The Lions have a couple of significant challenges with the Vikings offense on Sunday, and the signs aren't good when it comes to both the rushing game and the passing game. So what will the normally aggressive defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham do and what does he think of Brett Favre?
In their season opener at New Orleans, the Lions gave up six touchdown passes to quarterback Drew Brees
and 143 yards to running back Mike Bell
Now in Week 2, they host Minnesota.
Guess who was the last NFL quarterback to throw six TD passes before Brees? The Vikings' Brett Favre
, who did it with the Jets against Arizona last year.
Guess who was the only NFL player who racked up more rushing yards than Bell last week? The Vikings' Adrian Peterson
, who rushed for 180 yards at Cleveland, not to mention three touchdowns.
Yes, the Lions' defense has a huge challenge coming up.
The Lions' defense ranked last in yards and points allowed each of the past two seasons, and though 17 of the 25 players are new - including as many as nine of the 11 starters - it has a long away to go.
"Can you change everything in one year?" Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "Probably not. But that's no excuse."
After reviewing film of the Vikings' opener at Cleveland, Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham doesn't see that much difference between the 39-year-old Favre and the Favre of old.
"His arm speed is good again," Cunningham said. "In the preseason games, it looked like he was a little slow on the delivery, but I looked at the Cleveland game. He looks like his old self."
Cunningham is known for his aggressiveness. But he didn't blitz Brees because Brees releases the ball so quickly. Favre can do the same thing, though he took four sacks against the Browns and others have tested his mobility. It remains to be seen whether Cunningham will test it, too.
"A lot of people have really blitzed him in the preseason," Cunningham said. "I don't know what their thought was on that, but some of those coordinators get excited facing Brett Favre. But I thought he handled all those things well."
One thing Favre has now is Peterson, the NFL's leading rusher last year. If Bell can shred the Lions, what could Peterson do?
The Lions couldn't stop the Saints even when they knew the run was coming. Trailing by 18 in the fourth quarter, the Lions faced a run every down. Bell gained one yard, then 15, then five, then nine. Then Reggie Bush
gained 10. Finally, a four-yard touchdown run by Bush was nullified by a penalty, and the Saints ran out the clock.
Schwartz cited problems like misalignments and poor gap fits.
"Most of those weren't physical errors," Schwartz said. "There was one or two plays in there where their speed was evident and our lack of speed was evident. But most of those plays were missed gaps and things like that that can be corrected. It was a little bit different run scheme, a little bit different package, than we worked on, but that's no excuse."
Linebacker Larry Foote
said the loss was a "nice little butt-whupping," but nothing he hadn't experienced before.
"You're embarrassed," Foote said. "Anytime they put up those amount of points, you feel bad. You don't sleep well. You don't want to talk. You don't want to watch ‘SportsCenter.'
"I know how to respond to those type of games, and hopefully this team does, too."
SERIES HISTORY: 96th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series, 63-30-2. Lions have lost 13 of their past 14 games - and 17 of past 19 - against Vikings. Their last victory in the series was Sept. 16, 2007, at Ford Field, when they won in overtime, 20-17. But both of last year's games were close: 12-10 and 20-16.
In a meeting Monday, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan told the players this year's group showed more fight Sunday in a 45-27 loss to the Saints than last year's did Dec. 21 in a 42-7 loss to the Saints. "He said he watched the Saints game from last year," center Dominic Raiola said Monday. "There was no effort after the first two times the Saints scored last year that even gave us a shot to even come back in the game. He said he saw that in us yesterday. I think that was encouraging to hear from him, to put that into perspective. ... It was good to hear from him, to see that it wasn't the same team that was on the field as last year." Running back Kevin Smith said: "We didn't respond this year how we responded last year. I think last year kind of would have put our heads down - maybe not quit, but would have put our heads down - and maybe some players mentally would have felt like we were out of it."
While speaking about rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford's arm strength, Vikings coach Brad Childress said he was "like a young Brett Favre, where you say, ‘Geez, he can't throw it that far,' and the next thing you know, it's over the top of your head." Favre didn't chafe when Stafford was compared to him. "He's got all the tools," Favre said. "There's no doubt about it. There's only one way to get better, and that's play. They drafted him for a lot of reasons, and from what I can tell, I think he'll have a bright future." Lions coach Jim Schwartz isn't getting carried away, though. "He's got a long way to go before we're comparing him to Brett Favre," Schwartz said.
Favre is running essentially the same offense he ran for the Packers from 1992-2007. "I see a lot of what they did at Green Bay in the system now, although Brad Childress has got a great system," defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said. "He's from Philadelphia, and I've coached against him plenty of times. You see a lot of the old Green Bay stuff showing up with what he's doing behind the center, prior to the snap, the way he reads. He's throwing the ball quick when he has to. I saw him launch a couple of deep ones, and he put it right on the money. On one of them, (wide receiver Sidney Rice) was out of bounds by about an inch, and that was a 55-yard throw at least. So it looks like he's still Brett Favre."
Although the Vikings have linebacker E.J. Henderson back, Schwartz wouldn't take any credit from their vaunted defensive line. "He's a good player, but their strength is up front," Schwartz said. "They have a lot of good players. They're good in the secondary. They have an outstanding corner. Their linebackers are good. But their strength is their defensive line. It has been for the last couple years, and that's where the challenge is. They were No. 1 in the NFL in rushing defense last year. It doesn't end with the D line, but it starts with the D line. It makes it easier for those guys like Henderson playing behind the ball to fill those gaps because it's hard to get linemen up to the linebackers."
Asked for his favorite Favre story, Lions kicker Jason Hanson laughed and said: "How much I hate him, because we could never beat him." Hanson is the Lions' longest-tenured player, in his 18th season in Detroit. He played every game as the Lions lost 17 straight road games vs. Favre and the Packers, including a 28-24 playoff loss in January 1994. "We had him beat bad," Hanson said. "Game over, and he hooks that long one down the sideline and runs around with his helmet off. Those are the things that make you despise somebody."
Linebacker Larry Foote told a story about his first game against Favre, in 2005. He hit Favre, and Favre called him by his last name. He thought that was cool until Favre called another Steelers linebacker by his first name. "He trumped me a little bit," Foote said.
BY THE NUMBERS: 18 — Consecutive losses for the Lions, tying the 1972-73 Houston Oilers for the third-longest losing streak in NFL history. Lose Sunday, and the Lions will tie two teams for the second-worst losing streak of all-time: the 1961-62 Oakland Raiders and the 1942-43 and ‘45 Chicago Cardinals. The 1976-77 Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost 26 straight.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't get too disrespectful with the legends of the game. The other young guys, they're going to get a mouthful." — LB Larry Foote, on whether he will talk trash with Vikings QB Brett Favre.