The Detroit Lions stepped onto the field in the third quarter leading 17-15. They looked good in the first half. They scored touchdowns on their first two drives, had 160 yard of offense in the first quarter and had mostly been able to keep their opponent – the Minnesota Vikings – out of the end zone.
The second half was a completely different story. The Lions mustered only 106 yards of offense and scored no points– The Vikings concded a late fourth-quarter safety. Stafford was sacked five times in the last two quarters.
A big part of it was the Vikings ability to adjust the Lions inability to do the same.
Like most teams, the Lions entered the game with scripted plays at their disposal. Plays they would run early in the game based on what they were expecting from Minnesota.
“We have a set a plays that we plan to run at the beginning of the game based on what we think they’re going to do and we stayed on schedule for the most part, converted third-downs early, making big plays,” said wide receiver Golden Tate.
The Lions were able to get a big play to tight end Eric Ebron off of play action and use double moves in a couple of spots where the coverage was favorable. That changed quickly as the Vikings were able to adjust.
“We made some adjustments,” said Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. “We had to. They double-moved us once and then they snuck the tight end out the back side and we just missed it. They were also doing a lot of the ‘check with me’ things based on our coverages, so we had to fix a lot of those things. Once we got them into throwing situations, I felt pretty good about it.”
The Vikings seemed united in the belief that the Lions schemed them up on a few of the earlier plays but that it wasn’t sustainable success. They knew the Lions weren't getting receivers open quickly, they knew they could overwhelm and confuse the Lions protection schemes and they knew they could disrupt the offense.
“We didn’t change a lot of the things we were doing,” said linebacker Chad Greenway. “We stuck to our guns and we do what we do. They had some rhythm in their first 15, their scripted plays. They got us on a couple of sneaky ones that got by us and we were able to adjust.”
Greenway added: “We made some adjustments, we did. We kind of figured out what they were doing, try to make a few adjustments here and there that you can’t make on the sidelines. Just some tweaks and our coaching staff does a great job of doing that.”
The Vikings adjustments – especially on defense – were the difference in this game. However, it’s not only the outcome that can be concerning at this point, you also have to worry about the beating that your quarterback is taking.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has consistently demonstrated his toughness and he acknowledges that the team needs to collectively improve it’s ability to slow the opposition’s pass rush but he plans to fight through it.
“It’s not to say I didn’t get angry or mad,” said Stafford. “I mean, football is – if you’re not playing well – it’s frustrating. That happens, but you don’t have to peel me off the field. I’m always going to get back up if I can. That’s part of football. Everybody’s out there giving it their best effort. We’re not going to be perfect every time, so I’m just going to keep fighting, keep playing.”
Stafford did have to get X-rays on his left hand after the game and there was a moment where backup Dan Orlovsky warmed up on the side line. However, Stafford didn’t miss a snap and indicated he felt ok.
“I think it’s fine. We’ll see,” he said.