A weekly look at the Vikings’ upcoming matchup featuring numbers that shouldn’t give the reader a headache or require an advanced mathematics degree to decipher.
Paced by a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown by Xavier Rhodes, a 104-yard TD kick return by Cordarrelle Patterson, and a resurgent pass rush, the Vikings held on to beat Arizona, 30-24, snapping their four-game losing skid. Detroit benefitted from a 39-yard interception TD return by Rafael Bush and a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown by Andre Roberts in holding off Jacksonville, 26-19.
This will be the 111th meeting between the two franchises. Minnesota holds a 71-37-2 advantage. The most recent matchup occurred on Nov. 6 when Detroit prevailed in overtime, 22-16. The Vikings took a 16-13 lead with 23 seconds remaining, but a defensive collapse allowed Detroit to tie the game on a 58-yard Matt Prater field goal and win it on a Matthew Stafford to Golden Tate 28-yard TD pass in OT.
The Vikings have a 5-1 record on Thanksgiving. They last played on Turkey Day in 2000 when they beat the Cowboys, 27-15.
The Lions are 36-38-2 on Thanksgiving.
- Despite running 16 more plays than the Vikings, the Cardinals only had a 2:04 edge in time of possession.
- Prior to Sunday’s game, the Vikings had nine plays of 100 yards or more in 56 years of existence. On Sunday, they recorded two such plays.
- Arizona shredded Minnesota for 263 yards of offense in the first half. In the second half, the Vikings defense allowed only 27 yards.
- Minnesota’s three sacks in the last six minutes of the Arizona game matched the Purple’s sack output versus Washington, Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia combined.
- David Johnson’s 89 yards rushing in the first half against Minnesota exceeded the Vikings’ total rushing yardage for seven of their 10 games.
- The Vikings’ leading rusher, Jerick McKinnon, has just 285 yards and is averaging 2.9 yards per carry.
- The Vikings are the lone NFL team to win a game with less than 220 yards of offense. They have accomplished the feat twice. The rest of the league is 0-10 when producing such low yardage.
The Vikings and Cardinals were penalized a combined 18 times for 169 yards.
Patterson had 53 receiving yards against the Cardinals, but according to Pro Football Focus, 52 of those yards came after the catch.
The Vikings rank 15th in the league with 259 rushing attempts, yet they are last in yards with 700 (2.7 a carry).
The Vikings are tied for first with Kansas City at plus-13. The Lions are 11th at plus-2. Minnesota’s 20 takeaways double the number of Detroit takeaways.
After averaging over 6 yards on first down the previous two weeks, the Vikings averaged just 2.91 yards on first down versus the Cardinals. In the first half, the Vikings ran on eight of 10 first-down plays. The second half was more balanced, as Minnesota ran six times and passed on seven first-down snaps.
The Vikings’ meager first-down production topped Detroit’s effort last week versus Jacksonville. The Lions averaged 2.68 yards per first-down play. The Lions had a 13-to-9 run-to-pass split on first down.
Bradford & His Buddies
For the second week in a row, the Vikings’ injury-ravaged offensive line did a decent job protecting Sam Bradford as he was "only" sacked two times. According to PFF, the line allowed 10 pressures on his 30 dropbacks, which is an improvement over the line’s previous performance. However, the Vikings’ new emphasis on a quick, short passing attack is a big reason why the line’s deficiencies haven’t been as glaring. PFF calculates that Bradford’s average time to throw on Sunday was a scant 2.18 seconds, and he didn’t attempt one pass beyond 20 yards downfield. For the afternoon, Bradford was an efficient 20 of 28 for 169 yards (6.03 per attempt) and a touchdown.
The first-year Minnesota starter has compiled an impressive 99.8 rating in completing 217 of 311 passes (69.8 percent) for 2,192 yards (7.0 per attempt) with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions. A few weeks ago versus the Lions, Bradford went 31 of 40 for 273 yards and a TD. His main target that afternoon was Stefon Diggs, who snagged 13 catches for 80 yards. The second-year wideout is Minnesota’s leading receiver with 67 receptions for 747 yards (11.1) and two TDs.
The Lions have struggled at times defending the pass this year, ranking 17th by giving up 253.6 yards a game through the air. Opposing quarterbacks have recorded an impressive 108.5 average rating. Detroit has picked off six passes and registered 20 sacks. Defensive end Kerry Hyder leads the team with seven sacks. Last week, the Lions failed to sack Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles, although defensive end Ezekiel Anshan managed to hit him four times, according to PFF.
Grounded Ground Game
Minnesota continues to average a historically low 2.7 yards per carry. The 72 rushing yards posted last week was the team’s fifth-highest total in 10 games. In their previous matchup versus the Lions, the Vikings managed 78 yards on the ground and topped their season average by carving out 3.12 yards per attempt.
With a little patience, the Vikings might have some success running against the Lions. Detroit is 18th in the league, surrendering 104.6 yards rushing per game and 4.2 yards per carry.
Motoring with Matthew
Stafford has quietly put together a solid season for the Lions. He’s completed 238 of 351 passes (67.8 percent) for 2,651 yards (7.6 per attempt) with 18 TDs and five interceptions. His completion percentage and average yards per attempt are career highs. A few weeks back versus the Vikings, Stafford went 23 of 36 for 219 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He was masterful in leading the Lions to the game-tying field goal at the end of regulation and the winning touchdown in overtime. Stafford has been sacked 22 times this season, including three occasions last week against Jacksonville.
In averaging 252.2 passing yards per game (16th in the league), Stafford’s favorite target has been Tate, who has 52 catches for 540 yards (10.4) and two TDs. Tate caught 11 balls on the Vikings earlier this year for 79 yards and the winning touchdown. Tight end Eric Ebron also was a valuable target for Stafford in that encounter, recording seven receptions for 92 yards. In seven games this season, Ebron has 35 catches for 451 yards (12.9) and a touchdown. The Vikings also have to be wary of running back Theo Riddick as a receiving threat. He is the Lions’ second-leading receiver with 43 receptions for 343 yards (8.0) and four touchdowns. As a team, Detroit is third in the NFL in average yards after catch: 6.26.
The Minnesota pass defense ranks fourth in the NFL, giving up 206.1 yards a game. The Vikings are holding opposing quarterbacks to a 73.4 average rating in picking off 12 passes and registering 26 sacks. Minnesota is the only team with three defensive ends boasting five or more sacks: Danielle Hunter (7), Everson Griffen (6) and Brian Robison (5).
The pass rush finally came alive for Minnesota in the second half last week versus the Cardinals. In 42 dropbacks, the Vikings hit Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer 23 times, knocked him down 17 times and sacked him four times, according to FOX. PFF’s analysis revealed that four Vikings had five or more pressures, including Griffen and Hunter, who both had nine. Minnesota hit Palmer on three of the game’s final four plays. Most impressively, the Vikings caused havoc for Palmer without relying on the blitz. Minnesota blitzed just four times, yet, according to PFF, the Vikes pressured Palmer at the highest rate of any quarterback this season: 63 percent.
Stafford will be a tougher target for Minnesota’s resurgent pass rush. He’s more mobile, and the Lions emphasize a quick-passing attack. In their previous game this season, the Vikings hit Stafford only four times.
While Minnesota’s inept ground game has received plenty of negative attention, Detroit’s running attack isn’t much better. The Lions are 30th in the league by averaging 79.5 yards a game. Riddick is the team’s leading rusher with 310 yards on 79 carries. His 3.9 yards-per-carry average is inflated by a 42-yard run earlier this year against Minnesota.
As Riddick’s 42-yard burst revealed, the Vikings have been susceptible to big runs. Minnesota is 13th in the league, allowing 100.8 rushing yards a game and 4.2 per attempt (just like the Lions).
Best of the Rest
Vikings on offense
- Vikings points per game: 20.5 (22nd)
- Detroit points allowed per game: 22.5 (16th)
- Vikings points per drive: 1.56 (27th)
- Detroit points allowed per drive: 2.25 (26th)
- Vikings total offense: 293.8 yards (32nd)
- Detroit total defense: 358.2 yards (19th)
- Vikings red zone TD scoring percentage: 48.27 (27th)
- Detroit red zone defense TD allowed percentage: 66.67 (31st)
Lions on offense
- Detroit points per game: 23.1 (17th)
- Vikings points allowed per game: 17.6 (2nd)
- Detroit points per drive: 2.17 (11th)
- Vikings points allowed per drive: 1.52 (6th)
- Detroit total offense: 331.7 yards (25th)
- Vikings total defense: 306.9 yards (3rd)
- Detroit red zone TD scoring percentage: 62.96 (9th)
- Vikings red zone defense TD allowed percentage: 51.85 (9th)
According to FiveThirtyEight, Minnesota has a 44 percent chance of beating Detroit.