The Detroit Lions were underdogs coming into Minnesota despite Case Keenum starting for the purple and gold. That seemed fair in a first half where the Lions just couldn’t get their offense moving. The defense forced more and more mistakes from the Vikings offense and the Lions were able to get something going on that side of the ball without many serious mistakes. They would come into the second half and score 11 unanswered points to win against their division rival, and in their own house to put them tied for the NFC North lead. Detroit’s looking strong through the first quarter of the season. Time to see who moved the needle in what direction.
Stock Up: Ameer Abdullah, RB
The Lions came a play or two away from having their first 100 yard rusher since 2013. He was running with authority and agility, showing off his elite athleticism and vision. It’s unfortunate he suffered what appeared to be an ankle injury late in the game, as he was doing a great job closing out the game as the lead rusher. The team simply didn’t have that dynamic threat after he left the game and the run game grounded to a halt. We’ve been waiting for that Ameer Abdullah breakout game, and it finally came against a division rival on the road.
Stock Down: Rick Wagner, OT
Danielle Hunter has 2 sacks in the first quarter. pic.twitter.com/BkoB7Mrepx— JustWinBaby (@Future_NFL_GM) October 1, 2017
Rick Wagner has been having a strong start to the season, aside from a few untimely penalties that we’ve complained incessantly about. His blocking has been strong, especially in the pass game, but man did he fall apart completely in this one. He gave up two sacks to Danielle Hunter who totally outclassed Wagner from an athletic standpoint. Wagner would shore it up a bit later, but the team’s awful start to the game on offense and their inability to sustain long drives can easily be attributed to pressure off the edges.
Stock Up: Darren Fells, TE
Darren Fells had four catches in the first quarter. That matches his game high for his career.— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) October 1, 2017
Darren Fells was a monster in training camp both as a blocker and as a receiver. Against the Vikings, we finally got to see what the latter might look like in this offense. It was only 4 catches for 40 yards, but that was good for the 2nd best game of his NFL career. Fells was stout in the blocking game as well, often assisting Greg Robinson and helping him hold off the Vikings rushers earlier in the game, even on plays he was running routes. Working both as a strong blocker and a reliable receiver allows the Lions offense to mix up their runs and passes routinely. Despite a late false start, Fells was pretty much mistake free all game.
Stock Down: Greg Robinson, OT
I refuse to believe that there's not a better option than Greg Robinson. He doesn't even try, he's lazy just like the Vikings claimed.— Lions Daily (@CatchLikeCalvin) October 1, 2017
The narrative before the game was how Vikings DE Everson Griffen called Greg Robinson “lazy.” He had a lot of help early in the game, but Robinson was doing a decent job of dispelling those thoughts. Then the floodgates opened and never closed. The floodgates in this analogy is Greg Robinson as a blocker, both pass and run. Taylor Decker can’t return soon enough, and Matthew Stafford must have a calendar on his wall where he’s marking down the days until that timely return.
Stock Up: Anthony Zettel, DE
#Lions Anthony Zettel with 2 sacks today brings his season total to 4. Once again won turnover battle 3-0.— Paula Pasche (@paulapasche) October 1, 2017
Anthony Zettel was touted as being the best Lions pass rusher in training camp. Cornelius Washington was brought in to start and Zettel was basically an afterthought. After a two sack game against Minnesota, the league has been put on notice. If Ezekiel Ansah is ever healthy, this Detroit Lions pass rush is going to be dangerous, and the duo of Ansah and Zettel absolutely crushed a pair of offensive tackles who had been clean on the stat sheet coming into the day.
Stock Up: Glover Quin, GOAT
GAME OVER. What a play by Glover Quin who continues to be the Lions' MVP on defense.— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) October 1, 2017
Glover Quin is the best safety in the NFL in 2017. It’s only four weeks into the season, but I feel comfortable making a statement like that. After a pick-six last week and stellar play coming into the game both in run and pass defense, Quin came up with a forced fumble to end the game against a division rival on the road. The man got paid and he’s more than living up to his high price tag.
Jared Abbrederis, WR - Abbrederis didn’t have many expectations, but he was stellar on special teams when it mattered. A great day on teams.
Jamal Agnew, CB - Agnew didn’t break off any big returns, but he did a great job as a gunner on teams. Potential pro bowl season from the rookie so far.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE - Ansah didn’t get any big splash plays and he wasn’t fantastic, but he was much better than I expected with his knee being what it is.
Nick Bellore, LB - Bellore didn’t suck, which was surprising since he did last week and was expected to against the Vikings. Good ST work as well.
Eric Ebron, TE - Only got a little bit of work, but didn’t drop anything or bust any plays. Decent bounce back.
Graham Glasgow, OG - Back at his normal spot, Glasgow did pretty well. The tackles were struggling, but the interior held up well.
TJ Jones, WR - Aside from one abysmal play where Jones had an uncalled OPI and overran his route, it was a solid follow up to the last game.
Miles Killebrew, SS - The only thing keeping Miles Killebrew from being in the consideration for top safety tandem in the NFL with Quin is time.
T.J. Lang, OG - Playing through injury is common for T.J. Lang, and he had a good one against the Vikings. Had a scare when he was hit from behind, but seemed fine.
Jeff Locke, P - A revenge game for a punter isn’t usually that notable, but Locke stuck it to the Vikings and that’s swell.
Steve Longa, LB - Longa is a monster on special teams but also had a few plays on defense where he looked good. He’s going through a rough time, but he showed up in a big way.
Glover Quin, FS - Yeah, I’m double dipping. Quin was that good, just want to make sure you all get how awesome he is if you somehow didn’t notice.
Michael Roberts, TE - Roberts got a catch in the red zone! It wasn’t a TD, but it was an important catch and a difficult one since it was low.
A’Shawn Robinson, DT - Robinson had his most impressive play of the day playing at RDE where he crushed a double team like they called his mother something mean.
Travis Swanson, OC - It’s no surprise the Lions suddenly find the balls to rush inside when Swanson gets back.
Teez Tabor, CB - He was active, though he didn’t do much if anything. Gotta start somewhere!
Tahir Whitehead, LB - Whitehead has been having a good year so far, but his second game without Davis in the middle and he was strong until a few plays late in the game.
Zach Zenner, RB - Zenner was asked to do little as a rusher and he did little. As a 3rd down pass protector he was solid, however, and like others up here was strong on special teams.
Emmett Cleary, OT - Low expectations, but Cleary was thrown to the fire with a T.J. Lang injury. It didn’t end well, as you’d expect.
D.J. Hayden, CB - Teez Tabor was finally active for the first time in his short NFL career and he might see some actual playing time if Hayden continues to play like this.
Marvin Jones, WR - There was that amazing 38-yard grab, but Jones was otherwise just not on point. Routes weren’t stellar and wasn’t getting separation.
Nevin Lawson, CB - Here’s the thing, Lawson was good in coverage for the most part. It’s the stupid penalties that land him here. Bet he grades well otherwise.
Jeremiah Ledbetter, DT - The more I try to watch him, the less I’ve seen him after a hot start to the season.
Matt Prater, K - Prater missed a kick from 60 yards out. Lions should cut him immediately and find someone better. I’m not good at conveying sarcasm.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB - JRM has not had the start many expected, but it’s another ST penalty that lands him here. He needs more time than we thought.
Theo Riddick, RB - Riddick got a rush! It wasn’t too good, though. More notable for why he’s down here, he’s losing valuable 3rd down time since he can’t block well.
Darius Slay, CB - Slay did well, great even for most of the game, but he struggled down the stretch when he absolutely must be more disciplined. Can’t give up late penalties in one score games.
Golden Tate, WR - The Lions focused mainly on their tight ends and run game in this one, so Tate was nowhere to be found for much of the game.
Tavon Wilson, SS - Wilson had a few nice plays, but it was his coverage snaps that really highlighted his present issues. He simply cannot recover from any early mistakes on a snap.
Jim Caldwell, Head Coach - Stock Down
The Lions played well and came up with a win in a divisional game on the road. That’s a good thing for any head coach. I don’t cop out with these, however, and I have some beef. The Lions played more aggressive than usual in stretches, but once they had the lead it became a matter of simply holding that one score lead. The margin of error is so razor thin, as the Vikings clearly showed, that it’s not even a matter of ‘taking your foot off the gas’ anymore, but a matter of applying the brakes. Getting too aggressive can lead to turnovers, which you rightly avoid in games like these, but get too passive and you’re staring at a comeback. Just ask any of the Lions 2016 opponents.
Jim Bob Cooter, Offensive Coordinator - Stock Up
Cooter struggles to call plays when he is leading and that bothers me like you would not believe. Still, I have been complaining about his ability to call up some actually relevant running plays and he did that very thing against a strong defensive front seven of the Vikings. He’s not where we need him to be for this offense to be a violent, viable threat every week, but we were one injury away from a 100-yard rusher for the first time in four years against a defense that usually wrecks this team and a pair of ends who were actually wrecking the Lions in this game.
Teryl Austin, Defensive Coordinator - Stock Up
Austin has been calling a heck of a season so far and the hits just keep on coming. His team went from bend all the way back but don’t break to being a punch you in your stupid face and take your lunch money kind of defense. The players are playing mean, the secondary are playing like they’re owed money by the opposing quarterbacks and plan on taking it back with pounds of flesh, and the linebackers are completely absent and yet somehow holding up. It’s like watching someone patching a hole in a rowboat with an already wet napkin and yet it is not only not sinking, but moving faster.
Joe Marciano, Special Teams Coordinator - Stock Up
I was skeptical when Joe Marciano was signed by the Lions. He was not only not good for the Texans, but quite bad. Yet here, under Jim Caldwell’s leadership, his special teams unit has been one of the best in the NFL. The man is on his third punter, has no clear starter at returner, but still puts on a show every time his unit is on the field. We saw special teams contributions from linebackers like Steve Longa and Nick Bellore, reserve rushers like Zach Zenner, reserve receivers like Jared Abbrederis, and even starting corners like Nevin Lawson on more than one occasion. His unit needs to clean up a bit on penalties, but this unit as a whole is one of the best in the NFL and this game is a great example of why.