Key matchups for Minnesota Vikings defense

The Minnesota Vikings’ job of containing the run won’t get any easier Sunday.

The Vikings didn’t have any time to wallow in their “embarrassing” loss. By Wednesday, head coach Mike Zimmer decided it was time to focus on the Detroit Lions and quit talking about the mistakes made against the San Francisco 49ers.

Still, the lessons from Monday night have to be learned and applied to Sunday afternoon.

Carlos Hyde ran for 168 yards, with the 49ers finding running lanes open because the Vikings’ defensive discipline had fallen apart. Linebackers took wrong gaps, defensive backs lost contain and defensive ends got sucked in and didn’t follow an old-school credo of staying “as deep as the deepest back.”

“It’s really about being in the right place, getting off the blocks,” Zimmer said when asked about missed tackles. “The good tackling teams in the NFL usually have more than one guy there.”

Zimmer called the lack of gang tackling “ridiculous” on Tuesday, but that had to be stressed repeatedly this week because it will be even more important with the quickness and acceleration of Detroit running back, Ameer Abdullah.

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Two of the Vikings’ linebackers, both from UCLA, faced the former Nebraska running back in college.

“He was a good back in college. He’s playing for Detroit now, obviously. It’s totally different now. He’s in the NFL. It’s a whole different line,” said rookie Eric Kendricks. “He was good in college. He’s good in the NFL. I can’t really tell you too much. I haven’t watched too much film on him yet, but I can tell you he’s good from when I played him.”

Said Anthony Barr: “I played him a couple times in college. Very quick, instinctive back. We’ve just got to contain him, try to make him run within the tackles. He likes to get out and escape and he’s a quick guy so we’ve just got to keep him contained.”

If the Vikings can shut down the Lions running game, the pressure will be on the defensive backs to at least limit prolific pass catcher Calvin Johnson. In the second meeting between the Vikings and Lions last year, Xavier Rhodes shadowed Johnson throughout the game and the results were positive: Johnson gained just 53 yards on four catches.

The Lions are much more than simply Abdullah in the running game and Johnson in the passing game, but those have to be the top two focuses for the Vikings defense in their home opener.

“I think they’re focused on their job and what they need to do, yes,” Zimmer said. “They’ve been paying attention in meetings and practicing good.”

 


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