DETROIT - It wasn't the second coming of a receiving SuperFreak, but Jerome Simpson's Vikings debut was more impactful than his final numbers indicate.
Simpson, brought in via free agency to be the Vikings' first deep threat since Sidney Rice in 2009, caught only four passes for 50 yards. But he also drew two long pass interference penalties and made a nice leaping grab over a defender for 27 yards when the Vikings were protecting their lead in the closing minutes of Sunday's 20-13 upset of the Lions at Ford Field.
"You could see from the play he made on the ball at the end that he'll definitely give us that guy who can stretch the field and make the tough catch," receiver Percy Harvin said. "This was only his first game, so we're only seeing the beginning of what he can do for this offense, for me and [tight end] Kyle Rudolph and [running back] Adrian Peterson."
Simpson, who started in his return from his three-game suspension, was targeted deep for the first time on second-and-3 from the Vikings 32-yard line late in the first quarter. Simpson was 31 yards downfield when cornerback Bill Bentley was called for pass interference. Four plays later, the Vikings kicked a field goal for a 10-3 lead.
It would become an even longer day for Bentley when Simpson again drew a pass interference penalty on him on third-and-7 from the Detroit 49 early in the second quarter. Five plays later, another field goal made it a 13-3 game.
"I was just trying to go for the ball and [Bentley] committed a foul," Simpson said. "It's good the original refs are back. So they made the call. Good calls by them."
Simpson's first catch as a Viking was a 6-yarder on third-and-4 early in the first quarter. The second catch was a 12-yarder on second-and-10. The last two came on the drive after the Lions closed to within seven points with less than three minutes left.
The highlight was offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave having the confidence to line up in shotgun on second-and-11 from the Vikings 19-yard line and throw deep down the left side to Simpson. The ball traveled 20 yards in the air before Simpson went over the top of Bentley and snagged the ball and went 7 more yards to the Vikings 46-yard line. The Vikings eventually punted, but the play changed field position as the Lions got the ball back at their own 2-yard line.
"Christian made a great decision on the throw," Simpson said. "We were on the same page. We just made a connection."
The Vikings are counting on him making more catches as well as forcing teams to play two-high safety alignments, which helps the running game.
"When we did get two high [safeties], a lot of it had to do with how they were playing him," coach Leslie Frazier said. "Partially, making sure they favored him a little bit. He definitely had an impact in this first game."