Minnesota Vikings: Player Watch – Thursday 08 Dec 11

The Vikings head to Detroit to challenge the Lions’ fifth-ranked passing attack with a depleted secondary that’s been embarrassing the past seven games.

How embarrassing?

Well, for starters, it’s allowed quarterbacks to complete 71 percent of their passes with 18 touchdowns and no interceptions. And the Vikings have one of the best pass rushes in the league.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the Vikings have used four left cornerbacks, three free safeties and been forced to use nine different combinations in the secondary.

“We talked in depth about it the last couple of days and what we can do to try and help our guys on the back end,” Frazier said Wednesday. “We’ll try some things. You can only do what you can do, but we’ll try to offset what’s happening with some of the quarterbacks that we’re facing. This is a pass offense that we’re facing (on Sunday).

“It will be a tremendous challenge for our secondary, but it’s going to require more than our secondary to slow their pass offense down. We’re going to need our front four to play big for us along with our linebackers. If we can get that, then we’ll be able to change some of those numbers.”

The numbers weren’t pretty in Week 3 when the Lions traveled to Mall of America Field and beat the Vikings 26-23 in overtime after trailing 20-0 at halftime.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford completed 22 of 30 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns after halftime. Receiver Calvin Johnson had 101 yards receiving in the second half and overtime, including a 40-yarder with a great over-the-shoulder catch that set up the game-winning field goal.

With that loss, the Vikings fell to 0-3 and became the first team in NFL history to blow double-digit leads and lose in each of their first three games.

“I feel sick right now,” running back Adrian Peterson said after that game.

Everyone in the locker room was at a loss to describe the first three games, including defensive end Jared Allen.

“What is it, fool me once, shame on you?” Allen said. “Fool me twice, shame on me. I don’t even know what they call it for fool me three times. I don’t even have a phrase to answer what is going on.”

What’s scary is the Vikings’ secondary was at full strength against the Lions in that Week 3 loss. Antoine Winfield was healthy at left corner and Chris Cook was hitting his stride as a budding nickel back and Winfield’s heir apparent. Winfield is now on injured reserve with a broken clavicle, while Cook is on paid leave from the team because he faces felony assault charges.

There is, however, some help on the way from last week. Cornerback Asher Allen, who hasn’t played since injuring his left shoulder in the first quarter of the loss to Atlanta two weeks ago, is expected to start on Sunday. That would move Benny Sapp, who was out of work a month ago, back to nickel back.

“You could see the difference in the game when (Allen) wasn’t in against Atlanta,” Frazier said. “There was a glaring difference, even last week. We’ve grown to count on him, even in this short time. It would be a big boost to us if he’s able to come back.”

The Vikings could use a big boost. They’ve already clinched the worst start in franchise history. Now they have to go 2-2 the rest of the way just to avoid tying the 1984 team (3-13) for the most losses in team history.

SERIES HISTORY: 101st regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series, 66-32-2. The Vikings are 30-19-1 in Detroit. The Vikings lost 26-23 in overtime at home on Sept. 25. They have not been swept by the Lions in a season since 1997.

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NFL Team Report – Minnesota Vikings – NOTES, QUOTES

–The Vikings have a commanding 34-win advantage in this 100-game series. But they started out 0-5 in the early 1960s, including a 37-10 loss in the debut in 1961. Norm Van Brocklin (3-8-1) and current coach Leslie Frazier (0-2) are the only coaches in team history under .500 against Detroit. Mike Tice (8-0) is the only Vikings coach not to lose to the Lions.

–Perhaps the oddest play in the 100-game history of the series came during Week 5 in 2008. That was the year the Lions became the only NFL team to finish 0-16. The Lions were pinned inside their 5-yard line when Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky rolled out to pass. Without realizing it, Orlovsky stepped out of the back of the end zone for a safety in a game the Lions lost by two. Orlovsky, who was being chased by defensive end Jared Allen, took six steps outside of the end zone before realizing what had happened. He was confused initially when he heard the whistle. “And then I looked down and I was like, You’re an idiot.’”

–Vikings players have avoided pointing fingers at each other during what’s become the worst start in franchise history. At least not directly. But after Sunday’s 35-32 loss, there was some obvious frustration with a depleted secondary that was confused, overmatched and providing the aerially-challenged Tim Tebow giant passing windows to throw through during the second half.

Defensive tackle Kevin Williams gave credit when asked about Tebow completing 6-of-9 second-half passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns. But he also made note of how open the receivers were, looking at reporters and saying, “Shoot, some of you guys could have hit those receivers.”

–The Vikings have never been 2-10 after 12 games. They were 2-9 in 1961, their expansion season, but crushed the Rams 42-21 in Week 12. In 1962, they were 2-9-1 en route to a 2-11-1 season. That’s the fewest wins and worst winning percentage in franchise history. The record for losses in a season came in 1984 when the team went 3-13 in Les Steckel’s only year.

Certainly, this year’s players, many of whom were around for the NFC Championship Game just two seasons ago, aren’t used to what’s going on. But the shock of the season has worn off, leaving players with little to say and reporters with little to ask the players.

That was evident when defensive end Jared Allen walked through the locker room on Monday, a day after the Vikings fell to 2-10. “I don’t know what else there is to say, guys,” said Allen, one of the biggest stars and most accessible players on the team.

Allen went on his way with little defense put forth by reporters, one of whom said, “That’s OK, we don’t know what else there is to ask.”

–In 100 meetings, there has only been two overtime games. The Lions have won both. They won 20-17 in 2007. And they won 26-23 after trailing 20-0 at halftime on Sept. 25 of this season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 9 – Number of different starting defensive back combinations this season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I have enough issues here to fix rather than worrying about fixing someone else’s issues.” — Ccoach Leslie Frazier, when asked if he has any empathy for what Lions coach Jim Schwartz is dealing with when it comes to the number of dumb penalties the Lions have had in recent weeks.