The Minnesota Vikings defense doesn't give up many opportunities for walk-in touchdowns. The Vikings are talented, disciplined and well coached on that side of the ball, which is why they're the fifth-ranked unit in the league.
When teams do catch the Vikings in a blitz, and have the perfect play on, like Matthew Stafford and the Lions did early in the second quarter Thursday, they have to take advantage of those opportunities. The Lions didn't, and it took four points off the board when they had to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown.
This near miss early in the second quarter is the subject of this week's Dunham's Film Review.
The Lions are 2nd and 10 at the Vikings 14-yard line trailing 13-0 early in the second quarter. Detroit comes out in a shotgun three-receiver set with all three receivers at the bottom of the formation. Theo Riddick is in the backfield to Matthew Stafford's right and Eric Ebron is the tight end on the line of scrimmage left.
The Vikings counter by bringing in an extra defensive back in the nickel.
Stafford sees something he like pre-snap and gets the play communicated at the line of scrimmage.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has made a living in this league breaking down protections with his patented double A-gap blitz. The A-gap is between the center and the guard, and bringing two guys on either side of the center puts a lot of pressure up the middle at the quarterback, the worst place a quarterback likes to see pressure.
In this case, linebacker Eric Kendricks (#54) and safety Harrison Smith (#22) show that they're coming.
Stafford guessed right, because he calls the absolute perfect play against the blitz, a screen pass to Riddick in the left flat.
Kendricks and Smith do come on the double A-gap blitz and Riddick is going to be wide open on the perfect play call.
Kendricks and Harrison are bearing down on Stafford pretty hard. Stafford has to backpedal and hold the ball as long as he can to allow Riddick to clear the lineman and get into the flat. Stafford almost has to throw to a spot, but he doesn't put enough air under the football to let Riddick run under it. It's not as easy of a throw as it looks because of the pressure, but it's a throw Stafford's made hundreds of times in his career.
If the throw connects with Riddick, he can literally walk into the end zone. That's how well the design and call was. There is no Vikings defender anywhere close to Riddick.
Both Riddick and Stafford know they missed a huge opportunity
Stafford throws incomplete to Marvin Jones Jr. on third down and the Lions are forced to kick a 32-yard Matt Prater field goal.
Sometimes it's just a matter of inches between seven points and three in this league.