Coaches started talking about the leads the Lions have taken this year in games and players have obviously taken in the message.
"In the last couple games we saw them play, they're a good team. They were up on Seattle 17-0 and then they made mistakes that got them out of the game. If they don't make those mistakes, they're going to be a pretty efficient offense," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said.
In fact, the Lions did have a 10-0 lead on the Vikings more than halfway through the second quarter of the first meeting between the two teams. Adrian Peterson fumbled near midfield and the Lions put their first points on the board with a field goal. Three possessions later, star receiver Calvin Johnson scored on an 8-yard reception.
Vikings coach Brad Childress said the team's early deficit there wasn't a result of taking the Lions lightly.
"I didn't see that from our group the first time. I do know that we had a drive going there and you want to get a game left-handed in a hurry. I think Adrian booted and kicked it on the ground when we were out around the 50-yard line and had a drive going and then bad things end up happening," Childress said. "… And I saw them go up 17-0 on Seattle and that's by virtue of those two quick turnovers. You want to make a game left-handed and you want to make it a struggle. All you got to do is get a couple of those ugly turnovers and now you got problems."
The problems didn't last beyond the second quarter in that first meeting. The Vikings scored 27 unanswered points and won 27-13.
"I don't think we took them lightly," said defensive end Jared Allen. "I hope no one did because we know how they play us, but they were able to do some things in the run game in that first game that we weren't stopping and we made adjustments at halftime and we came out and we shut it down."
Since then, the Vikings generally have played better to start games. They took a 10-0 lead against San Francisco, a 28-14 lead against Green Bay, a 14-0 lead against St. Louis and a 14-0 lead against Baltimore before losing to the Steelers. The issue for the Vikings after the Detroit game became allowing teams back into games after building solid leads.
"I know we probably feel we need to stop letting teams back into the game. There were a few games where we could have really put a team away and then we gave them an opportunity to get back into the game and made it closer than it needed to be," tackle Bryant McKinnie said.
But the Vikings could have the advantage playing Detroit the second time around. When they met the first time, the Vikings had only one regular-season game of film to study the Lions' tendencies with a new coaching staff and scheme.
"We just weren't sure. Some of the stuff they would do, we didn't have a lot of film to watch by them having a new coaching staff and everything," McKinnie said. "We didn't have a lot of film to watch the tendencies and the blitzes that they like to run. We have a little more film now and have a little better grasp of what type of team they are and that will make it a little easier for us to study what type of team they are."
On the other hand, the Vikings are also more experienced on offense too. Brett Favre has settled in as one of the league's best quarterbacks now that he has become comfortable with his surrounding talent in Minnesota. The result has been the second-highest scoring team in the league.
"We're steadily improving. One upward slope and camaraderie, being on the same page – quarterback, wide receiver, linemen," Shiancoe said. "They're going to see a little bit more seasoned Vikings team."
The Vikings believe they have enough veterans on the team to realize they can't completely overlook the Lions, despite being 16-point favorites at home. But, just in case, the coaches may emphasize that point as well.
"I think you hope that they're focused enough, but I think you sell it as well," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "I think it's important to point it out – every time we've played Detroit it's been a dogfight."
With a three-game lead in the NFC North and a 7-1 record overall, things have been going relatively well for the Vikings in the first half of the season. However, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier believes his players can do a much better job tackling.
"It really led to some explosive plays that we're going to cut down on going into the second half of the season. That's probably the No. 1 area we want to improve on," Frazier said. "If we can do that, we'll achieve a lot of our goals. Our run defense we think is headed in the right direction, but our pass defense has to improve, in particular being able to tackle after people make a 5-yard check-down."
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