The Minnesota Vikings lost the opening game of the 2013 season Sunday to the Detroit Lions. The Lions tried very hard to hand the game to the Vikings but shaky defense and four turnovers by quarterback Christian Ponder - 3 interceptions and one fumble - more than covered any mistakes the Lions made.
Detroit received the opening kickoff and marched right down the field on their first possession. The drive stalled out, however and on the ensuing field goal attempt, a poor snap from center left the Lions with nothing to show for a very impressive opening drive as the Vikings took over on their own 22 yard line.
On the Vikings first play from scrimmage superstar Adrian Peterson hauled the ball 78 yards for a Vikings touchdown. After the Lions kicked two field goals to make the score 7-6, the Vikings drove 65 yards in four plays to take a 14-6 lead. That drive was capped by a 4 yard touchdown run by Peterson but it was spurred by a 44 yard reception by wide receiver Jerome Simpson who had 140 yards receiving for the game.
With 2:04 remaining in the first half the Lions intercepted an ill-advised pass by Ponder, taking over at their own 30 yard line. The Lions turned the interception into a touchdown by driving 70 yards in eight plays, making the score 14-13 Vikings at halftime.
The Vikings went three and out after receiving the second half kickoff. Ponder was sacked on 3rd down and the Vikings punted the ball back to the Lions. Detroit then drove 50 yards in seven plays to take the lead 20-14. After the Vikings closed the gap to 20-17 with a 52 yard Blair Walsh field goal the Lions promptly took a 27-17 lead when running back Reggie Bush ran 77 yards for a touchdown.
The Vikings cut the Lions lead to 27-24 on the ensuing drive; an eight play, 78 yard drive capped off by a four yard touchdown reception by Peterson. Simpson again provided the big play on the drive with a 47 yard reception. The 4th quarter saw Ponder fumble in Lions territory. Detroit, aided by a pass interference penalty, turned the fumble into a touchdown to make the score 34-24. Ponder threw his third interception of the day late in the 4th quarter as the Vikings were desperately trying to get back into the game and Detroit ran out the clock, making the final score 34-24 Lions.
The Vikings played average to poor defense most of the game but that by itself is not why they lost. Detroit turned Ponder's interceptions and fumble into 14 points. The Vikings, despite Peterson's 78 yard run, never established the run effectively and Ponder was sacked three times. Detroit, for their part, turned the ball over twice, botched a field goal attempt and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh took a needless and cheap crackback blocking penalty on Vikings center John Sullivan that nullified a Lions interception return for a touchdown. As was written earlier, the Lions tried very hard to give the game to the Vikings. The Vikings just couldn't find it in their hearts to accept the gift.
As far as Ponder is concerned, his turnovers were the difference in the game. He clearly played a poor game and seeing as the Vikings have a viable backup in Matt Cassel, perhaps its time to find out what the Vikings offense is capable of with a qualified NFL quarterback on the field.