The Detroit Lions are 3-5 at the midway point of the 2020 season after falling to the Minnesota Vikings 34-20 in a game that never felt competitive. Here are a few takeaways from another blow out loss.
Failed run defense
The Lions run defense has absolutely collapsed. It turns out that their impressive performances coming out of the bye were a mirage, and the team was steamrolled by the Vikings this week.
Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook had a huge game with 206 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. While Cook is a star, and also torched the Green Bay Packers last week, backup running back Alexander Mattison was able to notch 5.8 yards per carry as well after taking over late in the game. The Lions defense just outright failed on Sunday.
In the opposite of what we saw against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota managed to stay ahead of the chains nearly all game, making things hard for the Lions defense. The blitz packages and creative pass rushing that appeared for a few weeks disappeared as the defense was always behind the pace.
Detroit’s defense was a disaster in Week 9, and the seat head coach Matt Patricia is sitting on has to be scorching hot at this point.
What’s with the Adrian Peterson usage?
The “Adrian Peterson revenge game” angle was certainly interesting coming into the contest. Detroit’s future Hall of Famer at running back made a name for himself as a Vikings legend, but a potential revenge game was not in the cards, as much as Darrell Bevel tried to make it happen.
Peterson received more targets than any receiver other than Danny Amendola and TJ Hockenson in a week where an already terrible Vikings defense was struggling with injuries. He was lined up at receiver on key downs in the red zone, a position he is incapable of playing. The idea of passing the ball to running backs and finding creative ways to get more players involved on offense is a good one, but why with Peterson? How is Peterson a bigger part of the passing game than players like D’Andrew Swift and Kerryon Johnson?
Matthew Stafford is a problem
It pains me to say it, but Stafford is still a serious problem on this offense.
The quarterback has had trouble in the pocket, taking sacks he should be able to escape. His decision-making has been poor as well, and the first interception of the day was one of the worst he has made in a long time. He failed to read zone coverage properly and threw a short pass directly at a linebacker sitting in front of him.
Detroit seems to have put a leash on him as well. The offense was simplified in Week 9, where after a deep shot on the first play of the game they seemed hesitant to throw more than a few yards downfield. Stafford not practicing all week had to have played a role in the simplified game plan, but the quarterback was failing to find his receiver on even shorter, quicker passes.
The Lions have a lot more problems at the moment than just Stafford, but the quarterback’s regression is certainly the most worrying issue.