Christian Ponder couldn't sell girl scout cookies right now at the Mall of America. If he was a ringing Santa trying to help feed the poor, he would be handed coal. The Vikings' fans are so mad they can't see straight.
There is good reason for anger. Minnesota had four turnovers. Ponder was intercepted three times and fumbled once. After Adrian Peterson's opening 78 yard touchdown, the running game went dead. The Lions amassed 469 yards, 28 first downs, and held the ball for over 36 minutes. After a 14-6 start for the Purple, they were outscored 28-10.
And the fans are right to be angry. Ponder played poorly. But before we start grabbing pitchforks we should realize what else did not go well...
The Lions running back combination of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell totaled 115 yards on the ground and two scores. But through the air they were even more impressive. The same two combined to catch nine balls for 168 yards and another score. All in all, 283 total yards from the two running backs.
Meanwhile, of the top seven tacklers Sunday for Minnesota, five were defensive backs. Chad Greenway, who seemed a step slow all game, finished with five tackles. No other linebacker had more than two. Harrison Smith had seven to lead the team along with Jarmaca Sanford. When your two safeties are doing all the tackling, you are usually losing.
The defense could not get off the field. The Lions converted only 5 of 13 3rd down attempts. That is a reasonable percentage to hold a team to in their home stadium. But giving up 469 yards and 28 first downs means Detroit was having a lot of success on the first two downs. The Lions ran 77 plays to Minnesota's 53. Matthew Stafford finished with a net passing of 352 yards. He was sacked only once, by Jared Allen on a botched play.
And that is what should really make fans angry. It was not as if the Lions played a perfect game.They shot themselves in the foot more times than Quicks-Draw-McGraw. Stupid penalties killed interception returns for touchdowns or stalled out early drives. For a while, it appeared Detroit was as bad as their preseason suggested.
But Minnesota paid back the favor in a crucial series where Letroy Guion was flagged for roughing the passer on an incomplete pass on 3rd and long. Later in the drive a defensive holding penalty converted another 3rd down for Detroit. And where the Lions found ways to overcome their penalties, Minnesota did not.
After Detroit gained a lead Minnesota was suddenly without a run game, and left to Ponder finding open receivers while in the pocket against pass defenses. He could not. The pocket crumbled, he made poor decisions, and Minnesota lost the turnover total 4-2.
And the game.
Credit is due to Detroit's front seven. They played well. They may be undisciplined idiots, but they are strong and can outplay Minnesota's present offensive line. Ponder's fumble, a poor hand-off to Peterson as he fell backward, was created by right guard Brandon Fusco getting knocked so far into the backfield that he tripped poor Christian.
After Adrian's long TD run to start the game, the Lions took AP out of the equation. His final 17 carries netted him 15 yards. He caught four passes, but only for 18 yards.
And he was not alone feeling left out. Kyle Rudolph, whom many expected to be the top receiver in this game, finished with 27 yards on only two catches. Greg Jennings had 3 catches for 33 yards.. Other than Jerome Simpson's 7 catches for 140 yards, no one did much of anything. And even Simpson has to take some responsibility for the first interception as the ball appeared to bounce off of his hands before being housed for a score.Not a good throw, but if you get your hands on it, there should be a catch. Luckily, idiot Suh's cheap-shot of center John Sullivan during the return to wipe out the score.
Ponder played poorly, no defending that.
But one can easily defend the idea that many played poorly. I was impressed with Simpson, Harrison Smith and the rest of the secondary. After that, not too much. Even the rookie punter looked bad. Coaches were slow to adjust. All in all, a poor performance by most everyone.
On a separate side note.... Ponder's 2011 draft class struggled for the most part.
Top pick Cam Newton led his Panthers team to seven points in a home loss, with only 243 net team offensive yards and 119 net passing yards.
10th selected (two ahead of Ponder) Blaine Gabbert helped his Jaguars team to two points at home versus the Chiefs. Gabbert was 19-41 in passing for a net 107 yards. His team totaled 178 yards.
8th selected Jake Locker led his team to a 16-9 win on the road vs. the Steelers. Locker was 11-20 for 117 net passing yards. The saving statistic: no turnovers.
Both Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick played well as the 35th and 36th selections form that draft. Kaepernick defeated the Packers at home, while Dalton's efforts were thwarted by two interceptions and a comeback loss to the Bears in Chicago.
Other quarterbacks that lost include Brandon Weeden at home, Ben Roethlisberger at home, and Matt Ryan on the road. Some had bad days. Some pretty good. But half the teams have to lose each week.
Christian Ponder finished with 225 net passing yards, 18-28 in passing. His team netted 330 yards. The four turnovers were too much to overcome. He looked shaky at times. Other times, pretty good. He made an athletic move to get AP his 3rd touchdown of the game. He made a few good throws to Simpson. But for the most part he looked like a lot of guys starting for their NFL teams from the 2011 class.
Inexperienced and prone to error. Let's hope for changes by next week's visit to Chicago.