LIONS INSIDER

Opposing View: Vikings beat writer Dan Wiederer on the Lions-Vikings matchup

Posted Sep 29, 2012

This week’s opposing view comes from award-winning sports writer Dan Wiederer is in his second season covering the Vikings for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Where is the confidence level with this Vikings team after their 2-1 start and victory last week against the 49ers?

“I think the biggest thing to come out of that win over San Francisco is the idea that they can play with one of the better teams in the conference when they are staying sharp, executing to their assignments and really just playing physical.

“I think the most surprising thing with that win over the 49ers was just how physical they played against a team known for their physicality. The Vikings played pretty mistake free. They didn’t turn the ball over until very late in the game when Toby Gerhart had some fumbling issues.

"They only had one penalty a week after having 11 of them in Indianapolis where they lost. It was a very clean game and something I think they are really trying to build on moving forward.”

Is Adrian Peterson starting to look like the AP of old?

“He’s a ways off from the AP of old. Now, he says he’s somewhere between 95 and 100 percent. Obviously, we don’t know that 95 percent of the old Adrian Peterson is still really, really good.

“He has yet to have enough or many of those long explosive runs that we know him for. But certainly for a guy that had reconstructive knee surgery on Dec. 30, to be taking on the workload that he’s taking on, to be able to run as hard and as fearless as he’s been running, it’s been pretty impressive to watch.

“I know the biggest thing for (Vikings) going forward is just kind of monitoring him into October on how he’s dealing with the fatigue and the soreness and all those things that come along with the workload. The fact that he got 25 carries against San Francisco was a pretty good indication that the coaching staff feels very strongly that they can put the ball in his belly and let him do the things he’s doing with a pretty heavy workload."

Lions RB Mikel Leshoure looks to be the real deal. How does the Vikings defense approach a Lions offense that looks like they can now feature a two-pronged attack?

“I think this is going to be one of the more interesting things to watch this week because, as you know, Calvin Johnson required so much attention from our secondary. Through the first three weeks of the season the Vikings have sort of relied on a defensive philosophy where they’ve been sliding one of their safeties up in run support and trying to get an extra guy there.

"That’s something that they’re not going to be able to do as frequently or as prevalent against the Lions with Calvin Johnson being as explosive and dangerous as he is.

"It’s going to be interesting for me to see how Alan Williams, who is in his first year as the defensive coordinator, can sort of handle and scheme and put together a game plan and account for Calvin Johnson and Detroit’s passing game, but also take note that Leshoure in his debut goes for 100 yards and 34 receiving yards and proved to be that extra dimension that Lions offense hasn’t had in a while.”

Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder has no interceptions on the season. Has his ability to take care of the football been the biggest jump in his development?

“That is the most important aspect of how the Vikings are measuring his growth in year two. They were impressed with so many things with him coming out of the draft, namely his intelligence, his ability to make plays with his athleticism, but a year ago he had 15 turnovers in 10 starts and that was way too many for them.

“Obviously if you remember the game in Detroit a year ago, he’ll tell you that was rock bottom of his rookie year when he had four turnovers in 10 possessions and was benched early in the third quarter and was really just a mess confidence-wise at that point.

"In the offseason he was able to get all that work in with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, quarterbacks coach Greg Johnson and they really gave him a say in being allowed to tweak things in the playbook that fit what he liked to do and fit what he reads best and do the things that catered to his strengths and it’s been a noticeable difference.

“The biggest thing they’ve asked him to do is that they don’t want him to be Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees or Matthew Stafford and throw for over 5,000 yards. They want him to avoid negative plays and that means not taking foolish sacks and not turning the ball over in untimely situations, and through the first three games he’s taken huge leaps in that department."

Can this Vikings team how it’s built right now be contenders in the NFC North?

“Well, they lost a game in Indianapolis that they were three points away from winning, but they also won in overtime in a game in Jacksonville that they probably should have lost, giving up a really bad touchdown in the final minute. You can use those two games and kind of wash them out and say ‘hey, they probably won one they shouldn’t have and lost one that they maybe should have won.’

“To beat San Francisco in the fashion that they did is big for their confidence. Their schedule sets up very nicely the first half of the season. They’ll have an October schedule after this Detroit game with three home games against Tennessee, Arizona and Tampa Bay -- all winnable home games.

“Things are set up to get to that midway point of the season with maybe four and possibly five wins and the confidence boost for a team this young would be enormous. The second half of their schedule includes five division games, a road trip to Houston, Seattle and St. Louis, which is going to be a pretty tough second-half stretch.

“I still think this team is built to contend in 2013 and this year is all about taking the wins they had a week ago and building momentum off those and showing obvious growth that last year’s 3-13 disaster is just a memory and they are pointed in the right direction”