A Divisional Defensive Battle in Minnesota as Detroit Approaches the Bye
Detroit and Minnesota were in a defense-heavy battle on Sunday in their first game of the year. Minnesota came in banged up and with a new offensive coordinator as Norv Turner resigned earlier in the week. Detroit is dealing with their own injuries, but they came in with an advantage. Stafford was able to lead the team again down the field to kick a field goal and force overtime, coming in clutch again in overtime.
Matt Stafford had a bad four quarters. He was able to drive the team into field goal range to force overtime though and turn this game around. In overtime, Stafford looked like he has all season. He went 23 for 36 for 219 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. While the completion percentage wasn’t bad and the interception was a mistake by the fullback, Stafford had an inconsistent game that he was luckily able to recover from.
The rushing attack started out with a bang with Theo Riddick having a career long 42-yard run. After that it went quiet again. Riddick ended with a team high 14 carries for 70 yards while Dwayne Washington had 10 carries for 26 yards. No Zach Zenner or Justin Forsett again today as the Lions seem to be content with Riddick and Washington getting the workload on the ground.
Drops continued to hurt many of the Lions’ offensive drives. Boldin was the main receiver with the issue, but he wasn’t the only one to lose the ball. Golden Tate led the team again in catches with 11, getting 79 yards and the game winning touchdown on a spectacular play to stay inbounds and jump into the endzone. Eric Ebron had a career day with 7 grabs for 92 yards and Anquan Boldin had two catches for 10 yards and a touchdown.
The offensive line did a good job in protecting Matt Stafford. They only allowed one sack which is impressive as the Vikings’ defensive line has notched up 20 sacks this year. While they couldn’t establish the run game, they were able to keep Stafford upright. A positive comparing it to last season.
The defensive line was supposed to feast on the weak, injured Vikings’ offensive line. Detroit wasn’t able to do much damage. Kerry Hyder was the only stud on the defensive line, getting the only two sacks by the line and a total of three tackles. They were able to hold the Vikings to 78 rushing yards, but Bradford had a clean pocket for most of the game. Haloti Ngata returned and was able to get three tackles. Ziggy Ansah had a better game, getting five tackles, one for loss.
The linebackers did improve on the day. Kyle Rudolph was held to one catch for a yard and touchdown. Sure the play wasn’t a good one, but for the first time this season the Lions were able to stop a tight end from doing any true damage. Tahir Whitehead lead the team again in tackles with 12 as he was the one to blow the coverage on Rudolph on his touchdown grab. Josh Bynes had a better game with six tackles and Antwione Williams had just one tackle.
Detroit’s defensive backs had some issues. While they didn’t allow anything huge on the day, Stefon Diggs had 13 catches. You can’t let a receiver just dominate your defense like that. Luckily he wasn’t able to score on those grabs. Darius Slay was out again so Johnson Bademosi got the start and he wasn’t great, but not horrible either. He ended with three tackles and a pass deflection. Glover Quin got involved today with nine tackles, one for loss. Nevin Lawson had four tackles as well, but left with an injury and wouldn’t return.
Special teams was the big difference today. Sam Martin had five punts for 262 yards. Matt Prater was 3/3 on field goals, making his longest from 58 and he made his extra point, unlike Blair Walsh. Andre Roberts had three kick returns for 50 yards. Tyrunn Walker had a huge blocked field goal to keep Detroit up by one and it turned into three points for the team to make it a four point lead.
Week Nine: What it Means
A big division win for the Lions. The Vikings have now lost three straight games, two of which were division games. Detroit is still alive in the division race and in the playoff race as they go into the bye 5-4.
Matt Stafford was turned out of the MVP race after last weeks game and this one sealed it up shut 100 percent. Stafford had a good start to the year, but has regressed the past two weeks. While he is out of the race this year, watch for him to be someone involved in the race in 2017. He had a poor four quarters and only a good overtime performance. To be an MVP, you have to do well in all four, or five possible quarters.
Week Nine: What to Think About
Marvin Jones was out cold again this week. On a free play with the Vikings getting an offside penalty, Jones stood and didn’t move. Stafford had a good matchup for Theo Riddick and Eric Ebron with linebacker Eric Kendricks out, so it wasn’t expected that Jones would emerge for big yards. This is a back-to-back week though that Jones had less than 40 yards receiving. After his first four games, Jones has only had two games with a high of four catches and one game over 50 yards. Today he just had one catch for five yards.
The defensive line has impressed in tough situations. On a crucial fourth and inches in the fourth quarter, the Lions’ line was able to make a big stop. Earlier in the year they stopped the LA Rams on a fourth and goal play to go into halftime. They can make big stops if needed at big moments in the game.