Charlie Sanders, a former Gopher who will be inducted into the University of Minnesota’s “M” Hall of Fame in October, was a tight end for the Lions from 1968-1977 and has been with the organization in various capacities for 45 years.
Sanders saw the Lions lose 13 in a row to the Vikings in the ’60s and ’70s and 16 out of 17 from 2002 through 2010, and he said that while he expected running back Reggie Bush to improve the team’s offense, he was still surprised to see Detroit move the ball the way it did Sunday in beating the Vikings 34-24.
He was asked if he could remember a Lions team ever dominating the Vikings the way Detroit did on Sunday.
“No, no, no,” Sanders said. “Not like that. Even in the first half, you had the feeling that we were going to win it.”
The Lions posted 28 first downs to the Vikings’ 16 and 469 total yards to the Vikings’ 330.
“[The Lions] ran the ball exceptionally well,” Sanders said. “I thought we were pretty darn good in terms of our offensive line. I did not expect that. I thought Jared Allen [who had the Vikings’ lone sack] and the front four would have a lot of success. I thought our line did a good job. I was surprised.”
Sanders credited Bush, who had 90 yards rushing and 101 yards receiving, for taking the pressure off quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
“Oh, he makes a big difference,” Sanders said. “You know he’s stronger than a lot of people think, he’s a powerful person in spite of speed and agility and all of that stuff. He takes a lot of pressure off of us, especially off of Calvin. He is going to be a big asset. He really showed me more than I expected today, more than I thought he had.”
Bush was with the Dolphins last year, and Sanders said the Lions were hoping he still had some explosiveness left. He removed any doubt about that Sunday.
“Oh yeah, just get it in [Bush’s] hands, and he makes things happen,” Sanders said.
The other big surprise was how the Lions defense stopped the great Adrian Peterson with only 15 yards on 17 carries after he blew by the Lions defense for a 78-yard touchdown run on the Vikings’ first play from scrimmage. Peterson did score three touchdowns, but there were no long runs after his first.
“I don’t want to say that our defense was that great, but I thought that [the Vikings] would have a little more success in the running game,” Sanders said. “They popped us that first play, we had a rookie coming down trying to fill the gap, and Adrian just juked him. I didn’t think our line could hold up, I really didn’t.”
How did the Lions shut down Peterson after the first long run?
“It’s like [Lions coach Jim Schwartz] said, if everybody does exactly what they’re supposed to do, we’re going to be OK,” Sanders said. “They knew exactly what they had to do and everybody was in their spot. Everybody had a gap.”
The two Lions running backs, Bush and Joique Bell, who scored two touchdowns, accounted for 283 of the Lions’ 469 yards.
Still, in all reality, the Vikings actually beat themselves. The Lions forced three interceptions and a lost fumble and scored 14 points off those miscues.
Only short passes
New Mexico State completed 29 of 40 passes for 253 yards in Saturday’s 44-21 loss to the Gophers. But after studying the film, coach Jerry Kill wasn’t concerned.
“They were just throwing quick bubble screens, 2- or 3-yard passes off the option,” Kill said. “They ran the read-option and when you close down the run they just threw little pop passes for 3 or 4 yards, and sometimes you can break a tackle and get more than 3 or 4 yards. But they were just little quick passes that were more like runs than throws.”
If there was any doubt that Philip Nelson is going to be the No. 1 quarterback, the Mankato sophomore proved he has a firm grasp on the starting spot with a great performance against New Mexico State. He completed eight of 15 passes for 127 yards while rushing for 122 yards on 15 carries, including a touchdown.
“He played real well,” Kill said. “You take the one interception where they jumped into Cover-2 and he did the right thing. He went down to his check-down and the ball got tapped up and got picked. If he had been a little bit more patient, then it would have cleared up. But I thought he played really well.”
• Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino spoke at length at his news conference for his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame about his desire to play against his son, Richard, and the Gophers in a future ACC/Big Ten Challenge game.
“I think it would be fun,” Rick said. “I played him at FIU [Florida International] and he was totally mismatched, and at least we can play on more equal terms.” About the Gophers, Pitino said: “I think it’s a crown jewel in the Big Ten that just needs to have their facilities upgraded to be every bit as good as any school in the Big Ten, and I think with their new AD [Norwood Teague], I think that’s going to happen. And it is happening.”
• Former Vikings receiver Randy Moss on the team allowing rookie Cordarrelle Patterson to wear his No. 84 jersey: “That’s disrespectful to give a rookie my number,” Moss said on television Sunday. “I don’t really believe in numbers but from a professional standpoint, I did make that number. He hasn’t proven anything yet, but hey, what can I say?”
• While former Vikings receiver Percy Harvin starts the season on the sidelines because of a hip injury for the Seattle Seahawks, another former Viking, Sidney Rice, grabbed two receptions for 35 yards in their Week 1 12-7 victory over Carolina.
• Former Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray, who is now playing tight end, was inactive for Cleveland in Week 1. Gray was only signed to the Browns’ 53-man roster after being cut by the 49ers last week, so it might take a while for him to get up to speed and be on the active roster.
• A number of former Gophers in the Twins farm system wrapped up their minor league regular seasons: Nate Hanson hit a combined .241 with nine homers and 56 RBI in 121 games split between Class AA New Britain and Class AAA Rochester. … Kyle Knudson hit a combined .287 with two homers and 21 RBI in 57 games split between Class A Fort Myers and New Britain. … Michael Kvasnicka hit .282 with nine homers and 40 RBI in 69 games with Fort Myers. … Adam Pettersen hit .201 with one homer and 15 RBI in 86 games split between Fort Myers and New Britain.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org