Minnesota Vikings Matchup Nightmare: Week 16 vs. Damon Harrison

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Damon Harrison
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Damon Harrison /

With their new commitment to the running game, the Minnesota Vikings will be tested by the Detroit Lions’ midseason acquisition.

In their latest victory, the Minnesota Vikings had a change of identity offensively. To jumpstart a unit that had been held under 300 yards in four of its previous five games, new offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski simply committed to the running game.

Once it worked, he kept using it until the Vikings had racked up a season-high 220 yards on the ground in a 41-17 win over the Miami Dolphins in Week 15.

The effort got Dalvin Cook (who ran for 136 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries) NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors and helped coin a new rally cry, “Pound The Beef.”

Despite the success, Miami was 30th in rush defense after last week’s rampage and odds are Minnesota will face much better teams if they want to make a prolonged run into January. To do that, the Vikings will have to first get a win against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

At first glance, this should be a game that Minnesota should easily win as the Lions are 5-9 on the season, eliminated from playoff contention, and they allowed 128 rushing yards during a 24-9 victory by the Vikings in Week 9.

However, Detroit was one of the worst run defenses in the NFL when the two teams met in Minneapolis earlier this year as they were allowing 126.6 yards per game before Week 9. Since then, the Lions have tightened up, allowing an average of just 79.1 yards on the ground. A large reason for that turnaround has been Detroit’s addition of defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison.

After allowing over 100 rushing yards in five of their first seven games, the Lions shipped a 2019 fifth-round pick to the New York Giants to acquire Harrison.

So far, he’s been worth the low draft capital as he’s made an instant impact for Detroit’s run defense in addition to being a dominant force on their defensive line with 43 combined tackles (4 TFL), 3.5 sacks, a pass deflection, and a forced fumble since he landed in Motown.

Harrison’s presence in the trenches on Sunday should give the Vikings a bigger challenge than they had a week ago. With guards Tom Compton and Mike Remmers struggling combined with Pat Elflein still continuing to get his strength back after a pair of offseason surgeries, stopping Harrison will be a main focal point.

The good news is that Minnesota able to find success on the ground in that Week 9 game against the Lions with a majority of the yards coming on a 70 yard dash from Cook that saw Detroit defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson out of position.

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If the Vikings’ offensive line can duplicate their performance against the Dolphins this week in their matchup with the Lions, they’ll be able to tenderize Snacks and let Cook do his thing.