Week 2: Vikings at Lions – Avoiding the Trap


We’ve been hearing it repeated all week:  The Vikings shouldn’t underestimate the Lions.  The Lions nearly beat us twice last year, in case you don’t remember.  Anyway they always play us tough, no matter how bad they are.

If the Saints game was any indication, the Lions are indeed once again bad.  But this is their home opener under a new coach, with a new quarterback, and a chance to make an early statement.  If the Lions have any fight in them at all, they will give the Vikings a battle.

That being said, if the Vikings give the Lions their best game, it won’t make a lick of difference what the Lions do.  The Vikings will win in a rout.

The Vikings are better than Detroit in almost every conceivable category.  They were better than Cleveland in almost every conceivable category, and that game turned into a wipeout in the second half.

The Vikings need to come out strong in the first half this Sunday, and put the game away as fast as possible.  The worst thing you can do with a team like Detroit is let them hang around.  Pound them from the get-go and let that bad losing feeling take over.  Break their spirit.

The worst mismatch would seem to be Adrian Peterson v. the Lions run defense.  Last week, the Lions D gave up 143 yards to Mike Bell, who, I don’t need to point out, is no AD.  Peterson himself was slow coming out of the gate against the Browns, and had some hydration issues that needed tending at the half.  Then in the second half the holes seemed to get a little bigger and he exploded.

Most are expecting another explosion against Detroit, but should they?  Last year may not be a fair indication given the way the Lions have turned over their personnel and coaching staff, but, Adrian’s two games against them were, by his standards, pedestrian: 111 yards and 0 TDs in game 1, 102 yards and 0 TDs in game 2.

My own feeling is that Adrian will have a good game.  I don’t know if he will be able to dominate an entire half all by himself like he did last week however.  If this game is to be the blowout we all want, Brett Favre will have to be a bigger contributor.

The Saints running game was good against Detroit, but it was Drew Brees who really brought the hammer down, to the tune of 358 yards and 6 TDs.  This indicates both that Brees is pretty good and the Lions pass D is pretty awful.

I don’t think anyone anticipates Favre throwing for 6 touchdowns, or even coming close to the 34 pass attempts Brees racked up last week.  But, I do anticipate the Vikings making a bigger effort to strike downfield in the pass game.  The Vikings’ sole deep threat, Bernard Berrian, was all-but-absent from the Browns game, and this week, Darrell Bevell indicated that a concerted effort would be made to assure this does not happen again.

So expect Brett to take a couple of deep pops.  Possibly early.

I personally am less concerned about throwing deep than throwing short.  Yes it would be nice to see Berrian get a couple of chances, but it would also be nice to see Chester Taylor do some damage as well.  Chester did have his chances last week – he caught five balls – but he never seemed as big a part of the offense as I anticipated.  The Vikings need to get him involved via the screen pass – especially if Brett starts getting hit like last week.  What’s football conventional wisdom?  If you want to slow down a pass rush, throw the screen.

Then again, if last week is any indication, pass pressure may not be much of an issue.  The Lions failed to record a single sack on Drew Brees, and given the six touchdown effort, I’m guessing he wasn’t hurried much either.

Pressure will certainly be an issue for Matthew Stafford, the Lions’ rookie quarterback.  You know Jared Allen is foaming at the mouth after being totally dominated by Joe Thomas last week (without need of double-teams, I must point out).  And we all remember the mockery Jared made of the Lions last year, chasing then-starter Dan Orlovsy out of the back of the endzone for one of the more ignominious safeties in history.  Plus there’s the revenge factor for Jared, who was hit low by Lions lineman Gosder Cherilus last season and, I’m guessing, still hasn’t forgotten about it.

What I’m trying to say is, I think Jared Allen is going to have a big game.  I do not anticipate Mr. Stafford enjoying any kind of break-out performance against our defense.  And I do not anticipate Kevin Smith having a big game either, coming off a pretty feeble 15 carry/20 yard effort against the Saints.

I realize I’m painting a pretty dire picture of the Lions’ capabilities, which somewhat clashes with the notion that this will be a closer game than people expect.  But those two games last year weren’t exactly pretty statistically either, and they were both nailbiters.  If the Lions do win this one, it won’t be because players have huge games; it will be because the Vikings come out slow again, make some boneheaded moves, perhaps give up a big play on special teams (as is their wont) or turn the ball over.

Like I said before, if the Vikings play their best game, they should win in blow-out fashion.  If they don’t, we may need to get bailed out by the refs again like last year.  Hopefully we won’t need any second half heroics by Tarvaris Jackson like we did late in the season against Detroit.  If we do, then we’ll know things went very, very wrong.

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