Shortcomings are familiar, and still need fixing

  • Article by: INSIDE THE GAME JUDD ZULGAD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 16, 2007 - 11:35 PM

The last of five Vikings turnovers gave the unbeaten Lions a final opportunity, one they didn't squander. Young QB Tarvaris Jackson and the Vikings secondary got subpar marks in their toughest tests this season.

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DETROIT - The Vikings' season-opening victory over Atlanta might have been a positive sign for some, but coach Brad Childress wanted to see more before making any judgments.

He wanted to see how his young quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson, fared in a road game. He wanted to see how the pass defense stood up against a competent passing attack.

He wanted to see if the mistakes that caused the Vikings to lead the NFL in penalties last season really had been corrected.

Childress received several answers to these questions Sunday at Ford Field, and they led to a simple conclusion: There is still a lot of work to be done.

Jason Hanson's 37-yard field goal with 8 minutes, 55 seconds left in overtime -- which came on the heels of a Vikings turnover -- gave the Lions a 20-17 victory before an announced crowd of 61,771 at their home opener.

The defeat ended the Vikings' 10-game winning streak against the Lions and also was Minnesota's first at Ford Field, where it is now 5-1.

In a crazy game that this morning's boxscore won't be able to accurately describe in many respects -- and one in which Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell hit the left upright on the potential winning 52-yard field goal with 2 seconds left in the fourth quarter -- the fine print will at least provide a good reason the Vikings will take a 1-1 record into next Sunday's game at Kansas City.

The Lions generated 17 points off five Vikings turnovers. This included four interceptions by second-year quarterback Jackson, who left the game in overtime after suffering a slight groin injury.

Jackson wasn't on the field for the mistake that cost the Vikings most dearly, a botched snap between backup quarterback Brooks Bollinger and center Matt Birk that was recovered by the Lions' Shaun Rogers at the 50. Five plays later the Lions were celebrating.

"I didn't play very well," said Jackson, whose injury will be evaluated today. "I turned the football over four times. You don't want to do that. ... I pride myself in taking care of the football, and I didn't do a very good job of it today."

Childress called his team's variety of miscues "not a good formula for winning on the road," adding, "We need to improve and get better." He isn't kidding.

The Vikings, who had one turnover and four penalties in their Week 1 victory over the Falcons, were penalized 12 times Sunday. The offense took six, the defense five and one was called on special teams.

"There were a lot of mistakes and turnovers, penalties," Vikings receiver Bobby Wade said. "It hurts on both sides of the ball, and we still had an opportunity to win that game."

The frequent flags weren't the only thing that made Sunday's game seem like an unpleasant flashback to last season. Lions quarterbacks Jon Kitna and J.T. O'Sullivan combined to complete 35 of 56 passes for 393 passing yards but also were intercepted three times. Kitna started and finished the game but was replaced for a large portion of the time after he was shaken up on a hit by defensive end Ray Edwards in the second quarter.

Kitna and the Lions came out of the gate in the no-huddle, shotgun look that so many teams showed the Vikings in 2006 as they attempted to spread them out. Asked if the Lions' aerial success looked familiar, safety Dwight Smith was succinct.

"Of course it's like last year," he said. "If you throw 50 times you are going to throw for 300 yards. If that's what you come here to do. But we're still going to have an opportunity to win the game if you do that. We had an opportunity to win today; we just didn't take advantage."

The Vikings defense continued to do more than its fair share of providing points for an offense that is quickly becoming the Adrian Peterson Show. Edwards was the latest defender to get into the end zone, returning a fumble 9 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to tie the score 17-17.

This came shortly after Detroit had gone ahead by 10 points on an O'Sullivan touchdown pass to rookie Calvin Johnson. A 60-yard kickoff return by rookie Aundrae Allison set up a Longwell field goal, and defensive tackle Kevin Williams forced an O'Sullivan fumble on the Lions' next possession, enabling Edwards to score.

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