The Detroit Lions are coming off a gut-wrenching loss to the Atlanta Falcons in week three. The team currently stands at 2-1 and could very easily have been 3-0 coming into week four. The Lions are going to have to find a way to put that heartbreak behind them because, in week four, they are set to play their first divisional game, on the road, against the Minnesota Vikings. The 2-1 Vikings have been impressive so far this season, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Facing a tough division rival on the road is never an easy task, but here is how the Lions can get it done and come out of Minnesota victorious.
Week Four Detroit Lions Keys to Victory
1. Pressure Case Keenum
When Case Keenum was named the starter for the Vikings week two tilt against the Steelers, many people began to write the Vikings off due to the perceived offensive struggles that they would have. The doubters were proven correct when Keenum was basically neutered against the Steelers, throwing for only 167 yards, completing only 54% of his passes, and averaging only 4.5 yards per attempt.
In week three, Keenum was unleashed, completing 75% of his passed for 369 yards and three touchdowns. Even more impressive is that those average yards per pass jumped to over eleven yards per attempt. The Vikings put up nine points in that Steelers game, however, they smashed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the tune of 34 points in week three.
The Detroit Lions need to find a way to summon the Case Keenum of week two and not the Keenum of week three and that starts by pressuring the quarterback. The defensive line cannot allow a play to develop long enough for Keenum to average over eleven yards per pass attempt and most certainly cannot allow a 75% completion rating.
When Teryl Austin looks at game film of the Vikings, he will notice that, on the plays that Keenum was hurried against the Steelers, he only completed 25% of his throws. Combine that with the fact that Minnesota has a below average offensive line and the Lions should be blitzing effectively and often on Sunday.
Side Note: If Sam Bradford plays in week four, this gameplan is rendered ineffective. Bradford was fantastic under pressure in 2016 with an under pressure passer rating of 87.7, second only to Aaron Rodgers.
2. Contain Dalvin Cook
Dalvin Cook has been electric so far in his rookie campaign. Through the first three weeks of the season, he is second only to Kareem Hunt in rushing yards. Not to mention his contribution in the passing game with eight receptions for 82 yards over three contests. When he is allowed to get going, it is hard to slow him down and the entire offense is opened up as a result.
The Lions did a great job in week one containing David Johnson, however, they were not quite as successful against Devonta Freeman in week three. Their run defense needs to show up in week four or it could be a long afternoon for the Lions.
If Cook is allowed to get loose, the defense will find themselves playing catchup with the offense, and the Vikings will be dictating the pace of the game. Thankfully, the Vikings offense line is mediocre at best and the Lions should be able to limit Cook’s running room.
3. Strike First
The Lions need to make it a point to get ahead early in this contest. Taking an early lead in this game will put them in a position to dictate the flow of the game. If the Vikings are forced to stray from the run early, a key part of their offense becomes neutralized. The Vikings showed in week three that they can be effective both on the ground and through the air; when allowed to run a balanced offense, they can be deadly.
If the Lions hit the ground running on offense and jump out to an early lead, they can force the Vikings to lean more on the pass by the second half. This will in turn help take care of the second key to victory: containing Cook. If the Vikings begin to abandon the run, even for a bit, the Lions can expose that offensive line and unleash their front seven on Keenum. Coming out aggressive and putting up points early makes it much easier for the Lions to accomplish the first two keys to victory and gives them an opportunity to control this game for all four quarters.
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