1. Goodbye, Griffin
It took until the 13th game, but the Vikings finally did what they have known they had to do for some time now: bench cornerback Cedric Griffin. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in one knee near the end of the NFC Championship Game in January 2010. He tore the ACL in his other knee early the next season. That's essentially when the competitive portion of his NFL career ended. Griffin was having a horrendous first quarter when he was benched. The lowlight, giving up a 57-yard touchdown to receiver Titus Young, was a play similar to many of the big plays Griffin has surrendered throughout the season. Don't be surprised if Griffin is released this week. Now, the Vikings need to consider benching safety Jamarca Sanford. He's playing so poorly, why not put Eric Frampton, a special teams leader, in there and see what he can do?
2. Red-zone corrections
The Vikings' inexplicable misuse of personnel inside the red zone in last week's loss to Denver didn't trickle into this week's loss. A week ago, the Vikings had No. 4 receiver Greg Camarillo, blocking tight end Jim Kleinsasser and backup quarterback Joe Webb on the field on first-and-goal from the 6-yard line right before the end of the first half. Ponder threw incomplete to Webb while Percy Harvin and pass-catching tight end Kyle Rudolph stood on the sideline. The Vikings settled for a field goal in a game they lost by three. Two plays Sunday showed that perhaps offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, or someone else, senses the need to make darn sure the playmakers are on the field in the red zone. With Harvin and Rudolph both on the field Sunday, Ponder completed a 10-yard pass to Harvin on third-and-4 at the Lions 17-yard line. Later, Ponder threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Harvin on, coincidentally, first-and-goal from the 6.
3. Ponder should have stayed in
Benching Christian Ponder in the third quarter was a bad call. Yes, he was playing horrendously. Yes, Joe Webb ran 65 yards for a touchdown on his first series after replacing Ponder. But the past seven games have really served only one purpose: Get Ponder the valuable learning experiences he needs to give the Vikings a chance to compete in the NFC North starting in 2012. Good, bad or ugly, as we saw Sunday, the Vikings shouldn't have wavered in supporting their main reason for hope beyond this season. Ponder turned the ball over four times, giving him 13 in seven-plus games. He threw three interceptions and could have had three more. But benching him did nothing to help him be a better quarterback in 2012. And, really, isn't that all that should matter at this point? It's infinitely more important than Webb running for a touchdown to make it a 10-point game in the third quarter, or throwing a 2-yard touchdown pass to Toby Gerhart to make it a six-point game in the fourth quarter.
4. Loadholt's future isn't at LT
If we learned anything Sunday, it's that Phil Loadholt's future isn't at left tackle. Period. Considering his weakness is blocking speed rushers, talk of him eventually moving from right tackle never made sense, even though he is massive (6-8, 343) and played LT at Oklahoma. But the tone for Sunday's loss was set on the Vikings' first snap, when Loadholt failed to lay a hand on Cliff Avril until right before the defensive end clubbed the ball out of Christian Ponder's hand. Stephen Tulloch recovered in the end zone for a 7-0 Lions lead. Loadholt gave up another first-quarter sack to Avril, who lines up extra wide in Detroit's defensive scheme. Long story short, if Loadholt has a future in Purple, it's not on Ponder's blind side.
5. Little help, Commish?
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell missed a chance to help the Vikings in their push for a new stadium. Speaking to reporters at Ford Field before the game, Goodell said, well, um, nothing. Or at least nothing new. His comments on the Vikings' tenuous stadium situation basically came out of the can that he and his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, have been saying for a decade or so. "We're working with all the officials in support of getting something done," he said. "We've been concerned about it for some time," he said. "It takes time," he said. Time? With two games left on the team's Metrodome lease, Goodell could have said what the team can't come out and say. He could have noted the end of the lease in three weeks and reminded people that Los Angeles will have a team at some point relatively soon.