September 16, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) runs past San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman (53) after making a catch in the first quarter at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE
The Detroit Lions’ meeting with the Minnesota Vikings carries more intrigue than most fans would have guessed when the schedule was released last April. The Lions are off to a disappointing 1-2 start while the Vikings are riding high after an upset win of the San Francisco 49ers. Here are five things to watch during today’s game that could help tell the story when this one is in the books.
1. Lions Pass Rush – Perhaps the biggest disappointment a week ago was the Lions inability to get in the face of Jake Locker. The Lions defense is predicated on the defensive line’s ability to wreak havoc to take pressure off the secondary. That hasn’t happened to the degree they need. Christian Ponder is completing 70% of his passes for the Vikings and hasn’t been intercepted yet this year. A solid pass rush throughout the game can turn those numbers in a hurry but the Lions defensive line will need to step up for it to happen. Is this the week they break through in a big way?
2. Jared Allen – After a 22 sack season a year ago, Jared Allen has just one through three games this year. He is still one of the game’s premier pass rushers and a player that should strike fear into the Lions and their fans – especially with Matthew Stafford entering the game a little banged up. Is Jeff Backus up to the challenge?
3. Halftime Score – The Lions made a nasty habit of working themselves into holes last year and that trend has continued in 2012. The Lions have trailed at the half in each of their first three games and just haven’t made things easy on themselves. Reversing that trend would go a long way towards ensuring the outcome against the Vikings is what they want and expect. Will they?
4. Calvin Johnson – The NFL’s best wide receiver is averaging over 120 yards receiving through the first three weeks but it has taken a heavy workload late in each game to help get him there. The Lions offensive game plan has looked very different the last two weeks than we’ve come to expect from them. The increased focus on the running game has limited CJ’s effectiveness until they fall behind and need to open up the passing game. Will Calvin get the chance to shine in all four quarters instead of just the fourth?
5. Under 100 – Adrian Peterson has failed to eclipse the 100 yards on the ground in the three games since returning from the ACL tear he suffered late last season. There isn’t necessarily anything magical about keeping Peterson under that mark again but it would be a decent indicator that the Lions are keeping the Vikings offense in check. Some team will become the first to yield 100 rushing yards to Adrian Peterson but it doesn’t have to be the Lions. Can they keep him down for one more week?