They gave up fourteen in New Orleans. They surrendered fourteen vs. Miami. And now ten to Detroit. The Minnesota Vikings' defense is for real. Their 12.7 points per game average does not take into account two scores handed to the opponent. Today, Brett Favre threw an interception that was nearly returned for a TD. The Lions would score their only TD from the 12-yard line. Last week, his fumble was recovered for a defensive touchdown. Take those two blunders away and the defense has been responsible for 24 points in three games.
The Vikings defenses of the late 1960s and early 1970s was that good. Minnesota led the league for three consecutive years in points allowed from 1969-1971. Two of those years they averaged less than ten points per game (ppg). If Favre does not make those two mistakes Minnesota's defense would be averaging 8.0 ppg. As it is, 12.7 is pretty good. Only a handful of teams are close. Included in that feat is a game at New Orleans facing arguably the best quarterback in the NFL.
Watching today in the stands I was in awe of the complete dominance. A summary of the first three drives by the Lions:
3 plays, 3 yards.
3 plays, 7 yards.
3 plays, 3 yards.
Three three-and-outs to start the game. And while the Lions are not know for offense prowess, they did manage 32 points vs. the Philadelphia Eagles last week. Shaun Hill felt pressure. The Lions running game was like watching a featherweight jab at a heavyweight. Even if something did work, it just did not matter.
It did not matter than Favre made another poor decision and threw an interception nearly returned for a TD. Or that the Lions went up 7-0. Everyone in the stands knew. Even the fans in Blue seemed to hold back excitement despite good fortunes early. Detroit would soon botch a punt return that led to a 7-7 tie. When Adrian Peterson scampered eighty yards for his longest career touchdown, it was over.
Hill led a few late drives that ended in interceptions. The last two drives totaled 131 yards, but zero points. Actually, Detroit did start to move the ball after the early failure. They mounted four straight drives over thirty yards, but came away with only a field goal that felt empty as the Lions appeared to give up thoughts of trying for a touchdown. In all, Detroit totaled near 300 yards, but this is a case where statistics mean nothing. Down two TDs, Hill spent the fourth quarter in shotgun, throwing under deep coverage. The Lions longest play of the day was 24 yards.
The offense woke up, or figured out how strong Adrian Peterson is these days. Even on his short runs, he made people miss, ran them over, or a combination of the two. He was very good. The 24 points scored was a far cry from the 20 total in the season's first two losses. Despite losing center John Sullivan on the first play, Minnesota had success on the ground. Peterson would finish with 160 yards on 23 carries, two touchdowns, and the eighty yard run. Favre found many receivers for just enough. He would finish with 201 yards on the day.
Many began to doubt the 2011 Vikings. Many still do. But today, like the first two games, the defense of Minnesota made a case that this team is every bit as special as the great Vikings' teams of yore. Or last year.
If only we could keep the offense awake.