Lions vs Vikings: Get 'O' Going Early & Hit Ponder Are the Keys to a Week 10 Win
The Detroit Lions have a chance for vengeance in Minnesota, which is perfect because vengeance is a dish best served cold.
Or, when in a dome, in a temperature-controlled environment.
Either way the Lions have the momentum this time when they meet the Minnesota Vikings and try to steal a game back to really get back into the division race.
When the Vikings beat the Lions last time around, they were coming off the high of an improbable win over the San Francisco 49ers.
The waltzed into Ford Field and dominated the Lions for a good deal of the game.
The Vikings that will hosting the Lions this Sunday is a much different group of players. Percy Harvin is hurt and might not play—and if he does he won't be nearly 100 percent. The defense isn't executing and will be hard pressed to hold the Lions offense down like last time if it continues to play badly. Quarterback Christian Ponder...well, given his zero touchdowns and 111 yards last time out he's not exactly that much worse, but he's now certainly more mistake prone.
The only person on the Vikings playing like he did in Week 4 is Adrian Peterson who is, in fact, even better than he was back then.
Meanwhile, the Lions, though still struggling in a few areas of the game, are a much more cohesive team then they were in the Week 4 loss.
This is a winnable game for the Lions.
Here's how they pull it off.
When the Lions Are on Offense
I want to see the Lions spread the ball around early and often but, most importantly, all day.
Sure, involve Johnson if he's playing and feeling OK. But don't go to Titus Young or Ryan Broyles a ton, then go to Johnson when the coverage loosens on him and forget to go back to the other receivers.
It's not just about the Vikings either. This is setting up the next few games as well. You want teams to look at the tape from this game and say, well, we can't just focus on Megatron.
Another way to make that a reality is to keep the ground game going with Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell. While they did well last week, you don't get to play Jacksonville every game. Still it's a nice tandem, and the Vikings' rush defense hasn't been good lately.
Leshoure and Bell have some momentum, and this is the perfect matchup to keep it going. Ultimately, the Vikings can be run on, and, as with spreading the ball to other receivers, it will help pull coverage off Calvin Johnson.
Another thing to consider is how to avoid the one thing that the Vikings have been pretty good with the past few games. The Vikings' front seven will come hard after Stafford so you need to make sure you can protect him.
Some of it will depend on a great performance by the offensive line in obvious passing situations. However, getting the running game going will keep the defense from launching at Stafford.
Stafford himself needs to do better in the pocket. He has played better recently, but he has shown a tendency this season to hold the ball a bit too long, make poor decisions and miss some open throws.
He needs to trust those around him to do what they are supposed to and concentrate on making the right reads and the right throws.
The Vikings defense might be slipping but it can still be dangerous. A few wrong moves, and Stafford could end up his own worst enemy.
When the Lions Are on Defense
It's really simple.
You stop Adrian Peterson. You get after Christian Ponder. It's even easier if, as seems to be the case, Percy Harvin is either playing at less than 100 percent or not playing at all.
Perhaps the first one isn't so easy and could be modified into "keep him from killing you." It's going to be hard for a defense which is middle of the road at best at stopping the run to do more than slow Peterson down, even with eight men in the box.
Maybe with all the men in the box.
The upside is, there is a very good chance that even an amazing performance by Peterson isn't a guarantee of a big offensive performance by the Vikings. And if the Lions are able to score a few times it puts the onus on Christian Ponder to mount a comeback. This plays right into the defense's hands, since Ponder is not having a good stretch of the season, to put it mildly.
Whether the defense is stopping Peterson or not, getting after Ponder will win them the game. Hit him, flush him from the pocket, force him into situations in which he is prone to making bad decisions.
I still believe Ponder can be a decent quarterback in this league, but he isn't there now and he has precious few weapons to help him out.
So get at him, hit him, drop Ndamukong Suh on him three or four times, and even a banged up secondary like the Lions should be able to shut down his receivers.
It's not a slam-dunk game, especially not when you're playing it in the Metrodome. That said, the Lions have played much better in recent weeks while the Vikings have most certainly not.
The key really comes down to getting the offense going early and consistently and getting to Ponder.
If they can do those two things, then the Lions have a good shot at stealing back the earlier game they lost at Ford Field.
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