The Lions finished the season on a four-game win streak, their first such win streak since 1999, when Toy Story 2 was the top movie in American cinemas.
To say it’s been a long time coming would be an understatement.
This marked the end of a positive season for Detroit and they now have some serious momentum heading in to the off-season ahead of 2011 (whenever that season may start) and are heading in a largely opposite direction to Minnesota currently. This Vikings team that was supposed to challenge for a Super Bowl title now looks rudderless, and with a large number of starters hitting the end of their contracts, Minnesota could have a very different look in 2011 than it did in 2010.
Vikings: Three performances of note
RT Phil Loadholt (-3.3) rounded off a poor sophomore season with another disappointing display against the Lions. Loadholt yielded 4 pressures in the game, which marked the the fourth week in a row he has yielded 3 or more pressures (and 10th time this season). That is double the number of times he allowed that number of pressures in a game last season, an indication of just what a disappointing drop off his second season with the Vikings has been. Loadholt has earned a positive overall grade only 3 times this season, and this was the 10th time also that Loadholt graded below -1.0. The former Oklahoma Sooner will need a strong offseason and start to 2011 or his starting spot may come under threat.
While his future in Minnesota may be in doubt with free agency approaching, it didn’t stop Ray Edwards (+6.0) from having a superb end to a season where he showed that he is not merely a pass rusher. Edwards picked up his highest grade of the season in run defense (+4.6) on the way to registering five defensive stops, the second time he has done so this season. Edwards has become every bit the player that his more heralded teammate Jared Allen is over the past two seasons and if he does leave, someone will be getting one hell of a player.
Frank Walker (-5.3) started his second game of the season but might not get another. Walker yielded 91 yards on 5 receptions and missed three tackles as he simply struggled to stick with the Lions’ receivers. There’s been nothing to suggest that he’ll be nothing more than 4th or 5th on the depth chart, saved for all but emergency situations.
Lions: Three performances of note
Cliff Avril (+5.2) had an outstanding performance to finish his season, grading positively in run defense, as a pass rusher and even dropping into coverage just behind the line of scrimmage when the Lions went to a three-man line. Avril registered five tackles, a sack and a pass defense in coverage as he got all over the field in a manner more accustomed to a linebacker. Avril has finished the season strong with a grade above +3.0 in three of the Lions final five games, threatening to form a long term and formidable pairing on the left side of the line with Ndamukong Suh.
And he wasn’t the only end to shine for the Lions. Lawrence Jackson (+2.4) had another strong game as a pass rusher, and while as an all-around player he may have fallen short of the expectations that go with being a first-round pick, he is at least showing real quality. 194 of Jackson’s 337 snaps have come as a pass rusher, and his 21 total pressures is a solid return on those snaps. Jackson’s pass rushing has graded above +1.0 four times in his last six games and he looks set to become a strong contributor in the eight-man defensive line rotation that head coach Jim Schwartz has brought with him as part of his defensive philosophy.
Nathan Vasher (-2.0) had an inconsistent close to the 2010 season; in each of the last four weeks he has bounced from very good to very poor performances in consecutive weeks. A +1.6 grade against the Packers was followed a -2.4 grade against the Buccaneers, then this week he followed a +3.4 performance in Miami with a -2.0 grade to close the season against the Vikings — far from the picture of consistency that the Lions would be hoping for in a veteran corner. Vasher missed six tackles this season while making only 14 and it will be interesting to see whether the Lions bring in younger corners to supplant Vasher in 2011 to continue their youth movement.
Joe Webb (-1.9) had a poor day throwing the ball, completing only 2 of his 9 passes aimed more than 10 yards downfield. … Toby Gerhart (+0.6) saw limited opportunities to run the ball but again showed flashes of what could be if more carries were available. … Chris DeGeare (+1.8) had his strongest showing of the season as a run blocker; the Vikings averaged 5.8 yards per carry on rushes off left guard.
Jason Fox (-4.0) saw his first action of the season at right tackle fir Detroit and struggled badly as a run blocker where he was physically outmatched against Ray Edwards amongst other Viking defenders. … Jahvid Best (+0.7) had another solid outing but was limited by touches and poor blocking. … Ndamukong Suh (+0.7) had a quiet finish to a very good rookie season. He didn’t make the big plays that may have been expected against Ryan Cook but he was solid enough at the point of attack. A workmanlike performance. … Amari Spievey (+2.6) rounded out his rookie season with his strongest game of the season in pass coverage (+1.9) and his strongest all round game since his second start of the season against the Jets in Week 9. … Willie Young saw his first action of the season, registering 2 pressures on only 6 pass rushes. … Prince Miller (-1.3) was targeted 9 times on 15 plays in coverage yielding 6 catches for 47 yards.
Louis Delmas (+1.5) spent a lot of time close to the line on Sunday and registered five defensive stops — more than he had in the Lions’ last six games combined (four).