Notebook: Vikings Leery of Cagey Lions

With a nine-game winning streak in the series, the Vikings would seem to have the Lions' number. But for a number of reasons, players know they can't afford to take Detroit lightly.

On paper and looking at the records of both teams, it would seem that the Minnesota Vikings should be favorites to win Sunday … but they are not.

The oddsmakers have Detroit as a slight favorite, and Vikings players are also cautious of the Lions despite their 2-10 record.

Center Matt Birk and safety Darren Sharper each cited instances in which the Vikings and Packers (in Sharper's case) played against a Detroit team that had an inferior record and ended up either beating their teams or making it much closer than most predicted.

As the saying goes, the Lions have nothing to lose.

"They can pretty much throw caution to the wind and give you all sorts of things you might not get or plan for," Sharper said. "A team that has nothing to lose a lot of times is the toughest team to play. If we go in there and do what we need to do – be careful with the football and go in there and create turnovers and play our usual style of knockout defense and get everything around us going, we should be fine."

This time, however, the Vikings also have to contend with the wacky world of offense according to Detroit coordinator Mike Martz.

While many teams have abandoned the run against Minnesota's top-ranked defense, Martz's modus operandi tracking back to his days in St. Louis is to throw the football anyway.

"It's a very complex scheme that he runs. I think I heard one time that they run about 200 plays that guys were trying to learn. That makes it hard on a defense, but we have some familiarity with them because of the fact that we played once already this year," Sharper said.

That's true, but the Vikings also needed a wild fourth quarter to overcome a 17-3 deficit. They scored 23 unanswered points in the final quarter that included a Ben Leber fumble recovery in the end zone and an E.J. Henderson 45-yard interception return for a touchdown to seal the 26-17 win.

In that Oct. 8 game, the Lions rushed for 16 yards on 11 attempts and had 201 yards passing.

So what does Sharper expect out of the Lions? It might depend on which question he is answering.

"In the scheme that they have, they're going to throw the ball a lot, so that's going to skew the numbers as far as interceptions," Sharper said when asked about Lions quarterback Jon Kitna's performance this year.

And when asked about their balance: "I truly feel that even though Martz likes to throw the football, they'll try to balance it out with Kevin Jones because he is a dynamic running back."

One thing the Vikings do know about their Sunday matchup is that they won't be facing Pro Bowl defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, who was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday.

"I've said on many occasions that I think he's the best that I've played against and the best in the league," Birk said. "He's one of those guys that it seems at certain time if he decides he's not going to be blocked, you're not going to block him.

"There aren't a lot of people like him walking around on the earth. That's why he gets paid a lot of money for the three technique on the line. He's just one of those special players that has all the tools, all the gifts."


If the Lions do go with the expected pass-happy attack, Roy Williams will likely be a target that Kitna seeks out regularly.

William, with 1,043 yards, is the first Lions receiver to hit the 1,000-yard mark since 2001 and has a 16.6-yard average on 90 catches.

"I think Roy in the NFC and maybe overall, he has to be put in the top 10 to five receivers in the league because of his explosiveness," Sharper said. "He's a big, tall guy that can stretch the field and go up and get the ball in the air."


  • With Fernando Bryant out, the Lions are expected to have Keith Smith or Stanley Wilson as a starting cornerback.

  • The Lions' injured reserve is littered with starters and would-be regular contributors: RB Shawn Bryson and Brian Calhoun, guards Damien Woody and Tyrone Hopson, tackle Rex Tucker, defensive tackles Shaun Cody and Rogers, and defensive end James Hall, among others.

  • Lions head coach and former Bucs defensive line coach Rod Marinelli on the Vikings' top-ranked rush defense: "They (Kevin and Pat Williams) both are playing very well. Both Williamses are really a load in there. I mean, they're playing great technique in there, very strong, very physical. They're doing a good job doing some pressure inside of it. But, they're just playing good, fundamental football, you know? Seven and eight-man fronts."

    Marinelli on what he knows about Vikings QB Tarvaris Jackson: "Not that much. The biggest thing when you're going into something - we'll have a chance to go in and look at tape on him - the biggest thing in any of these games right now is to make sure we're doing the things that we do on defense extremely well. Our disguises, what our blitz is and our biggest problem is that we don't execute. It's not about who's at the quarterback, it's our execution. One guy can be a little more mobile, whatever, but Brad (Johnson) is tough; the way he steps in. People think he's not mobile and he's not overly mobile, but just like (Tom) Brady, they work up in the pocket. Those are the guys that are tough to me; the ones that work up in the pocket."

  • Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson, who played his college ball at the University of Michigan, called it "crazy" that the Vikings are just one game out in the playoff race: "It's kind of crazy. Obviously we need to capitalize and win these next four games - the remaining four games - for us to have a shot there," he said. "I think with the exception of the Patriots game we were in every game up until the end. The team has a lot of fight in it. The defense has by in large kept us in every game and offensively if we don't turn the ball over or kill ourselves with penalties we have a pretty good shot to put points on the board and move the ball and we've done that a couple times this year."

  • Hutchinson admitted to the Detroit media that he was probably disappointed early in the season that he wasn't still with the Seahawks. "I probably was earlier. But, like I said, this is a business and things happen," he said. "I love Seattle. I'm with this team, great group of guys here, close friends, good locker room guys. That's kind of in the past now."

  • The Baltimore Ravens gave a tryout to punter John Torp, who spent the off-season with the Vikings.

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