The Minnesota Vikings are facing one of the league’s top defensive lines, if not the best, when they host the Detroit Lions. Some Vikings are more concerned about them than others.
Left tackle Matt Kalil knows how good the Lions line is as a whole, calling it “close to the best in the league.”
“From what they’ve done, I think statistically they’re the No. 1 defense right now in everything they do in terms of third-down conversions, rushing the passer, stopping the run, points against, I think,” Kalil said. “So, they’re as good a defense as you’ll face. Definitely a great test for us.”
The Lions do have the top-ranked defense in the league – fourth against the run and fifth against the pass. They are tied for first in first downs yielded per game, second in points allowed and fourth in third-down efficiency.
Their 49 rushing yards allowed against the Buffalo Bills in Week 5 was the defense’s lowest rushing total of the season.
But the strength of the defense has to be the defensive tackle tandem of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, both first-round draft picks that Detroit has invested in. The Vikings’ only first-round draft pick on the defensive line, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, hasn’t paid much attention to the Lions’ stars.
“I understand that they’re great players. They’re great players, that’s all that I can say,” Floyd said. “We play the same position. I’m not studying their position. I watch the offensive line.”
Floyd, drafted in 2013, said he didn’t pay much attention to Suh, a 2010 first-round draft pick, or Fairley, a 2011 first-rounder, when he Floyd was in college.
“No, I just played the sport,” Floyd said.
Since 2010, Suh has 28.5 sacks, tied for second-most in the NFL, and needs only one more to tie Detroit’s franchise record for sacks by a defensive tackle, held by Shaun Rogers. Fairley has four sacks in the past three games against the Vikings.
The Vikings, meanwhile, have struggled against the run. They are 19th in the league in run defense but gave up a season-high 156 yards to the Green Bay Packers, known more for their passing prowess than rushing attack.
“We’ve got to be in the right place, we’ve got to get off blocks, we’ve got to cover better, we’ve got to rush better,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “I don’t know if you have enough time for that right now.”
Asked what went wrong in the last few games – when the Vikings have given up 150, 108, 123 and 156 yards rushing since the season opener – Floyd said it was more about teamwork and persistence.
“I just think we’ve got to stay together as a team, especially when we’re down in the game,” he said. “That’s pretty much it. We pretty much stop ourselves. We were out of place in a lot of things. Once we clean up what we do and play better ball, we’ll be alright.”
While Fairley and Suh only have one sack apiece and the Lions have 12 as a team, the Vikings have 10 as a team with their starting defensive tackles, Floyd and Linval Joseph, having only one apiece, as well.
Floyd said the defensive linemen are being asked to playing differently this year in Zimmer’s defense.
“This year is more an aggressive read technique and last year it was pretty much play the run to the ball,” he said.
Vikings-Lions: Laying it on the lines?
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