Back in Week 6, the Detroit Lions defeated the Minnesota Vikings 17-3. The Lions controlled the game from the very beginning, starting with an 80-yard drive that ended with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Theo Riddick. From there, the Lions never relinquished, ceding just one fourth-quarter field goal to the Vikings all game. Looking back on the game, it's easy to find where the Vikings are weak and how the Lions exploited them.
Minnesota's offense has not been very good all year. They rank 25th in points and 28th in yardage. Though they have a respectable rushing game, it is their passing attack that is their Kryptonite. They rank in the bottom five in the league in passing yards, yards per attempt and passer rating.
At the apex of the Vikings' offensive problems is their offensive line. This was obvious in the previous matchup between the two teams, as the Lions tallied eight sacks against the Vikings that game. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, the Lions pressured Teddy Bridgewater on over half of his drop-backs. The Lions managed to get pressure from all over the line, as seven different defensemen managed at least 0.5 sacks. But the day belonged to Ziggy Ansah, who had 2.5 sacks. On film, Ansah's day was equally impressive:
Matt Kalil was no match for Ansah on his day, as Ziggy's speed and elusiveness was enough to give Bridgewater trouble more often than not. What is scary for Minnesota is Ansah has only gotten better since this game. Prior to this game, Ziggy only had one sack on the season. Since the Minnesota game, he has had 4.0 sacks and has been one of the best 4-3 defensive ends in the league.
Minnesota, on the other hand, has been trending in the other direction. Last month, they lost their starting right tackle, and they have given up at least two sacks in six of their seven games since playing Detroit. Expect to see Bridgewater on his back often on Sunday.
Minnesota's defense is a respectable unit, and they were somewhat successful against the Lions earlier in the year. Detroit managed just 255 total yards against the Vikings, their lowest total of the season. However, the Lions were without Calvin Johnson, and they also enjoyed one of their most successful days running the football against this Vikings team.
Joique Bell finished with 74 yards rushing at 4.1 a carry. While those aren't wildly gaudy numbers, they are respectable for a team that has struggled to run the ball all season. Surprisingly, much of Joique's success was because of good blocking up front.
Watch as Larry Warford helps out center Dominic Raiola by throwing his guy to the ground. Then he gets to the second level and takes the linebacker out of the play. Jed Collins throws a mean shot at the other linebacker, and LaAdrian Waddle (just off-screen) seals his guy nicely. The result is a hole so big that even Reggie Bush could find it.
I don't think the Lions' running game will have a breakout game against the Vikings. However, if the Lions find themselves in a position needing to run out the clock, they could very well find some success running the ball against this subpar run defense. Oh, and that Calvin Johnson character could probably help out a little, too.
Overall, the recipe for another win against the Vikings is fairly straightforward for the Lions: continue to dominate on the defensive line and take advantage of a weak run defense when in control of the ball. If the Lions can continue the success they had last time around, it should be another fairly dominant game for Detroit.