Vikings Careful Not To Overlook Lions

Detroit battled valiantly in the two meetings last season, leaving Minnesota wary of the Lions. Much more inside, including the Vikings' game-plan against the Lions, how they'll utilize running back Adrian Peterson, and more.

Needing to make the most of what appears to be a soft early-season schedule, the Vikings got off to a good start in Week 1.

Minnesota cruised to a 34-20 victory over the Cleveland Browns that saw the Vikings score 24 unanswered points in the second quarter. The good news for coach Brad Childress' team is that things should only get easier this weekend.

Minnesota will face a Detroit Lions franchise that became the first team in NFL history to go 0-16 last season and hasn't won a regular-season game since Dec. 23, 2007, when it beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 25-20.

Childress, though, should have no trouble convincing his players that overconfidence could prove fatal. While the Lions were losing plenty of one-sided games last season, the Vikings were unable to pull away from Detroit in their two NFC North meetings.

In fact, the Vikings needed a Ryan Longwell field goal with nine seconds left to edge the Lions, 12-10, in an October game at the Metrodome. The Vikings almost certainly would not have won if it hadn't been for a questionable pass interference call on now former Lions cornerback Leigh Bodden that put Minnesota in a position to escape with the victory.

GAME PLAN VS LIONS

Brett Favre might be the Vikings quarterback but that doesn't mean this team is going to change its approach on offense.

At least not as long as Adrian Peterson is wearing purple. Peterson ran for 180 yards and three touchdowns in the Vikings' 34-20 season-opening victory over Cleveland and could be in for another big day against the woeful Lions.

The Vikings' plan entering their victory over the Browns was to keep giving the ball to Peterson, knowing he would eventually get big chunks of yardage. That's exactly what happened.

After gaining only 55 yards in the first half, Peterson went for 155 yards in the final 30 minutes, including an incredible 64-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter in which he broke six tackles.

That doesn't mean that Favre isn't going to go to the air on occasion. Favre threw for only 110 yards last Sunday but certainly the Vikings have noticed that Saints quarterback Drew Brees torched the Lions for 358 yards passing and six touchdowns in New Orleans' 45-27 victory. The Saints also gained 157 yards on the ground, including a career-high 143 by Mike Bell.

One reason why the Vikings might favor the run over the pass is because of their desire to tire the Lions and also eat clock with one of the NFL's top ground games.

The Vikings defense also got off to a strong start against the Browns, getting five sacks and holding Cleveland to one offensive touchdown. Rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford is likely to get plenty of pressure from Jared Allen and Co.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Vikings CB Antoine Winfield, who made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 11-year career last season, vs. Lions WR Calvin Johnson, who caught three passes for 90 yards in the opener against New Orleans. The Browns threw at Winfield only once last Sunday but the Lions actually could work to get this matchup on occasion. Winfield, who plays the left corner spot, is more respected at this point in his career than right corner Cedric Griffin but Johnson is 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds and Winfield is 5-9, 180. Last season, Johnson had seven catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns against the Vikings. No matter who Johnson is matched up against, rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford will be looking his way Sunday.

Vikings DE Jared Allen, who had only one assist on a tackle last Sunday, vs. Lions RT Jeff Backus, who has started every game for Detroit since 2001. The Vikings had five sacks last Sunday but Allen was not involved in any of them. This isn't going to sit well with the Pro Bowl player, who was matched up against another Pro Bowl talent in Browns left tackle Joe Thomas. Enter Backus, who is going to have to contend with an angry Allen. Allen also was a non-factor in the Vikings' opener last season in Green Bay. He finished the season with 14.5 sacks.

INJURY IMPACT: Wide receiver Bernard Berrian played in the opener against the Browns despite being slowed the previous week in practice by a hamstring injury. The speedy Berrian was able to make it through Wednesday's practice without being limited. Linebacker Heath Farwell (hamstring) and right guard Anthony Herrera (back) were limited in practice Wednesday but should be able to play against Detroit.

Things didn't get much easier when the Vikings traveled to Detroit in December and edged the Lions 20-16 after Tarvaris Jackson replaced an injured Gus Frerotte at quarterback.

Overall, the Vikings have dominated this series and one would figure that should continue as long as Childress is able to keep his players focused. The presence of veteran quarterback Brett Favre and running back Adrian Peterson certainly won't hurt.

Favre threw for only 110 yards against Cleveland but he did not make any mistakes and he certainly didn't need to be the hero given that Peterson rushed for 180 yards on 25 carries with three touchdowns, including a memorable 64- yarder in which he broke six tackles.

Peterson, the NFL's leading rusher last season, has to be looking forward to going against a team that gave up 143 yards on the ground to New Orleans' Mike Bell in Week 1. Peterson exceeded 100 yards in both of the Vikings' victories against the Lions in 2008 and has rushed for more than 100 yards in three of his four career games vs. Detroit.

After opening with back-to-back road games, the Vikings will return to the Metrodome for the first time this season on Sept. 27 when they play host to San Francisco. Combined the Browns (4-12), Lions (0-16) and 49ers (7-9) went 11-37 last year. San Francisco stands to be improved -- it opened the season with a 20-16 victory at Arizona - but the Vikings will be expected to win that game as well.

Things will then get tougher with the Packers visiting the Metrodome on Oct. 5 for a Monday night game that will mark Favre's first game against the team from which he had a bitter divorce. In fact, October as a whole won't be easy.

Yes, the Vikings face the St. Louis Rams but they also will play host to Baltimore and travel to Pittsburgh to end the month.

SERIES HISTORY: 96th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series, 63-30-2. The Vikings have won 13 of the past 14 games and have swept Detroit in six of the past seven seasons. The Vikings' 63 victories against the Lions are the most against any opponent in the NFL.

PLAYER NOTES:

  • QB Brett Favre will make his 271st consecutive start Sunday, breaking the NFL all-time record held by former Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall. There has been some debate about how many games Marshall actually started. That's because Marshall played in an NFL record 282 consecutive games and some think he might have started all of them. However, Marshall spent his rookie season (1960) with Cleveland before joining the Vikings in 1961 and the Browns did not keep track of starts. Thus, for now, the NFL recognizes Marshall's streak as being at 270.
  • If a Lions running back does not rush for 100 yards against the Vikings on Sunday it will mark the 25th consecutive game the Vikings haven't surrendered 100 yards to an individual. That is the second-longest current streak behind the Baltimore Ravens (36). The last player to rush for 100 yards against the Vikings was Green Bay running back Ryan Grant (102 yards) on Nov. 11, 2007.
  • A Vikings victory would mark only the third time the team has opened the season with back-to-back road victories (1974, 1997). The Vikings have started only five of their 49 seasons with two road games.
  • After averaging 10 penalties in the preseason, the Vikings were penalized only two times in the season opener Sunday in Cleveland. That was the lowest among all teams.
  • The Lions won the first five games of this series from 1961 to '63, but have won only 25 of the 89 games since that streak.
  • The Lions beat the Vikings' 20-17 in overtime in Week 2 of the 2007 season at Ford Field, marking Minnesota's first loss to Detroit in 11 games. Coach Brad Childress is 5-1 against the Lions.
  • DT Kevin Williams had a career-high four sacks against Detroit on Oct. 12, 2008, which tied for the most in a single game in 2008 and ranks tied for second in Vikings history.
  • Lions backup QB Daunte Culpepper was the Vikings' first pick in the 1999 NFL draft and the 11th player chosen overall. He started 80 games for the Vikings and ranks second in team history with a 91.5 rating.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- Number of field goals kicker Ryan Longwell needs to make to reach 300 for his career. That would move him into a tie for 19th place in NFL history.

PERSONNEL AGAINST LIONS:

It might not rate as a high-profile surprise, but the fact defensive tackle Fred Evans was inactive for Sunday's opener in Cleveland did come as an unexpected twist.

With Evans not playing - he wasn't listed on the injury report - Jimmy Kennedy got in for about 20 plays as the backup to nose tackle Pat Williams.

The Vikings had thought enough of Evans last spring to put a second-round tender on the restricted free agent so they certainly think highly of him. Evans also started three games, including one in the playoffs, in place of Williams after he suffered a shoulder injury late last season.

It's unclear how long Evans will remain third on the depth chart.

PLAYER NOTES:

  • WR Bernard Berrian wasn't limited in practice for the first time in several weeks as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury. Berrian played in the regular-season opener against Cleveland but did not catch a pass and only had two passes thrown his way.
  • LB Heath Farwell was limited because of a hamstring injury suffered in Sunday's game. It's likely he will play at Detroit.
  • LB Erin Henderson remains out because of a leg injury that is expected to sideline him for the first four games.
  • G Anthony Herrera was limited because of back pain but it's likely he will play at Detroit.
  • Tarvaris Jackson was the No. 2 quarterback to Brett Favre for the opener but it remains to be seen if it will stay that way. Sage Rosenfels, obtained from Houston last February, also could move up to the No. 2 spot.
  • CB Benny Sapp, who plays in the nickel defense, is fine after having to leave Sunday's game in Cleveland because of cramping caused by dehydration.

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