Lets take a little flashback to October 12, 2008. (Lions fans you may not want to remember this so just skip to the next paragraph to contain sanity). With 2:22 left to play in the fourth quarter the woeful 0-4 Lions are trying to pull out a victory. The ball is on the Vikings 32 yard line. Getting desperate after the Vikings pass offense had been having another sub-par performance, Gus Frerotte slings a pass deep down the right sideline which falls incomplete. Leigh Bodden who was on the coverage began celebrating his great coverage on the play, he then sees a flash of yellow. Mine like every other Lions fan watching that game knew at that moment it was not meant to be last season. Pass interference was the call, Bodden couldn't have been in any better position... there was no penalty, it was just another slap to the face of the Lions and their fans. The ball was placed at the 26 yard line of the Lions and with just seconds left Longwell put the nail in the coffin.
As a Lions fan it was one of the roughest endings I have endured. I thought the self destruction headed by Jon Kitna at the end of the week two Packers loss was enough, but this just put the icing on the cake last season. After that game I had no doubt that the Football Gods decided that 2008 was the time for one team to lose them all.
In that game I noticed something that I think a lot of people overlook. The one that people think is God's gift to football does have a weakness. He cant hold on to the ball. Adrian Peterson in two games against the Lions put the ball on the turf four times. In all last season he lead the league with nine fumbles.
Key #1: Turnovers. AP is going to destroy the Lions lets be honest, but that is fine as long as every time they are tackling him they are ripping at that ball. He coughed it up a couple times in the red zone vs. the Lions last year. AP needs to take a look at old film of Tiki Barber. Barber had that nasty infection called fumbilitis, he was able to find a cure for it with his new style of running with the ball. Instead of holding the ball away from his body along his side he would keep the ball in front of his body against his chest. It almost completely cured his case of fumbilitis to were he became one of the best ball carriers in the game. If AP carried the ball the Tiki Barber way then the Vikings would be even more of a force.
Not only do the Vikes have the most turnover susceptible running back but they have the most turnover susceptible quarterback too. The all time leader in interceptions Brett Favre loves to throw to those blue jerseys. I remember only a few years ago when then pro bowl caliber Dre Bly would have a field day against Favre. If the Lions can blitz like Gunther Cunningham has been talking about then that should slow down AP and put pressure on Favre. With Phillip Buchanon back this week, and a resurrected Anthony Henry the Lions should get a couple errant passes. Look for turnovers to be a huge swing for either team in this game.
Key #2: Louis Delmas. How about the rookie last week. Delmas came as advertised he hit, drove his feet, and finished tackles. He is the prototypical playmaking safety. Since before the draft I was calling this guy Bob Sanders 2.0. Three huge plays in particular last week. Lance Moore would have made a clean catch along the sideline, but because of the rule changes when Moore jumped and plucked the ball out of the air Delmas gave him a solid hit which pushed him out of bounds making it an incomplete pass. Mike Bell near the Lions goal line took the hand off up the middle, met Delmas who drove him back into the ground a textbook tackle. Lastly of coarse the recognition to see a Mike Bell fumble scoop it and take it back for a Lions touchdown. This guy is all over the field he will be in the box and has said how excited he is to go up against Adrian Peterson. This week could be his time to prove if he could be the next elite safety in the league.
Key #3: The Connection. Matthew Stafford targeted Calvin Johnson 13 times in week one. They connected on just three of those passes. In the preseason they looked like the sky is the limit, but week one they just looked a little off. Chalk it up to nerves in the first game. If they can at least double their connections or even get to 8-10 receptions for megatron then it will go a long way to winning this game.
Key #4: Field Position. The Lions shot themselves in the foot last week with atrocious kickoff coverages. It is difficult with the defense the Lions have to stop a team, but when they are starting in Lions territory it is almost impossible. Stan Kwan needs to get his coverage players to stay in their lanes and wrap up.
Key #5: Stupidity. This is a broad subject all around. Penalties will plague every team, but when you false start on the one yard line (Daniel Loper) it makes it very difficult to keep drives going and score points. Personal fouls for no reason also kill the team, ex. Louis Delmas knocking the ball out of Jeremy Shockeys hand while he is celebrating, and Ernie Sims can you try this week to not hit a player when he is already five yards out of bounds?
Honestly folks, I could go on and on to the keys because so many things need to click for a win when it comes to this team. Obviously there needs to be a pass rush, the offensive line needs to wake up, and Kevin Smith needs to do more, but those are the keys to every game. For this particular game the turnovers should be the biggest aspect if AP can put the ball on the turf and Favre throws a few to the Honolulu blue jerseys then this team could come out with the upset. As for the other keys to the game, again these are the small things that need to happen for a victory. There is no need for me to list the obvious keys to any victory at any level of football, everyone knows it starts in the trenches, but watch for these five small key aspects and if they swing the Lions way we could be looking at an upset.