Coming of a good, balanced attack (and win), the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday will face a better defense, at least according to the NFL rankings after only two weeks.
After Adrian Peterson rushed for 134 yards and the Vikings had 199 as a team, the Detroit Lions have fallen to the 28th-ranked rushing defense and 30th-ranked defense overall. That comes after they finished the season as the league’s second-best defense and top rushing defense last year and then parted ways with defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
The Chargers have put up more of a fight. Their defense is ranked 14th overall and 21st against the run after facing the Lions in Week 1 and the Cincinnati Bengals last week.
However, there is a potential weakness in the Chargers defense. While they are relatively strong most of the time, they are tied for the league lead in giving up three touchdowns of 20 yards or more and have given up nine plays of 20 yards or more in two games.
Only two of those plays for 20 yards or more have been rushes. Instead, while the pass defense has generally been average overall, ranked 14th, it’s been the big plays that have given the Chargers some trouble.
In their first game against the Lions, running back Ameer Abdullah not only had a 24-yard rushing touchdown, he also took a pass play 36 yards. Calvin Johnson added a 28-yarder, Theo Riddick a 21-yarder and Lance Moore a 22-yarder.
That could be good news for Peterson in the passing game since two of those explosive plays in the passing game against the Chargers went to running backs.
Peterson had 58 yards receiving against the Lions with 49 of those coming on an alert but risky play when Peterson didn’t hold his blitz pickup and Teddy Bridgewater, under duress, flipped the ball to Peterson, who found an opening down the left sideline.
“It’s just off of instinct,” Bridgewater said of that play. “You try to avoid negative yards and just trying to keep the play alive, trying to avoid a sack and keep the play alive. Adrian did a great job once the ball was in his hands of just making something happen.”
Peterson’s 58 yards were the sixth-highest of his career and the most since 2011.
For now, Peterson’s 49-yard pass play remains the longest of the young season, but the Vikings could find opportunities in the passing game to exploit an occasional Chargers miscue.