Lions vs. Vikings Week 7 Scouting Report: Kirk Cousins is heating up
After a crushing divisional loss, the Detroit Lions must regroup on a short week. Can they get back on track against another dangerous rival?
The Detroit Lions have suffered more than their fair share of frustrating, heartbreaking and befuddling losses over the past several seasons, though few have been more painful than Monday’s defeat at the hands of the Green Bay Packers. Still, there’s no time to dwell on it, with another important NFC North matchup on tap.
The Minnesota Vikings come to town on Sunday, with the Lions looking to rebound from a controversial loss. That defeat included several questionable officiating calls, stalled offensive drives and too much time and space afforded Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in crunch time. Similar missteps could lead to another unfavorable outcome and a steep hill in the standings which may be too hard to surmount.
So can the Lions stay afloat in the nasty NFC North with a win? Here, and each week, we’ll scout each team’s offense, defense, and special teams units, how they match up against each other and offer two players to watch from each squad.
When the Lions have the ball
Remember how the Lions started Monday night’s ill-fated affair, hitting a 50-plus yard bomb on each of their first two drives? It looked like it could be a monumental game for Detroit’s offense, only to have those hopes dashed after failed drives, dropped passes and a sputtering running game yielded just one touchdown. A repeat performance will spell doom against an experienced Vikings defense.
The Lions moved the ball with ease early on Monday, with quarterback Matthew Stafford racking up 168 passing yards in the first quarter. It was a struggle from then on, with only 97 yards through the air the rest of the way. Stafford was sacked three times on the night, and though the Vikings employ more of a traditional 4-3 base front as opposed to the Packers odd-man front, they are equally as capable of bringing the heat.
Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen have tortured the Lions in the past off the edges and giving Stafford time to find his receivers downfield will be key. No pass catcher has benefitted from offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s scheme more than Kenny Golladay, who makes difficult contested catches regularly. Veteran Minnesota cornerback Xavier Rhodes, a two time Pro Bowler, seems to be in decline, though he figures to get the first crack at slowing down the Lions’ star wideout.
The Lions need more efficiency from their running game, as their current mark of 3.8 yards per tote isn’t conducive to the kind of physical, ball-control offense that head coach Matt Patricia wants to employ. That’s also precisely the amount of yards per rush that Minnesota surrenders, thanks to a veteran front seven including defensive tackle Linval Joseph and linebackers Anthony Barr and Erick Kendricks. Whichever team gains an advantage here will give themselves a significant boost towards a victory.
The Lions need more from their tight ends. After heavy offseason investments in the position, the Lions have yet to get their money’s worth, with Jesse James pulling a disappearing act (only eight targets on the season) and rookie T.J. Hockenson failing to secure a sure touchdown reception against the Packers, one of a handful of end zone miscues this year by the Lions’ first-round pick. Look for the Lions to be much more aggressive in the red zone after their gaffes on Monday night, and the tight ends would be well served to play a part in those adjustments.