The Lions struggled occasionally against the Vikings Sunday, but were (barely) able to come away with the win. Next week, the Lions come home and host the Dallas Cowboys Sunday. The Lions have looked pretty shaky at times yet are able to dominate others.
Let's start by running through their game against the Vikings.
It was a slow start to the game, with two field goals by Ryan Longwell to put the Vikings up 6-0 at the end of the first. The Lions' red-zone defense proved itself here, stopping the Vikings on their first drive. Their offensive line proved itself with a critical five-yard sack on Donovan McNabb by Kyle Vanden Bosch.
The offense got off to a slow start for the Lions with a three-and-out on its first two drives. The Vikings finally reached pay dirt in the third quarter after a 39-yard run by Percy Harvin set up a six-yard TD run for Adrian Peterson. Things got a little chippy for the Lions at the end of the half. They gave up amazing field position after a punt and a penalty set the Vikings up at the Lions' 13-yard line. There seemed to be almost no hope for the Lions in this one, as they ended the half down 20-0.
The second half was Matthew Stafford's time to shine. He started out a bit shaky with another three-and-out. Then on the next Detroit possession, Stafford completed a 32-yard TD pass to Calvin Johnson to finally get Detroit on the scoreboard. After forcing another three-and-out, Detroit drove down to the Vikings' 2-yard line and got stopped. The Lions came out with a field goal and finished out the third quarter 20-10.
Will the Lions beat the Cowboys?
The Lions scored again five seconds into the fourth quarter to find themselves down by only three points. Stafford lit up the scoreboard on their next drive, quickly completing 6-of-7 for 52 yards. The Lions got stopped once again, though, and were able to only come away with a Jason Hanson field goal. Detroit drove down again and came away with another field goal to take its first lead of the game at 23-20. Longwell made a 49-yard field goal to tie the game up with 1:11 left. Neither team could move the ball to end regulation and it was time for some overtime at the Metrodome.
Detroit won the toss and it was game over from there. On the fourth play of the drive, Stafford connected with Johnson again, this time for 40 yards, setting up the Lions at the Minnesota 14-yard line. Hanson put the game away making a 32-yard field goal, giving the Lions a three-point win.
What the Lions need to do to win
Jahvid Best seemed to under-perform—then again, the entire running corps for the Lions did. The entire team rushed for 20 yards on 19 carries, with the long being by Best for five yards. In order to beat the Cowboys, they have to find a way to run the ball. Up the middle they need to find holes, and they need to keep the ball moving north/south, instead of the east/west running some backs are known for.
Stafford had a fantastic game, completing 32 of 46 passes for 378 yards. He had a passer rating of 108.8 while connecting with eight different receivers. Also, he had two receivers with more than 100 yards. Pettigrew finished with 112 yards on 11 catches and Johnson had 108 yards on only seven catches, two of those for TDs. The air attack of the Lions is phenomenal, but their ground game needs to step it up.
The Lions were able to put together four sacks and three tackles for losses against the Vikings. They were also able to deflect two passes by McNabb. Ndamukong Suh hit McNabb twice and seemed to consistently be able to push back the O-line and put pressure on the quarterback. The one thing they need to do is force turnovers. The entire game went without a turnover for either team, but in order to win the upcoming game, the Lions will have to force turnovers and win the battle in the trenches.
The Lions are off to their best start since 1980 and aren't looking back. They are playing some of the best football in Detroit in the 21st century. If they are able to beat the Cowboys, they will have a legitimate shot at winning the division, or at least a wild card berth in the NFC playoffs.