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After getting blown-out on Monday night, the Vikings will return to U.S. Bank Stadium as they try to snap their two-game losing streak against the Detroit Lions. Daniel House previews the matchup.
Updated: November 5th, 2016 12:40pm
Updated: November 5th, 2016 12:40pm
By: Daniel House
By: Daniel House
After getting blown-out on Monday night, the Vikings will return to U.S. Bank Stadium as they try to snap their two-game losing streak against the Detroit Lions. The Vikings already dropped a divisional game last week, which makes this matchup even more important. Minnesota’s defense put together one of their worst performances of the Mike Zimmer era last week. Not to mention, their offense was anemic for the second straight week. The Vikings will need to play much better if they want the chance to knock off a talented Lions squad. Detroit has some talented weapons on offense and quarterback Matthew Stafford is quietly having a good season.
For more on Sunday’s game, take a look inside my game preview:
Getting the defense back on track
After allowing 403 yards of total offense to the Chicago Bears last week, the Vikings will need to rebound against a Detroit offense which is averaging 22.9 points per game this year. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown for over 250 yards in two of his last three games and has went four games without throwing an interception. This is partly because Detroit offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has implemented an offense that is predicated on short, quick passes. The Detroit passing game features the likes of Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, and Anquan Boldin. Jones is fifth in total receiving yards and has been prominently featured in their offense. This is a formidable trio and the Vikings’ defensive backs will need to cover all of their weapons well. Most teams have been running more sets that are forcing the Vikings to play base defense. It means Chad Greenway is on the field instead of Captain Munnerlyn. This has really impacted the success of the defense. The Vikings have one of the best nickel packages in the league and teams are realizing they shouldn’t allow Minnesota to keep an extra defensive back on the field. Linebacker Eric Kendricks will miss this game with a concussion, which means Chad Greenway will be on the field for more snaps. Look for Detroit to try passing to their tight ends and running backs with Kendricks out. Mike Zimmer admitted he called a poor game on defense last week and he needs to get this defense back on track against an offense which quietly has some dynamic weapons.
Protection up front
Tackle T.J. Clemmings had one of the worst Pro Football Focus grades ever after last week’s game. However, he is forced to play with Alex Boone missing the game due to a concussion. Jeremiah Sirles will likely play left guard because of the injury. Clemmings allowed numerous pressures and hardly blocked the edge rusher a handful of times. Left tackle Jake Long wasn’t great, but he wasn’t awful either. Long is still shaking off the rust and is actually holding up better than one would expect considering the circumstances. However, he needs to get better in a hurry. Lions pass rusher Ziggy Ansah could have a monster game against Long. The tight ends will need to help frequently in order to isolate this problem. This entire unit needs to step up, including Joe Berger and Brandon Fusco. With Alex Boone out, the entire unit will be mixed again and that’s not what you want to hear. Quarterback Sam Bradford needs protection and consistency up front and I’m not sure this unit can provide it right now. Detroit has 18 sacks on the season, which ranks 13th. They are a respectable unit and protection up front very well could be the key to winning this game.
Keep an eye on Theo Riddick
The Lions are 27th in rushing yards per game, but it doesn’t mean the defense should avoid preparing for running back Theo Riddick. Riddick is a dual-threat running back who can contribute to their offense via the passing game. Riddick had eight catches for 77 yards and a touchdown last week and he has at least 30 yards of receiving in three of his last four games. He has yet to break 60 rushing yards in a game, but this is partly due to the struggles the Detroit Lions have had up front. The Detroit offensive line (like the Vikings) has struggled to get a good push in the running game. It has allowed opposing defensive units to play the pass more often. The Vikings need to take away the run and do what they do best: get after the quarterback. The last few games, the defensive line hasn’t gotten consistent pressure. This week, they have to to or Matthew Stafford will carve them up.
Life with a new offensive coordinator
After offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s surprise resignation this week, the Vikings will hand the play-calling duties to tight ends coach Pat Shumur. It is unclear how different the offense will look, but Shurmur’s past experience working with Sam Bradford will aid this transition. Hopefully, the offensive will feature more quick passing and fewer deep drops. With the sudden news of Turner’s resignation, the offense will need to find a new identity fast. The Detroit Lions have the tenth-most yards allowed per game average and the Vikings need to take advantage of their defensive struggles. Pat Shurmur needs to change the game plan and utilize the personnel better for the Vikings to notice a massive difference on offense.