The Vikings' defense has exceeded all expectations this season — save for coordinator Mike Tomlin's — but an offense that lacked a sense of urgency last Sunday against Buffalo has disappointed just about everyone.
Both units will get their final chance to make an impression before the bye week and going against the 0-4 Detroit Lions at home should help.
Minnesota must get its run game on track and blockers need to start opening up holes for running back Chester Taylor. Taylor isn't a guy who is going to overwhelm anyone with his moves so he needs some legitimate space created for him if he's going to break off a series of long runs. If this begins to happen, and it's a big if, quarterback Brad Johnson's opportunities to attack through the air will increase.
Heck, with Detroit's pass defense ranked 30th in the NFL, the Vikings might go right at the Lions' biggest weakness and worry about the run later. That could work for one game but long range it isn't going to do much good and it's highly unlikely coach Brad Childress will abandon the run.
Tomlin's defense, meanwhile, has an opportunity for another strong performance against a Lions offense that is tied with Minnesota for 16th overall. Detroit's running game is even worse than the Vikings, ranking 29th.
Defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams make it all but impossible to gain yards up the middle and the linebacker corps also has done a very respectable job.
Buffalo had little luck running the ball last Sunday, averaging 2.9 yards per carry. But Tomlin likely will want to see a better performance from his pass defense. Bills quarterback J.P. Losman threw for 222 yards and had completions of 23, 23, 17, 16 and 13 yards.
The Vikings have not given up more than 19 points in a game this season.
The Lions' passing game has been their strong suit in the first quarter of the season and that coincides with the weakness of the Minnesota defense. The Vikings have only six sacks in their first four games and are giving up an average of 200 yards per game passing. The Lions will attack Minnesota with the passing game but they won't forget the running game entirely. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz feels they have to run the ball to make the passing game effective.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH