A year ago the Detroit Lions’ defensive front seemed to have their way with the Minnesota Vikings, totaling 12 sacks in the two games they played each other. So there was some reason for concern heading into the second week of the NFL regular season for Vikings fans.
That concern was then amplified by the performance the Vikings offensive line put on in their Week 1 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers totaled five sacks.
But the line appeared to be much improved in Week 2 and did a good job protecting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who was only sacked once.
“We just had a great week of practice so it starts with that,” said offensive guard Brandon Fusco. “Communication was good today; we’re all on the same page. We were more physical today and it showed on the field. Coach (Norv Turner) really didn’t have to call many pass plays because the run was there and it was working, so might as well keep going with it. Adrian (Peterson) had a good day and usually when he has a good day the offensive line has a good day.”
The running game was key to the success of the Vikings line because it kept the Lions defense back on its heels. They had to watch out for Peterson running the ball, so their pass rush suffered.
Most offensive linemen prefer to run block because they get to be more physical and they are the ones attacking. So when Peterson got going on the ground, the offensive line was happy to help.
“These are the games that I love playing,” Fusco said. “I’m a physical guy myself and our offensive line is a physical group so we love to run the ball and give 28 the ball. When he has the ball anything can happen.”
The offensive line put in a lot of work this past week to improve on their Monday night performance and it showed on Sunday. They studied tape and really felt like they understood what their opponents were going to do.
Right guard Mike Harris gives a lot of protection improvement to the coaching staff preparing them and was happy with the way everything turned out.
“I felt like we just had a good game plan,” Harris said. “Just being able to run the ball helped a lot. We were able to keep them on their toes and run the ball up their throats so that helped. Just communication, we had a good game plan watching their pressures, just studying them. I’m proud of my guys and I’m looking forward to continuing to get better.”
As Harris said, communication is always important for a football team, but it is especially important for the offensive line. They need to be on the same page with one another so they know which lineman is blocking which defender. If communication is lacking along the line, bad things usually happen.
“Yeah, that was definitely a big emphasis, communication,” left tackle Matt Kalil said. “Thought we did that. Like I said, thought we did a great job today.”
The offensive line had something to prove this week and they came out and did it. They knew the Lions were going to be a difficult matchup because they play a physical style of defense, but at the end of the day the Vikings were the more physical team.
“I think the main thing was we were more physical than them today,” Fusco said. “It showed that we didn’t really have to pass the ball much, the run game was there and it just kept working. Coach Turner had belief in the offensive line today to move the line of scrimmage and we did that.”