his share of obstacles in the week leading up to the game, including the fact that Kevin and Pat Williams appeared to be lost to suspension at one point but then quickly returned after getting a favorable ruling in court. It would have been easy for that distraction to become a problem. The Vikings also made some nice adjustments after Gus Frerotte got hurt and were able to get the most out of quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. That was thanks in part to the play calling by offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.


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