Q. Blame game: One play doesn’t lose a game, and neither – usually – does one unit. But what was the biggest culprit in the loss?
A. The offense didn’t lose it, but it didn’t do enough for about 40 minutes to give the Lions their best chance to win. The offense couldn’t sustain drives because it couldn’t convert on third down, and there was no real running game.
The offense woke up late with big plays, but then the defense fell apart at a crucial point.
Adrian Peterson is the best back in football, but that doesn’t excuse the Lions for giving up a 20-yard run and a 62-yard touchdown run by Peterson that clinched the game for the Vikings.
Q. Peterson vs. Johnson: Didn’t the two teams show a difference in emphasis on offense in a key exchange late in the game?
A. Yes. It was still 24-17 when the Lions had the ball at their 48 with plenty of time left in the game. On the first three plays, the Lions went to
It was the Vikings' ball at their 25, and they put the ball in Peterson’s hands. He ran 19 yards and two yards on the first two plays. After a penalty, he ran 61 yards to make the lead 31-17.
The Vikings didn’t try to fool anyone. They went with their best on every play.
On the previous series, the Lions didn’t do that.
Peterson and Johnson are the best players in the league at their respective positions, and they played like it Sunday.
Q. The kick: The Lions used questionable strategy – to say the least – after finally scoring a touchdown. With 2:55 left in the third quarter.
Instead of kicking off, the Lions tried a pooch kickoff. The Vikings recovered at their 38. From there, they drove to a TD and extended the lead to 24-10. Was the onside kick the right call?
A. Wrong call for me. Too much of a risk. I like aggressive football, but there’s a place to take a deep breath, let the adrenaline rush calm down and play by the book. And that was the time to play by the book.
The defense had bent at times, but it hadn’t given give up a touchdown since the 7:52 mark of the first quarter. I say kick it deep and play defense.
All things considered, it was the key moment in the game, and it went in Minnesota’s favor.
Q. Late hit:
A. Absolutely the right call, and not a smart play by Hill. Ponder had given himself up with the slide, and the Lions would have gotten the ball back on a punt. There was no reason to hit the quarterback.
Q. “Foot” ball: Did the Lions catch a break late in the first half on a play that originally was called a touchdown on an interception return by Antoine Winfield?
A. It’s stretching a point to say a team gets a break when the officials blew the call, but that was sort of the case. A pass meant for
Winfield ran it back into the end zone, and the officials called it a touchdown. An automatic replay review in the last two minutes showed that the ball had hit the turf in front of Jefferson’s foot before bouncing to Winfield.
Still, it was a good, alert play by Winfield. He followed one of the elementary rules of football – play to the whistle, and let the officials sort things out.
Q. Lions’ alertness: Weren’t the Lions guilty of not playing to the whistle on a play in the first half?
A. Yes, and even though it didn’t mean anything, it indicated a lack of game awareness. Christian Ponder was sacked for a seven-yard loss, and the ball rolled loose to his right, with three Lions in the vicinity. The whistle hadn’t sounded yet, but no Lion moved to recover the ball.
On the TV replay, it was clear that Ponder was down before the ball came out, but it was close, and the Lions should have made a recovery. If there had been a challenge on possession, the Lions would not have gotten a recovery because they didn’t have clear possession.
Q. Clocking out: The Lions called time after forcing a punt near midfield with just under a minute left in the first half. It was their last timeout, and they couldn’t take advantage of the possession after getting the ball at their 20 with 48 seconds left in the half.
Did the offense mismanage the remaining time?
A. Yes. Instead of using the remaining 48 seconds to move into field goal range, the Lions wasted them. They ran only two plays – both passes to
Q. What was wrong?
A. Bell made the biggest mistake on first down when he caught a pass near the left sideline. Instead of going out of bounds to stop the clock, Bell cut inside and gained another yard or two. It was a bad decision.
Seconds are more important than a yard or two, and the play ate up 25 seconds before the ball could be snapped on second down. If Bell had simply stepped out of bounds, six or seven seconds would have elapsed.
Instead, the clock kept ticking, and there was no real chance to get the ball downfield and set up at least a field-goal attempt. A short gain on a second-down pass over the middle to Bell ended the half.
Q. The “Known” GM: There has been widespread speculation about the identity of the “anonymous general” manager who ripped Lions center
A. “No, no, no, absolutely,” Spielman said. “If I have something to say, I’ll put my name on it.”
Do I believe him? “Yes, yes, yes, absolutely, I believe Rick Spielman. If he had something to say, he’d put his name on it. It’s in the DNA of Rick and his brother, Chris, to be up front and own up to anything they say.
“I wouldn’t question either one’s integrity – on or off the record.”
Q. Last question: Did the loss finish off the Lions as serious playoff contenders?
A. As serious contenders, yes. As a team having an outside shot, they’re still in it. But they aren’t where they need to be – and where they should have been.
That was a bad loss – as bad as any this season.