The Detroit Lions come into Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings as one of the top offenses in the NFL. That stat, however, overlooks the fact that the Lions have managed only 32 points in the last two games against two defenses that were very average. With that said, though, the Lions will take on one of the worst defenses in the NFL this year on Sunday when they face the Vikings. In today's post, I will quickly explain to you why the Vikings defense has struggled so much this year.
Coming into this game, the Vikings defense ranks 31st overall, giving up close to 28 points a game. They also rank 27th against the pass, even though they have racked up the fourth most sacks of any team in the NFL. Already, Jared Allen has 14.5 sacks on the season, which gives him an outside shot at Michael Strahan's single-season sack record of 22.5 with just four games left in the season. Aside from Allen, there really aren't a whole lot of other bright spots on this Vikings roster. They still have Chad Greenway and Kevin Williams, but the secondary looks worse than the 2008 Lions right now.
For the Vikings secondary, injuries have really gotten to them, even worse than the Lions right now. For the game on Sunday, Minnesota's back four could very well be made up of an undrafted rookie corner in Marcus Sherels, a rookie sixth-rounder at safety in Mistral Raymond and other starters Jamarca Sanford and Cedric Griffin, who have struggled mightily so far this season. On top of that, it also looks as if the Vikings may be down to their third-string quarterback in Joe Webb, as Christian Ponder did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and was limited on Friday.
Aside from the injury concerns, I think the real reason the Vikings defense is struggling right now is simply because of a lack of talent. When you look at their starting 11, you realize that they really only have three legitimate NFL starters in Allen, Greenway and Williams. Aside from those three, the rest of the players are either aging veterans (E.J. Henderson) or simply stop-gap options at this point (the rest of the defense). All of that really would just explain why this team is 2-10 at this point.
From a scheme standpoint, I will more or less reiterate what I said on my original post in Week 3. Leslie Frazier, the Vikings head coach, has a defensive background in both the Tampa-2 and very little used 4-3 zone blitz. Actually, I don't think any team consistently runs a 4-3 zone blitz scheme in the NFL anymore. When you combine those two schemes, you get a really interesting amalgamation. The Tampa-2 is really a defense that doesn't blitz and utilizes the front four to get pressure. The 4-3 zone blitz (really any type of zone blitz) relies on getting pressure on a quarterback by causing confusion and bringing extra men on blitzes.
Clearly, you can't combine these two schemes on the same play. They really have exact opposite ideologies of how a defense should function. However, you can create a defense that wreaks havoc by mixing in both of the schemes. Still, the Vikings, with their current personnel, are basically a Tampa-2 team at this point that blitzes a lot more than most other teams that run the same scheme. For a Lions team fresh off of facing the blitz-happy Packers and Saints, what they will see from the Vikings should be nothing new or difficult.
For this week, I will skip the play breakdown simply because there is not much to break down that I already haven't done in the original post. If you want a couple of examples of what the Tampa-2 defense looks like, feel free to check out the original post.
Overall, I will conclude this post by saying that this Vikings defense has a ton of things to fix, namely talent. This is without a question a should-win game for the Lions, but also a must win, and I see the Lions offense getting back on track and putting up more than 30 points at home.