Folks, please hear me when I say that the Lions are not to be overlooked. Detroit, like Minnesota, is coming into the game with a 1-1 record. Unlike Minnesota, Detroit actually put together a close game against Philadelphia. I understand that they piled on points late, but it was still a 38-35 effort (as opposed to Minnesota’s brutal effort that led to the 24-7 score).
The Lions have quietly been accumulating strong talent at various key positions.
Like many others, I’m skeptical about whether Jared Goff is the long-term solution at QB. Nevertheless, they look to have a legit WR1 in Amon-Ra St. Brown. Jameson Williams isn’t back from injury, but he could develop into another tier-1 WR. D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, and T.J. Hockenson are all excellent players.
Defensively, Detroit is starting to assemble some notable talent. The first name I think of is Aidan Hutchinson, the young edge rusher who impressed in Week 2 with his 3-sack performance. Keep in mind that he also had 2 TFLs and 6 tackles. Not bad, especially given that it was his second ever game in the NFL. Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill are going to have their hands full.
Part of the reason why things were so challenging for Minnesota in Week 2 was because of the massive discrepancy in the time of possession.
The Eagles had the football for more than 36 minutes, meaning the Vikings had it for less than 24. Anytime an opponent starts to flirt with the high 30s, you know there are some issues with the time of possession. Minnesota will be looking to do a much better job in the upcoming Detroit game.
One thing they can do to help themselves is to establish the run early. Kirk Cousins was the leading rusher with a measly 20 yards. Kevin O’Connell and the Vikings should make it a goal to never have such a modest rushing total again. Bad games happen, so there’s no reason to overreact. Nevertheless, there does need to be a sense of urgency when it comes to getting this offense back to normal (or, rather, establishing what normal is; was it the Week 1 or Week 2 effort?).
Running the ball effectively will, in turn, help the passing game to succeed. Want Justin Jefferson to find more room? Do a better job of picking up yards with players other than Jefferson. Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison come to mind, but the team can also integrate their pass catchers more effectively.
Adam Thielen’s lack of usage has been puzzling. The same may be said for K.J. Osborn. Irv Smith Jr. received plenty of attention in Week 2, and hopefully he can capitalize on those chances more as the season progresses. Finding a way to effectively incorporate all of these players will create issues for a defense.
It’s somewhat ironic that after a couple weeks, we’re back to talking about issues that commonly came up during Mike Zimmer’s time in Minnesota. Controlling the ball and playing complementary, team football was important to the former HC. The team is now trying to similarly achieve these goals, for they are crucial to winning.
Climbing to 2-1, especially since it’s coming against a divisional foe, feels much different from stumbling to 1-2. The truth is that we’re far from must-win territory, but that doesn’t mean Minnesota shouldn’t be desperate for the victory when they take on Detroit. A win tomorrow afternoon would result in an early lead in what could become a very competitive division.
Winning the time of possession battle will be important for O’Connell’s chances of snagging his second NFL victory.