Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE
The Detroit Lions have not been particularly stellar against the run. They allowed Frank Gore 5.2 yards per carry. Still, their ability to limit Steven Jackson and Chris Johnson should not be ignored, with Jackson only managing 2.5 yards per carry and Chris Johnson only 1.7 yards per carry.
Neither of those running backs are as talented as Adrian Peterson, but what may win the day for the Vikings is the blocking up front. With the Lions' Corey Williams gone due to a knee injury, expect Nick Fairley, Ndamukong Suh and Sammie Lee Hill to play many more snaps.
It's not just Suh who is susceptible to trap blocks and wham blocks (something that San Francisco proved is still true), the entire defensive line gets stymied by quick blocking assignment changes by the offensive line and fullbacks.
Neither Tennessee nor St. Louis attempted much more than simple man or zone blocking schemes, and the quick penetration of the Lions' dynamic line put an end to a few runs much too early for comfort.
San Francisco, on the other hand, had linemen trade off traditional assignments, pulled linemen from across the formation, left unusual players unblocked (including Suh on one occasion) and shifted linemen before the snap.
That, in addition to fullback and tight end cues, made attacking the run difficult for the Lions.
The Vikings can engage in some relatively complex blocking calls on the run, despite the young members on the line. While not nearly as sophisticated as the 49ers running offense, the new combination of man- and zone-blocking schemes has confused some opponents.
Each week, the communication between Vikings linemen has been improving, so on zone running plays, they can get to the second level and isolate the linebackers to secure the big gain.
With running packages that include a "full house" formation (three men in the backfield in a diamond formation), single-back formations (including a single-back heavy package with three tight ends), a near and far "Pro" set (with a single running back lined up a few yards back over a guard), and chowed sets (with running backs lined up on the outside leg of the tackles), they have a number of ways to attack the run, not all of which are predictable.
The biggest issue has been that the Vikings have been inconsistent as run-blockers, both from tight ends and the offensive line. A small sample might reveal that the Vikings do much better against 4-3 fronts, but that doesn't fit with their running performance in 2011.
The Vikings are still waiting to find out which Brandon Fusco they have—the phenomenal run-blocker from Week 1, or the ineffectual body in Week 3.
More than that, they might not be able to run the complex schemes that freeze the Lions defense if they don't improve on the level of communication they had against the 49ers—they had a poor understanding of their responsibilities.
Still, it's generally a cohesive line that should get things done.
The Vikings should emphasize their unpredictability in the running game by playing with different run- blocking schemes under the same formation. More than anything, this will help move the chains in tough situations.