By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings defeated the Detroit Lions 34-24 Sunday at Mall of America Field to enter its bye week on a positive note. The Vikings (6-4) are really just beginning their inter-division schedule. It has gone pretty well through two games with a sweep of the Lions.
Star wide receiver, running back and kick returner Percy Harvin was not active due to an ankle injury, but the Vikings found a way to ignite its stagnant passing attack with rookie Jarius Wright.
Quarterback Christian Ponder got the fourth round draft pick involved early with two passes for 57 yards and a touchdown. Wright finished the game with three catches for a team-high 65 yards and the touchdown in his debut.
The second-year quarterback’s game may be the story, but Adrian Peterson was the star with 171 yards and a touchdown, including a 61-yard scoring run. The sixth-year veteran went over the 1,000-yard mark on the season for fifth time in his career.
ESPN1500.com reporter Tom Pelissero reported during the week that offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave took another look at the scheme and thought that immediate positive results would ensue. He wasn’t wrong.
On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Alan Williams had to get his run defense in order. It was gashed for four straight weeks. Sunday, the Lions managed just 60 yards.
The Vikings hope Ponder will continue to do the rest of the season what he did Sunday. After throwing eight interceptions in the previous five games, the second-year quarterback was more accurate and protective of the fumble. He targeted 11 receivers and completed passes to 10 of them, including himself.
The easiest way for the Vikings’ offense to succeed is to give the ball to Peterson, who continues to be the biggest surprise in the NFL. He continues to lead the league and was the first back to the top the 1,000-yard mark this season.
Without Harvin, tight end Kyle Rudolph led the team with seven receptions. He turned those catches into 64 yards and a touchdown.
The offense can’t go without the offensive line and it kept Ponder upright for most of the game. The Lions were able to get just three hits and one sack on him.
The only negative play for the offense came on its second and third drives of the game; it went backward in both drives netting minus-nine yards.
The Vikings’ defense made tackles and limited the Lions to just 60 yards on the ground. Otherwise, statistically, it did not look good for the Vikings’ defense. Matthew Stafford passed for 329 yards and Calvin Johnson had over 200 yards receiving. The Stafford to Johnson connection got the Lions back in the game in the second half, and the Vikings really struggled to stop the Lions passing attack once they got going.
In the end, the defense did enough for the Vikings to win with an interception, fumble recovery and two sacks.
The Vikings did not have Harvin available to return kicks, but Marcus Sherels did an okay job of replacing him with a 20.5 yard average.
Blair Walsh was as good as usual with four field goals in four tries, including a 48-yarder.
Chris Kluwe posted a high average with 48.6 yards per punt, but out-kicked his coverage several times.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.