By the numbers: Solidifying the sacks

The Vikings know they have to get their rush lanes right and Detroit could make them right. Plus, get more than three dozen comparative stats between the Vikings and Lions.

As the Vikings take the field Sunday against the Detroit Lions, one of the talking points will be Detroit’s top-ranked defense. But when all is said and done, the Vikings will be looking to make their own statement on defense.

While the Lions have done a lot of things right to start the 2014 season, one area in which they’ve struggled has been protecting Matthew Stafford. Through five games, Detroit has allowed 17 sacks. Only Jacksonville has a worse sack per pass play percentage. With Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush both expected to miss Sunday’s game, two of Stafford’s primary targets will be missing and the Vikings will be looking to dial up the pressure on him.

Through five games, the Vikings have registered 10 sacks, but the potential for several more have been missed. Defensive lineman Corey Wootton believes that the Vikings have to tweak their pass rush a bit in order to make the most of the talent they have because a lot of times sacks are created by team play, not necessarily individual effort.

“The biggest thing is if we can rush together as a team instead of individuals, that’s a big thing that we’ve been trying to do,” Wootton said. “When you rush together as one, you’re able to get sacks as a team. One guy may flush him to another guy and if he’s where he’s supposed to be, that’s his sack.”

Head coach Mike Zimmer earned his coaching stripes by preaching a team concept in pass rushing – staying true to an assignment and not freelancing and getting out of position. Over the last couple of weeks, the D-line has been getting an earful from Zimmer about playing assignment-sound.

“We’ve heard about it quite a bit,” Wootton said. “We’re leaving plays out there. On the defensive line, we’ve got a lot of talented guys. The biggest thing is that you have to rush together as a unit to be successful. You look at the teams that lead the league in sacks every year and you see them feed off each other and they’re right where they need to be. A lot of times, you may not win on your rush, but if you’re where you’re supposed to be and you keep going, you might get a sack you might not have had if you weren’t in that position.”

If the Vikings are to protect their home turf, one of the keys will be not only pressuring Stafford, but knocking him down and sacking him. The Lions have been vulnerable to sacks and, while their defense is getting most of the headlines, the Vikings defense has the opportunity to make its own statement and take the fight to the shorthanded Lions offense.

VIKINGS-LIONS BY THE NUMBERS


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  • The Vikings have the 23rd-ranked offense in the NFL (10th rushing, 27th passing) and the 15th-ranked defense (19th rushing, 11th passing).

  • The Lions have the 19th-ranked offense (28th rushing, 10th passing) and the top-rated defense (4th rushing, 5th passing).

  • Detroit is ranked in the top seven in 10 defense categories – total defense (1), yards allowed per play (2), rushing yards (4), rushing average per play (4), passing yards (5), passing average per play (6), sacks per pass play (7), first downs allowed (1), third-down efficiency (4) and points allowed (2).

  • Minnesota is averaging 335 yards a game on offense (205 passing, 130 rushing). Detroit is averaging 343 yards a game (259 passing, 84 rushing).

  • The Vikings are allowing 347 yards a game (225 passing, 122 rushing). The Lions are allowing 282 yards a game (208 passing, 74 rushing).

  • The Lions and Vikings are both tied for 21st in giveaway/takeaway ratio at minus-2. The Lions have eight giveaways and six takeaways, while the Vikings have seven giveaways and five takeaways.

  • Detroit is 11th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 7 of 11 possessions (63.6 percent). Minnesota is tied for 20th at 50 percent (14 possessions and seven touchdowns).

  • The Lions are 14th in red zone defense, allowing seven touchdowns on 13 possessions (53.8 percent). The Vikings are 25th at 69.2 percent (13 possessions, nine touchdowns).

  • Detroit is ninth in third-down offense, converting on 34 of 74 chances (45.9 percent). Minnesota is 25th at 36.4 percent (24 of 66). The league average is 42.1 percent.

  • The Lions are fourth in third-down defense, allowing conversions on 22 of 66 chances (33.3 percent). The Vikings are 29th at 47.8 percent (32 of 67).

  • The Vikings are fourth in average starting position after kickoffs at the 23.6-yard line. The Lions are 21st with an average start at the 20.4-yard line. The league average is the 21.2-yard line.

  • Detroit is sixth in defensive starting position after kickoffs at the 19.5-yard line. Minnesota is 13th with an average starting defensive position of the 20.4-yard line.

  • Matthew Stafford and Teddy Bridgewater each have one 300-yard passing game.

  • Minnesota hasn’t allowed a 300-yard passer. Detroit has allowed one.

  • The Lions have three 100-yard receiving games, two from Golden Tate and one from Calvin Johnson. The Vikings have one 100-yard receiving game (Jarius Wright).

  • Neither the Vikings nor Lions have allowed a 100-yard receiving game.

  • The Vikings have two 100-yard rushing games – one from Jerick McKinnon and one from Cordarrelle Patterson. The Lions haven’t had a 100-yard rusher this season.

  • Detroit hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher this year. The Vikings have allowed two.

  • Stafford is seventh in attempts (179), ninth in completions (113), 19th in completion percentage (63.3), fifth in yards (1,397), ninth in average gain (7.80), tied for 17th in touchdowns (6) and interceptions (4), and 19th in passer rating (89.1). Bridgewater doesn’t have enough pass attempts to qualifying on the leaderboard yet.

  • Stafford is 30th in fourth-quarter passer rating at just 67.6. Bridgewater hasn’t thrown enough passing to qualify.

  • Stafford is seventh in third-down passer rating at 107.9. No Vikings QB has enough third-down pass attempts to qualify.

  • Matt Asiata is 23rd in rushing yards with 231 and McKinnon is 39th with 166 yards. Reggie Bush leads Detroit with 161 yards, which ranks 41st.

  • Tate is tied for 10th in receptions with 31. Despite missing almost all of the last two games, Megatron is still tied for 36th with 22 receptions. Jennings leads the Vikings with 17 receptions, which ties him for 64th.

  • Tate is fifth in receiving yards with 451. Johnson is still 18th in yardage with 351. Jennings leads the Vikings with 235 yards, with ranks him 53rd.

  • Asiata is tied for ninth in scoring among non-kickers with 24 points (four touchdowns). No Lion has scored more than two touchdowns.

  • Blair Walsh is 10th in scoring with 39 points. The Lions will be playing their third kicker in six games today.

  • Walsh is tied for fourth in touchbacks with 21.

  • Tate is 10th in the league in total yards from scrimmage with 455 yards (451 receiving, 4 rushing). Asiata is tied for 38th with 342 yards (231 rushing, 111 receiving).

  • Jeff Locke is 16th in punting average at 45.6 yards. Detroit’s Sam Martin is third with an average of 49.2 yards.

  • Martin is fourth in net punting average at 42.9 yards. Locke is 15th with a 39.8-yard net average.

  • Detroit’s Jeremy Ross is fifth in punt return average at 12.8 yards. Marcus Sherels is 17th with a 7.6-yard average.

  • Patterson is third in kick return average at 28.0 yards. Detroit is one of 12 teams without enough kick returns to have a qualifier for the league lead.

  • Harrison Smith is tied for the NFL lead with three interceptions and Josh Robison is tied for fifth with two. No Lion has more than one.

  • Everson Griffen is tied for 11th place in sacks with three. Detroit’s George Johnson is tied for 24th place with 2.5 sacks.

  • The Lions have outscored opponents 31-10 in the first quarter of games and 57-26 in the first half.

  • Detroit has allowed just 43 points in the first three quarters of games and 36 in the fourth quarter.

  • The Lions have missed 8 of 12 field goal attempts and made just 1 of 9 attempts from 40 yards and beyond, which can explain why they’re on their third kicker.

  • The Vikings have been outscored 44-24 in the first quarter of games and 113-63 in the first three quarters. They have outscored their opponents 38-13 in the fourth quarter.


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