Vikings-Lions Game Plan

Will the Vikings play to the Lions' weakness or continue trying to establish a running game? Get the vibe from both camps and the matchups to watch in Sunday's game between the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions.

VIKINGS

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.

LIONS

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

  • Vikings left guard Steve Hutchinson and center Matt Birk will earn their money against Lions defensive tackle Shaun Rogers. Rogers has two of the Lions' six sacks and will be a primary focus during preparation this week. The Hutchinson-Rogers pairing is a match-up of two Pro Bowl players. It's likely Birk also will turn his attention Rogers' way on numerous occasions.

  • The Lions certainly will be interested to see how things play out this week as they prepare receiver Roy Williams to face the Vikings' secondary. Cornerback Fred Smoot has been slow to adjust to Minnesota's Tampa-2 scheme and has too frequently been off receivers. That might indicate Williams will go at Smoot, but there is one thing to keep in mind. Cornerback Antoine Winfield showed up on the injury report as questionable because of a thigh problem. That could mean rookie Cedric Griffin will start or that Winfield will be slowed. Either way, Williams, who leads the Lions with 25 receptions, could be in a good spot to make an impact.

  • Nose tackle Pat Williams and defensive tackle Kevin Williams were dominant against the run versus Buffalo and will try to make running up the middle impossible for the Lions' Kevin Jones. Detroit center Dominic Raiola and guards Ross Verba and Damien Woody will try to open up holes but that won't be easy against the Vikings tandem.

  • Lions RB Kevin Jones vs. Vikings LB E.J. Henderson. Jones and his offensive line have gotten something going in the past two games; Henderson is the Vikings' leading run stopper.

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