Last week against the Eagles, the Detroit defensive line turned in a strong performance, hitting Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick 18 times according to Defensive Coordinator Gunther Cunningham.
But Vick got the better of the Lions, having what Cunningham referred to a performance he’s never seen before.
“A normal quarterback getting hit like Michael Vick got hit would not have made it through that game,” said Cunningham.
The Lions finished with 5.0 sacks and 11 quarterback hurries, but Vick managed to complete 21-of-34 for 284 yards and two touchdowns.
The fearlessness he played with last Sunday left Cunningham in awe, frustrated that his front four came away with such a quality performance, yet did not get the win.
“There was one play where he had an opportunity to run out of bounds,” said Cunningham. “He stepped back in toward the inside part of the field and (Ndamukong) Suh, (Kyle) Vanden Bosch and (Louis) Delmas almost cut him in half.
“I thought that was it for sure with a major injury. But he just survived and did a great job.”
This week, the Lions will have a quarterback whose tendencies are quite the opposite as Vick’s. Veteran quarterback Brett Favre is a player who likes to stand in the pocket and let plays develop and he has a rifle for an arm that can make plays downfield in a moment’s notice.
“What he’s done this year is he’s just airing it out and trying to get the quick scores,” said Cunningham.
While Favre will be a constant threat for the Lions, the first priority will be stopping running back Adrian Peterson, who has 232 rushing yards on 47 carries in two games.
“Adrian looks like he’s running better than he has in the last couple years and they’re feeding him the ball more,” said Cunningham.
Last week, the Lions weren’t going to let Vick beat them with his feet; this week it’s going to be Peterson with the target on his back.
Being a big target at 6-1 and 217 pounds, Detroit will have to make sure he is wrapped up.
“I think his biggest thing is he likes to try and to run over a lot of guys,” said Suh. “He’s definitely a guy that’s dynamic that wants to try to break tackles and run over people, so you have to be ready for both.”
DIFFUSING THE EXPLOSION
The Lions’ defense has struggled with explosion plays the first two weeks, attributed to assignment errors and mental mistakes.
Cunningham says he was not pleased with those errors following last Sunday’s game against the Eagles and let his players know it.
“We’re not going to play with players that aren’t going to compete,” said Cunningham. “I think they got the message with how good we practiced, so we’ll see what happens in the game. But I want them to play physical. If you get a 5-yard penalty for being physical – I can live with that. You can’t get stupid penalties, but I need to see more physical.”
Cunningham is focused on the back seven. He was pleased with the play of his cornerbacks last Sunday, but wants to see fewer mental errors from the rest of the defensive backfield.
One element that could help lessen the number of mental errors is the return of
Levy, the team’s starting middle linebacker, is one of Detroit’s primary defensive leaders and communicators. He is listed as probable for this weekend’s game.
“I think (yesterday was) the first time that he (could) go back to back days,” said Head Coach Jim Schwartz on Thursday. “It’s always a progression. We miss him. We need him on the field for us. I like the path that he’s on.”
While the Lions look to have Levy back in the starting line-up, they'll be without outside linebacker
Follett has not practiced all week and is listed as out for this weekend’s game.
Last week against the Eagles, Hill finished 25-of-45 for 335 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“He’s a good leader for us,” said tight end
Hill is a player who prepares meticulously for each game, studying the opponent thoroughly.
It will be a big test for Detroit, up against Minnesota’s solid defense that includes a dynamic front four, but Hill and the offense are up for the challenge.
“This is a very important week for us, facing the defending NFC North champions,” said Hill. “We’re going to their place, which can be a hostile environment. So this is definitely a good test for us and something we’re up for.”
Players the Lions are hoping turn in repeat performances are rookie running back
Both had big days against the Eagles. Best finished with 232 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns, including a 75-yard score off a Hill screen pass.
His performance drew league-wide attention. In Week 1, Best notched two touchdowns, but just 34 rushing yards. He now has a league-leading five touchdowns and the yardage to go along with it.
“You can feel it on the field when the running game is effective – you just have a lot of people giving that extra effort,” said Pettigrew. “Jahvid – it doesn’t take much for Jahvid. I mean, you cover somebody up and he’s through the gap. We need to keep doing that every week.”
Pettigrew finished with a career-best 108 receiving yards on seven receptions, showing that he is physically on his way back from a significant knee injury suffered last November.
“We’re really not trying to do anything spectacular against these guys,” said Pettigrew of Minnesota. “We played them twice last year – we pretty much know what to expect. We just have to do what we always do and try to do it better than we usually do.”
Detroit will need to protect Hill from the Vikings front, made up of Ray Edwards, Pat Williams, Kevin Williams and Jared Allen.
The Lions are hoping to enter into that game with their starting offensive line, but guard
Another player the Lions will be without is wide receiver
He is listed as out on this week’s injury report.