Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil had one the worst games in his career the first time he faced Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah this season. His performance improved dramatically the second time around in the 16-14 loss at Ford Field on Sunday.
Ansah was held sackless for the first time in three games. Kalil held his own with the Vikings offense neutralizing the Lions pass rush by rolling rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater out of the pocket and incorporating quick passes.
Ansah had a career high 2.5 sacks on Kalil at TCF Bank Stadium in the first contest. He had just a tackle to his name in the stats sheet.
“That was his only stat, so I think I came out of there pretty well,” Kalil said. “He’s a pretty raw player, and he hasn’t even tapped his potential, so I’ll be seeing a lot of him. To play well against him, coming out on top like that, felt pretty good.”
The Vikings reduced their sack total in half in their second, and final, matchup against the Lions. They allowed four sacks with three backup offensive linemen at left guard, Vladimir Ducasse, right guard, Joe Berger, and right tackle, Mike Harris.
“They do a lot of stuff and sometimes they’ll stress the pocket,” Kalil said. “[Ndamukong] Suh was on his game too making some plays, but it’s just different things to help keep those guys off balance.”
Outside linebacker Chad Greenway is a finalist for the inaugural NFL Sportsmanship Award.
Each NFL team nominated one of its players for consideration for the award and a panel of former players from the NFL Legends Community, including Warrick Dunn and Curtis Martin, pared down the field from 32 players to eight. The winner will be determined by a vote from current players.
Competing with Greenway for the new award are Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, Patriots receiver Matthew Slater, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith and Broncos defense end Demarcus Ware.
The winner will be announced during the NFL Honors awards ceremony the night before the Super Bowl, and he will receive a $25,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to the charity of his choice.
If you want a microcosm of what Teddy Bridgewater does well and what he does poorly, save Sunday’s game against the Lions forever.
When it comes to locating the proper receiver, having good accuracy on short-to-intermediate throws and generally making good decisions with the football, Bridgewater is already in the top half of NFL starting QBs, maybe even the top 10. He knows how to run an offense. And this is very encouraging.
Those traits helped Bridgewater lead the Vikings on three drives that covered more than 75 yards against a very good Detroit defense. Two resulted in touchdowns; the other resulted in an inexplicably blocked field goal after 11 minutes of possession. If that kick goes through, perhaps we’re a little easier on Bridgewater today. But it didn’t, so it gave us another crucial look at a throw he simply can’t make right now with any consistency.
It was the same type of throw that resulted in the game-turning interception in the first half, after the Vikings had taken a 14-0 lead: a longer throw to one of the sidelines.
On those throws, Bridgewater — not gifted with a rocket for an arm — has a bad tendency to get underneath the ball to try to muster up strength. His elbow drops, and sometimes the ball sails. That happened on the INT, which was glaring. And it happened again in the final minute when he overthrew Jarius Wright on a pass that very well could have helped the Vikings get into more realistic field goal position.
We’re not sure to what extent arm strength can be “taught.” In baseball, you don’t “teach” a pitcher to throw harder. It’s one of those natural gifts that you either have or don’t have. Maybe because he’s so young his arm will get a little stronger. But we wouldn’t count on it.
So the question becomes: how do Bridgewater and the Vikings work around that? Can he at least improve technique enough to get on top of that throw and improve the timing? Do the Vikings not ask him to ever make that throw? (They rarely do now, and for good reason).
And to a larger extent, the question that will define Bridgewater as he continues to develop is how much all of those things he does well can or cannot cover up for what remains, at least for now and quite possibly forever, a significant deficiency?
The NFLPA followed through on its pledge and sued the league, which suspended Peterson until next spring for whipping his child with a tree branch. An arbitrator ruled in favor of the suspension on Friday.
Cordarrelle Patterson had a late opportunity to make an impact on both special teams and at wide receiver in the 16-14 loss to the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday. The Vikings kickoff returner broke off his longest return this season, 51 yards, with 3:20 left in the game then caught two passes for 16 yards on three targets.
Right before the Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson’s final kick return against this Lions, his blockers called him into the huddle to give a pep talk.
“I never come in the huddle, but they told me, ‘Trust me. Do what you do best,’” Patterson said. “They blocked it up so good, there was no way I couldn’t find no holes. I’ve been in [the huddle] before, but I feel comfortable outside the huddle. They told me come in. Maybe I need to start coming into the huddle with them more often.”
Patterson, used sparingly on offense as a backup, filled in for wide receiver Jarius Wright after he was on injured on the first play of that drive. The only target Patterson didn’t catch was on fourth when rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw a ball over his head. A Lions defender made contact with Patterson on his route, but there wasn’t a penalty thrown with 1:56 remaining.
“I felt like it was a penalty, but they didn’t call it,” Patterson said. “It was probably a good call by the official. The ball was probably out of reach of me getting, so it’s a 50-50 call.”
Kobe Bryant ended up scoring 26 points – including 10 in the fourth quarter -- in the Lakers’ 100-94 victory over the Wolves but what most fans came to see came on a pair of free throws in the second quarter.
The Vikings lost their fourth straight game by single digits in the 16-14 loss to the Lions on Sunday at Ford Field. They’ve lost their last four games by a combined 14 points to the Bills, Bears, Packers and now Lions.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t looking for moral victories, as he hasn’t in the previous three close losses, but he was proud of his team’s effort despite slipping away a 14-point lead.
“They’ll fight, they’ll compete and that’s what I’ve been trying to preach since the day I walked in is that’s what I want to get done,” Zimmer said. “Obviously you want to get a win but keep doing things like this and the wins will stack up. I’ve been doing this for a long, long time, and I’ve seen the teams that come out with great effort, great heart and great fight each and every day and each and every week, win.”
The Vikings outgained the Lions 360-233 in total yards, but the Lions had 10 points off two interceptions from rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings failed to score in the second half with two missed field goals, one blocked and one attempted from 68 yards at the end of the game that fell short by Blair Walsh.
“You never like losing, and we have that ‘hate-losing’ mentality around here,” Bridgewater said. “We knew it was going to be a challenge coming into this game. Those guys are very stout up front, but we let one slip away. You can’t turn the ball over twice, you can’t miss field goals. So for me, and this team, we’re going to try and continue to get better.”