1. Defensive pressure? What pressure?
The Lions did a great job protecting an offensive line that had three new starters, including Riley Reiff’s debut at left tackle after five starts at right tackle as a rookie. Heck, the Lions even had to replace a new face, right tackle Jason Fox (groin injury), with backup Corey Hilliard in the second quarter. Quick throws, a rare lively Lions running game and screens to Reggie Bush — who fits this offense perfectly — rendered the Vikings pass rush worthless. Jared Allen got a sack, but that came off a busted play. “In the first half, I had a rush where I really don’t know if it’s possible for me to get there any faster,” Allen said. “I smashed Stafford, but that ball was already out down the field.” The Vikings had only four QB hurries in 43 pass attempts. Allen had three. Nose tackle Fred Evans tipped a ball that was intercepted.
2. Missing the Pro Bowl fullback. Yes and no.
The way the game started, it sure didn’t look like the Vikings would miss Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton, who is serving a three-game suspension. On the Vikings’ first offensive snap, second-year fullback/tight end Rhett Ellison hit the hole and sealed linebacker DeAndre Levy from the inside. Adrian Peterson used the block, dodged a fallen defender in the hole and, and scored on a 78-yard run. Peterson carried the ball 17 more times. He had a lead blocker in the backfield — Ellison, undrafted rookie Zach Line or a funky set with two tight ends in the backfield — on 10 of those. Peterson gained 11 yards on those carries, including a 4-yard TD and three carries for losses. “Rhett, this isn’t his first rodeo,” Peterson said. “Zack did a great job for his first game. I’m sure he’s going to improve. There are some things he can work on. That we all can work on.”
3. Bad debut for new punter Locke
The Vikings are a throwback team that can’t survive without good field position. They took a chance this offseason by releasing Chris Kluwe, the best punter in team history, in favor of rookie fifth-round draft pick Jeff Locke. Let’s just say Locke wasn’t exactly smiling after his NFL debut on Sunday. “I have to look at the film, but I just know that I was not hitting the ball as well as I can and I wasn’t putting my team in a good position to win,” said Locke, who averaged 42.2 yards with a net of only 34.8 in five punts. “It’s disappointing. I have to do better.” The lowlights were a 28-yard net that gave the Lions the ball at the Vikings 49 and a 31-yard net that gave them the ball at the 50.
4. Guion not happy about penalty
Even on the rare occasion that the Vikings got their hands on Stafford, it wasn’t always good. The worst one came on what could have been the best defensive stop of the game. With 10:04 left and the Lions leading by three, Stafford threw incomplete on third-and-18. But there was a flag. Defensive tackle Letroy Guion was called for roughing the passer when his arms came down and hit Stafford on the helmet. The Lions went on to score a touchdown. Said Guion: “Quarterbacks always get the call. I was pretty mad they called it because I didn’t do it deliberately. It’s just accidental stuff they shouldn’t call. Just playing football. Playing fast.”
5. Pressure affects Ponder
According to profootballfocus.com, Vikings QB Christian Ponder’s completion rate fell 29.8 percent (70.1 to 40.3) when he was pressured a year ago. Ponder picked up where he left off. Two of his three interceptions came under pressure. He completed five of 10 under strong pressure for 31 yards. He also was sacked three times. “We knew that they were going to have one of the best D-lines in the league,” Ponder said. “I don’t think they brought a lot of [blitzes]. They’re not a high-pressure [blitzing] team. They just have a great front four, and they got back there [Sunday].”