Detroit Lions: at Minnesota Vikings
To say that defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has been on a rampage this week would be putting it mildly. The Lions are tied with the Packers for the NFL lead in sacks (10) yet rank 30th in overall defense.
They have given up nearly 700 yards (681) in aerial offense in two games and now face Brett Favre, who in his career has torched the Lions for nearly 9,000 yards (8,753).
"I think we got a few things straight around here," Cunningham said.
The back seven, the linebackers and defensive backs, felt the full fury of Cunningham's wrath. Veteran outside linebacker Julian Peterson was benched for the final two defensive series against the Eagles after he missed his gap on a 46-yard touchdown run by LeSean McCoy. The safeties, C.C. Brown and Louis Delmas, also heard it from Cunningham.
"(The Eagles) were sending two receivers out and we were in a Cover-2, and they had eight guys blocking," Cunningham said, frustrated that despite that they threw for 329 yards. "Somebody has to pay for that, and they did. We can't let that happen.
"I looked at the tape and four or five times they had four guys blocking (Kyle) Vanden Bosch. I can't tolerate four guys blocking one."
Other players have to make plays to keep offenses more honest.
"That (message) was made loud and clear this week and I think we got results on the practice field," Cunningham said. "Now it depends on how we play in the game."
Delmas, who wasn't on the field for two of the Eagles' long plays on Sunday, was asked what he thought about Cunningham's challenge.
"With all due respect to my coach, I take that as an insult — in a good way," he said. "He's trying all he can to get us going. As safeties, and me as a leader, I need to do my job and get my teammates going. Coach Gun stated a fact. We didn't make no plays last week."
There are signs, though, that the clouds might be lifting. Middle linebacker DeAndre Levy, who has been out with a groin injury the last four weeks, is expected to make his first start. They might be without starting outside linebacker Zack Follett, though. He still hasn't passed all the necessary neurological tests after he was concussed on Sunday. If so, the Lions would start Landon Johnson.
Johnson started in place of Levy in the middle the last two games. The drop-off from Follett to Johnson on the outside will be far less than the drop off from Levy to Johnson was on the inside.
"I think we've made some headway," Cunningham said. "It's hard when you don't have everybody in place and we haven't had what we felt was our best 11 players on the field at the same time from preseason through the first two games. Levy and Delmas are back practicing now, so we will see what happens."
Matchup to watch
Lions WR Calvin Johnson vs. Vikings secondary: There is no excuse for the high-leaping, 6-foot-5 Johnson not catching more than four passes this week. The Dolphins had immediate success against the Vikings' nickel package last Sunday by going right at Lito Sheppard on the Dolphins' first play from scrimmage. The result was a 46-yard pass completion from Chad Henne to 6-foot-4 Brandon Marshall that set up a touchdown. You think the Lions aren't going to notice that? Sheppard is only 5-10 and starting left cornerback Asher Allen is 5-9. Antoine Winfield, the starter at right corner who moves inside in the nickel, also is 5-9 but he is the Vikings' best cornerback. Second-round pick Chris Cook (6-2) could provide some much-needed size against Johnson. Cook is expected to make his NFL debut after missing time with a torn meniscus in his knee.
Minnesota Vikings: at Detroit Lions
Brett Favre's success in 2009 was borne out of the fact that the quarterback rarely, if ever, looked as if he was pressing.
He threw 33 touchdowns and a career-low seven interceptions in part because he made a quick connection with many of his receivers and also because he was put in a position to succeed.
That hasn't been the case in 2010.
Favre has four interceptions and one touchdown and the Vikings are 0-2 in part because the veteran is pressing and that chemistry he built last season is long gone.
"History has shown with me that when we're struggling a little bit I try to press the issue and try to make something happen," Favre said. "I think that's what's made me the quarterback I am and has benefitted me throughout my career. But it's also hurt me."
Favre's issues include a receiving corps that has lost Sidney Rice for half the season after hip surgery and has two newcomers in Greg Camarillo and Hank Baskett, who arrived on Wednesday after being let go by Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Rice was Favre's favorite target in 2009 and could often use his 6-foot-4 frame to go up and get passes. Favre had no one like that in his first two games, although Baskett is listed at 6-3 and could help.
The question is when will Favre start to get on the same page as some of his new receivers and when will he stop pressing? It doesn't help matters that Favre and Bernard Berrian also haven't started to click.
"If I sat here and told you that I knew exactly what we're doing right now I'd be lying," Favre said. "A lot of work is left and it will be an ongoing process until we have our unit how we want to go about things and we're not there yet."
Matchup to watch
Vikings LT Bryant McKinnie vs. Lions DE Kyle Vanden Bosch: McKinnie has had issues at times with top-flight defensive ends and he now will be facing free-agent additions Vanden Bosch and Chicago's Julius Peppers twice a season. This will be McKinnie's first test. The key for McKinnie, who is in his ninth season, is simply showing consistency because he has the athletic ability to be a very good player. Vanden Bosch plays with a motor that never quits and will spend the afternoon using a variety of moves to try to get around the 6-foot-8, 335-pound McKinnie.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.