1. The Lions’ Halftime Adjustments
For a team that was down 20-0 at halftime, it’s shocking how little the Lions changed their offense going into the 2nd half. They didn’t leave more tight ends or running backs in to block or abandon their running game. Their formations only changed a little by using slightly less shotgun (went from 87.5% to 77.7%) and by using a few more empty backfield sets (1 in the 1st half to 7 in the 2nd half), and their gameplan changed by running slightly more (from 20.3% to 28.8%). Other than that, the lions simply fed Pettigrew more. He did a great job of sitting down in between the zones and using his big frame to shield the ball from defenders. Sure, Calvin Johnson was probably the biggest star because of the huge catches, but they also took a few shots to him in the first half and were just a little luckier later on. In the first half, the Lions were held to 2.13 yards per play and in the 2nd half, that number increased to 6.84 yards per play.
2. The Vikings’ Halftime Adjustments
For a team that was up 20-0 at halftime, the Vikings made wayyy too many halftime adjustments. The average point differential when the Vikings had the ball in the first half was 4.78 points, while in the 2nd half, it was 4.8 points. For being in essentially the same situations, they used a lot more shotgun (52% compared to 37.8%), cut their fullback usage in half (37.8% of the plays down to 20% of the plays), and ran the ball a lot less (40.5% of plays to 24% of plays). Overall, it brought them down from 5.76 yards per play to 3.4 yards per play and stalled a lot of drives.
3. The Vikings only ran 33% of the time
Speaking of the Vikings abandoning the run, they didn’t run very much at all in the game. As you probably know, Adrian Peterson is one of the best running backs in the game, and at this point, Donovan McNabb is not a very good QB. Overall, rather than playing to their strengths, they focused on passing, only running on 33.9% of their plays. In the 2nd half, instead of trying to kill the clock and keep possession of the ball, they actually ran less than the Lions (28.9% of Lions plays vs 24% of Vikings plays). It will be interesting to see how the Lions handle more pass-heavy attacks like the Cowboys next week, as they won’t be able to rely on shutting down the run and forcing them to make mistakes in the passing game.
4. The Vikings were as afraid of Techno Viking as they should have been
On Matt Stafford’s 5 yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson to start the 4th quarter, the Vikings were afraid of Scheffler running open along the goal line (the same spot where he scored against the Buccaneers). Obviously, this was because of the threat of Tony Scheffler doing the Techno Viking dance. Three defenders bit on Scheffler’s route, while leaving Calvin Johnson open in the back of the endzone. The middle linebacker, who might have been in position to make the play got sucked down into the box by the play action, leaving a pretty big gap for Stafford to get the ball to CJ.
5. Screen game
In this game, the Lions were able to take advantage of the Vikings in the screen game. In the pre-game analysis, I noticed that the Vikings were good at sniffing out and shutting down screen passes, but the Lions had other ideas. In the 2nd quarter, they hit Maurice Morris for a 14 yard gain on a screen to the left (although it was 2nd and 21, so I suppose you could chalk it up to the Vikings playing soft coverage). But in the 2nd half, the Lions completed 3 screen passes. On two of them, Stafford faked a screen pass to Best on the left before coming back to the right where Pettigrew had a convoy of blockers. These plays took advantage of the linemen biting quickly on the screen look. While they think they’re making a quick read, they’re really getting pulled to the opposite side of the field that they play is going to. Chad Greenway is really the one that shut down both of Pettigrew’s screens. He did a good job of staying home on the play instead of over-pursuing. Those plays went for 6 and 8 yards because of Greenway tripping up Pettigrew, but the really big gainer was the screen to Best in the 3rd quarter. On this one, Stafford started out under center and used play action to Best to let the defensive linemen get up field before dumping it off to the running back. Titus Young took out the cornerback on his side while Raiola shielded Best from Greenway. Peterman took out the MLB, and Best was off to the races. It would have been an easy touchdown, but the cornerback from the other side of the field, who Burleson was still working on blocking, had made it across the field and knocked Jahvid Best out of bounds at the 5 yard line.