Chip Scoggins is a Star Tribune sports columnist. He has temporarily returned to cover the Minnesota Vikings. He had the beat from 2008-2011 after covering college football for five years. Chip has been with the Star Tribune since January 2000. He can be followed on twitter at @chipscoggins.Find Chip on Facebook.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
The NFL announced Tuesday that Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was fined $100,000 for his low hit on Vikings center John Sullivan on Sunday.
Suh, who has a history of cheap shots, avoids a suspension. He was informed of his punishment by NFL Vice President of Football Operations Merton Hanks.
Suh dived at Sullivan's knees on an interception return in the second quarter. Sullivan was behind the play and had no chance of catching Detroit linebacker DeAndre Levy.
The penalty negated a touchdown. The league "prohibits blocks below the waist by players of either team after a change of possession."
Sullivan limped off the field but was able to return the next series. He escaped with only a knee contusion and is expected to play this week.
Suh apologized to Sullivan before the start of the season half.
"He said there was no intent to injure," Sullivan said Monday.
Asked if he believed Suh, Sullivan said, "I think guys get caught up in the play sometimes and sometimes things happen. It’s hard to even remember what you do when you get caught up in the moment. I appreciate the fact that he said something to me.”
Update: The Vikings made some practice squad changes, putting running back Joe Banyard back on the practice squad and releasing defensive end Tristan Okpalaugo and running back Bradley Randle from the practice squad.
DETROIT -- Some thoughts on the Vikings heading into the second half of a wild and sloppy season opener at Ford Field ...
Score: Vikings 14, Lions 13.
The good: You really can't make this stuff up. A year after winning league MVP with 2,097 yards and then telling the world his goal is to rush for a record-shattering 2,500 more this season, Adrian Peterson takes the first offensive snap of the season, gets a good block from fullback Rhett Ellison, sidesteps a fallen Lions defender in the hole and goes 78 yards for a touchdown. Christian Ponder led 7-0. Also of note, Ponder hitting Jerome Simpson on a 44-yard pass down the right sideline to the Detroit 4-yard line to set up Peterson's second touchdown of the game.
The bad: Ponder throwing an ill-advised ball while being pressured to his left. As he threw it, Ndamukong Suh hit his arm, making it an easy pick downfield for Stephen Tulloch. Ponder's other pick was more Simpson's fault. Simpson had the ball go off his hands on a slant route.
The ugly: The Lions are living down to their reputation of being one of the league's most undisciplined teams. They should be winning this one in a blowout, but let us count the ways they've handed this game to the Vikings: 1, They dropped a hold on a 31-yard field goal attempt. 2, They've dropped three passes, including a 20-yard touchdown by Calvin Johnson that was overturned on review. 3, They had a holding penalty on a fourth-and-1 conversion in the red zone. 4, Suh cut blocked center John Sullivan, negating a pick-six by linebacker DeAndre Levy. 5, Cornerback Bill Bentley dropped a sure pick-six.
What have we learned so far?: The Lions are still talented but sloppy. The Vikings are still a team that needs Ponder to step up even on days when Peterson runs for 78-yard touchdowns.
What needs to happen in the second half?: The Vikings need to settle down and re-establish the running game. The Vikings had 78 yards after their first carry. They now have 71 yards Peterson has 70 on eight carries, meaning he has seven for minus-8 yards since the touchdown. But the Vikings can't abandon the run. Peterson needs to see the ball more in the second half to calm this wild game down.
Vikings coordinators Bill Musgrave, Alan Williams and Mike Priefer spoke with reporters earlier today. Here are some of the highlights heading into Sunday's season opener against the Lions at Ford Field:
Defensive coordinator Williams
On how Reggie Bush will affect the Lions' already-dangerous passing attack
No one expects Reggie Bush to come to Detroit and rush for 1,000 yards. He had only 21 yards on 17 preseason carries. Of course, it didn't help the running game that Calvin Johnson and his bruised knee were rested for all but part of one quarter of one game in the preseason. While he may help boost a virtually non-existent running game, his presence in the passing game will be interesting to watch unfold. The Lions led the league last year in explosive pass plays with Johnson posting an NFL-record 1,964 yards receiving.
"When a ball goes up over the top [of the defense], it's kind of everything [that breaks down]," Williams said. "It's rush, it's coverage, it's making sure you're executing the defense. We can't allow the quarterback to feel comfortable. We have to be on coverage there and we have to play top to bottom, not bottom to top in terms of the coverage [against Johnson]."
Enter Bush, a quick underneath player who leads all NFL running backs in catches (372) since 2006.
"It's very difficult because you have another dimension there now," Williams said. "Not only can Calvin Johnson beat you [deep], you have Reggie Bush who can beat you underneath.
"But that's the problem. You have to pick your poison. You can't defend everything. If you try to defend everything, you're not going to defend anything. That's what we have to be cognizant of. We have to play the coverage and try to tackle well. And when they check the ball down in the zone coverage that we run and tackle. Fundamentals are going to be important this week. That we run to the ball well, that we tackle well. And gang tackle. They're good enough that they can beat you in man-to-man or one-on-one."
A year ago at Ford Field, the Vikings held Johnson to five catches for 54 yards and no touchdowns. Later, at the Metrodome, with cornerback Chris Cook sidelined because of a broken arm, Johnson caught 12 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown.
On whether the Lions offense showed in the preseason what it will actually do in the regular season
Like all NFL teams, the Lions were vanilla during the entire preseason and rested their best player for most of the preseason. So Williams was asked if he's gotten a real look at how the Lions will play with Bush on board.
"Not just yet," he said. "We can try to guess and predict what they'll do with him. But we just have to make sure we go out and read our keys and focus on what we're supposed to do because if we hunt up too many snakes or too many ghosts, we won't do anything. So we have to look at what they've done in the past with their backs and their offense. I don't think they'll change a whole bunch from years past, last year or the year before that."
Offensive coordinator Musgrave
On Lions' D-tackles Suh and Failey
The fact that Detroit is an undisciplined football team is no secret to anyone who has watched the Lions play on Thanksgiving the past couple years. Not only do they rack up personal fouls and player fines (Did someone say Ndamukong Suh?), but they probably could stand to play within their schemes a little better than they do.
Musgrave was asked about whether the Lions' vaunted defensive front -- which includes new ends Ziggy Ansah and Jason Jones -- is prone to steering from its assignments in an effort to make plays elsewhere. When that happens, big holes sometimes appear. And we all know Adrian Peterson only needs small holes to break loose.
Musgrave said he doesn't notice the Lions having a problem being assignment sound. Of course, what else is he going to say? As for the two defensive tackles, Suh and Nick Fairley, Musgrave said: "They do a nice job of being physcial [against the run], but they're very skilled at rushing the passer. They'll be one of the tougher fronts that we face, if not the toughest."
Musgrave also mentioned backups C.J. Mosley and Justin Bannan also play significant roles because they keep the starters fresh. Mosley, the former Viking, signed with Detroit this year via free agency from Jacksonville.
Special teams coordinator Priefer
On his level of concern for rookie punter Jeff Locke
Rookie punter Jeff Locke averaged 43.6 yards per punt with a net of 37.3.
"Jeff, like any young punter, is inconsistent," Priefer said. "Like any punter in general, you're looking for consistency first and foremost. You want the situational punting to be exactly like you want it in terms of backed up, plus-50, middle of the field, whatever the case may be. You're looking for high hang-time punts and force as many fair catches as you can. We're not quite there. Like any young player, he's a work in progress. He has improved and I'm excited about his future."
On Locke as a holder
Locke struggled as a holder in the preseason, particularly in the preseason finale against Tennessee.
"But I think we got some things fixed," Priefer said. "We're working on some things and we're working very hard on them. Hopefully, we'll be OK on Sunday."
The Detroit Lions will start three new offensive linemen in the season opener against the Vikings on Sunday. One matchup, in particular, stands out.
Left tackle Riley Reiff faces Vikings All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen in his first start as Jeff Backus' successor.
Backus retired after 12 seasons. He played 191 games in his career and set a franchise record with187 consecutive starts. Reiff stepped into that role this season.
"I think Riley, you get a security blanket having a guy like Jeff Backus out (there)," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. "He’s always there week-in and week-out. But Riley has a lot of the same characteristics. He’s very tough. He’s quiet. He had to play once last year, the only start that Backus missed his entire NFL career Thanksgiving last year. Tough matchup against the Houston Texans, a 3-4 teams with some really good outside rushers. And Riley went in and did a really good job in that game on a very short week of practice. So that was a glimpse of what he can do. I think he’s had a very good training camp, a good preseason and we expect him to hold that position. It would be nice if he could do it as long as Jeff Backus did, with as much as consistency.”
Reiff will have his hands full Sunday with Allen, who has posted 13.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, one interception, four forced fumbles and three pass breakups in 11 career games against the Lions.
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