Vikings-Lions Game Plan

The Vikings' running game could be key to them getting a win on the road.

The Vikings offense is going to need to generate more than the 10 points it put on the board in the opening game against Atlanta. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is being asked to manage the game at this point, but eventually he's going to need to get the ball downfield and so things can open up for a running game that could be one of the best in the NFL.

Jackson completed 13 passes against the Falcons to nine receivers but no one had more than two catches. Slot receiver Bobby Wade, a free-agent pickup from Tennessee, caught a key 28-yard pass but that was his only reception of the day.

The offense must do its job because the defense likely will have its hands full against a Lions aerial attack led by quarterback Jon Kitna.

The Falcons surprised many by not attempting to go to a hurry-up scheme with an empty backfield and five receivers last Sunday. This is what worked so well last season against a Vikings pass defense that tied for the worst in the NFL.

New Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier did an excellent job of mixing in blitzes against the Falcons, but some team is going to try to spread out the Vikings and it probably will be the Lions.

The Lions don't want to let the Vikings chew up the clock with their running game and turn this into a defensive battle. They need to stop the run. Better yet, they would like to jump out to a lead and force the Vikings to throw the ball to play catch-up.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Vikings CB Marcus McCauley vs. Lions WR Calvin Johnson. McCauley enters the game in nickel situations but takes over at left corner because Antoine Winfield slides into the slot. This could mean McCauley will find himself frequently matched up against Johnson. This is a mismatch in terms of size: Johnson is 6-5, 235 pounds; McCauley is 6-1, 203. McCauley got positive reviews for his play in the nickel defense in the opener against Atlanta but Lions quarterback Jon Kitna is certain to test the Fresno State product on multiple occasions at Ford Field. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is certain to try to get his youngster some safety help.

Vikings RT Ryan Cook vs. DE Jamaal Anderson. Cook held his own in Week 1 against the Falcons' first-round choice. But the inexperienced Cook will get another tough test when he faces the Lions' Dewayne White, who had seven tackles, one sack and an interception in Detroit's victory over Oakland. He also forced two fumbles. One of the most interesting things about this matchup will be how Cook handles the crowd noise in Ford Field. Cook had problems with false-start penalties in the preseason, especially in the noisy environment of Seattle, and playing at home in Week 1 noise wasn't a big factor for the Vikings offense.

Vikings RB Adrian Peterson ran like a veteran in his first NFL game and served notice to opponents that he's going to make the most of his opportunities. It will be interesting to see the type of impact Lions tackle Shaun Rogers can have on Peterson's ability to rack up yards. Middle linebacker Paris Lenon will be counted on to help in run support. Lenon surely will see a steady diet of fullbacks Tony Richardson, Naufahi Tahi and possibly Jeff Dugan leading the way for Peterson, and perhaps the injured Chester Taylor, throughout Sunday's game.

Lions QB Jon Kitna, who committed two turnovers for touchdowns in one game against Minnesota last year, vs. Vikings pass defense. In the teams' first meeting last year, defensive tackle Pat Williams stripped Kitna and the fumble was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. Linebacker E.J. Henderson intercepted Kitna and returned the ball for a touchdown. The Vikings came back from a 17-3 deficit to win, 26-17. The Lions have to put Kitna in better situations, and Kitna cannot press.

INJURY IMPACT

If Chester Taylor is slowed or unable to go, it will mean the Lions will see plenty of Peterson. Considering the way Peterson ran against the Falcons, this wouldn't be the worst thing to happen to Minnesota.

Richardson's bruised forearm could be somewhat of a concern and might open the door to getting Jeff Dugan some snaps at fullback. Defensive right end Erasmus James was on the inactive list last Sunday as he recovers from a knee injury. It's unclear when James will be back but at this point, it's not that big of an issue because both second-year player Ray Edwards and rookie Brian Robison have looked sharp on the right side.

The Lions are pretty healthy. The only area of concern is running back, where T.J. Duckett (ankle) and Kevin Jones (foot) probably won't play. But they have Tatum Bell and Brian Calhoun, and they have brought back Aveion Cason just in case.


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