Notebook: Flat first halves a trend?

The Vikings have gotten away with two slow starts on the road, but they know they can't survive long-term with slow starts. Plus, we dissect some interesting punt formations, look at Jared Allen's improved productivity and the job the defensive backs did on Calvin Johnson.

The Vikings are 2-0. They have clearly outplayed their competition – at times – to seize control in each of their first two games.

But perspective is needed. Their competition to the start the season was a combined 4-28 last year and now a combined 0-4. And that same competition outperformed the Vikings in each of opening halves of each game.

"I didn't think the tempo was where we wanted it in the first half and we were able to come out and set that off," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "You know, generally those games with the Lions, you want them to get left-handed. You drop the ball on the ground and we tried there in the beginning to drop the ball on the ground, it cost us three points."

That was only the start of the game, when Adrian Peterson fumbled an exchange from Brett Favre on the opening drive to set up Detroit's first points.

"You know, not to take anything away from those guys, but it was a lot of what we were doing. We came out flat," Peterson said. "If it wasn't me, it was someone else. We weren't getting anything going offensively. We weren't being productive, but in the second half we came out and were doing things right."

The Vikings had two first downs in their initial drive before Peterson fumbled it away, but the offense failed to pick up a first down in its next three drives. By the time they picked up their next first down, they were trailing 10-0.

"I had heard so much during the week that pretty much every time in the past that the guys have played here it's been a struggle, and that seems to be the way it was when I played at the old Silverdome," quarterback Brett Favre said. "It just comes in bunches, and I was actually thinking about that in the first quarter and part of the second, I don't want to be a part of these."

The Vikings offense also struggled in the first half against the Cleveland Browns in the opener. They scored on two of their first three drives and took a 10-3 lead, but both of those drives started in Browns territory. Then Minnesota's next three drives went three-and-out to end the first half, the defense allowed a 10-play drive that resulted in a field goal, and the special teams gave up a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown as Cleveland took a 13-10 halftime lead.

But once the third quarter started, the Vikings took a 24-13 in a dominating quarter in Cleveland.

In Detroit, the Vikings also trailed by three points at halftime, but they rattled off 27 unanswered points to take a 27-10 lead in the fourth quarter.

"We came out in the second half and we knew offensively that we needed to get it going. We came out flat in the first half," Peterson said. "We came out in the second half and got a good drive and delivered, and fortunately we put points on the board."

But Favre knows the Vikings can't continue to play from behind and expect to win them all that way.

"To think that we can continue to win games that way is not going to happen," he said. "Detroit played hard, played well, and I was worried. And I was worried last week when (Cleveland) returned a punt for a touchdown. You just never know in this league."

TRICKY PUNT FORMATIONS

Early in the second quarter, the Vikings were set to punt and showcased a different look for the Lions to defend. Long snapper Cullen Loeffler had only one lineman on each side of him and three players split out wide left and right. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson was the "up man" for protection and could have received a direct snap.

The Lions had five players in the middle of the field, three to the offense's left but only two covering the three players split wide right. Kluwe ended up getting the snap, but Jackson faked a pass (without having the ball) to the left to give the Lions – and all future opponents – something to think about.

The Lions followed suit on their next punt attempt at the end of the ensuing drive.

The also had one lineman on each side of the long snapper with an "up man" behind them and three players split wide left and wide right. Punter Nick Harris raced under center and pointed out the middle linebacker in the defense. As the Vikings scrambled to figure out their defense, the Lions went back into normal punt formation but were called for an illegal formation.

ALLEN ON THE BOARD

Defensive end Jared Allen was bottled up against tackle Joe Thomas and the Cleveland Browns in Week 1, held to no sacks, no tackles-for-loss and only one assisted tackle. He fared better against the Lions.

Allen had a 7-yard sack, four tackles (three of them for losses) and was credited with a forced fumble.

His sack to start the second half set the tempo for a defense that struggled in the first half, but it was mixup in blocking assignments by the Detroit offensive line and running backs.

"We don't have a play designed where we let Jarred Allen free. He's a good enough player without letting him go like that," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said.

One play after Allen's sack, Ray Edwards ended the drive with another sack, forcing a three-and-out on Detroit's first series of the second half.

"It was big. We were barking up front and we were putting it on our shoulders," Allen said. "We didn't get too many rushed opportunities till the end of the game, so we took advantage of those opportunities when we got them. The three-and-out really set the tempo coming out. We couldn't let them hang around; otherwise we knew we would be in trouble."

More importantly, the Vikings defense as a whole simply played better in the second half. It had allowed 94 net yards rushing to the Lions in the first half, but clamped down to allow only 35 rushing yards in the second half.

"We kind of lacked fundamentals. We missed our tackles. We missed tackles in the gap and they started bouncing plays," Allen said of the first-half struggles. "But you go in and see how they're running plays and it was more a gut check on our part. It made us want to come out with a little more tempo and we wanted to set the pace on them instead of having it on us."

CONTAINING CALVIN

The big task for the defensive backs was to contain Detroit's offensive star, receiver Calvin Johnson. The defensive backs did pretty well.

Johnson was held to 51 yards receiving on five catches and 16 yards on two rushes. He did have Detroit's only touchdown of the game to cap a second-quarter drive marred by two personal foul penalties on the Vikings.

"The line did a good job of picking up – they were coming with some heat – and Calvin ran a good little in cut and I hit him and he did a good job of running into the end zone. He made a good play," Lions QB Matthew Stafford said.

NOTES

  • Favre downplayed his NFL-record 271 consecutive starts. "Today was really not a whole lot different than last week or last year. Every game that I play, at this point, I'm pretty grateful," he said.

  • Although Lions RB Kevin Smith threatened to end Minnesota's defensive streak, the Vikings held Smith to 83 yards rushing, making it the 25th consecutive game the Vikings haven't given up 100 yards rushing to an individual. The last player to rush for 100 yards against the Vikings was Packers RB Ryan Grant on Nov. 11, 2007.

  • This is only the third time in Vikings history that the team has started the season with two consecutive road wins.


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