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.