NFL Week 3 Preview: 5 Keys to Detroit Lions Victory Over Vikings

The Detroit Lions (1-1) will travel to Minnesota in week three to face the Minnesota Vikings in a 1-1 NFC North team battle. The Lions lost a close match to the Eagles in Week 1, then managed the commanders in Week 2, while the Vikings easily took care of the Packers in Week 1, then beat the Eagles.

Let’s take a closer look at the key things Lions need to do against Vikings to secure their second win of the season.

Key Matchup: Lions ‘gap run pattern versus Vikings’ new 34 defense

Vikings have a new coaching staff and with it a new defense. There is no longer Mike Zimmer’s Lightning 43 and in place of him is a more modern basic front 34 run by Ed Donatell. Prior to joining Vikings, Donatell spent the past three seasons as the Broncos’ defensive coordinator under then-manager Vic Fangio. Fangio is largely credited with the design and execution of the modern 34, which was copied throughout the NFL due to its adaptability and ability to disguise. Donatell followed suit, implementing this scheme in Minnesota.

Last May, Athletic’s Ted Nguyen wrote a very in-depth article breaking down the concepts of Fangio’s scheme, calling him the most influential defensive coordinator in the modern NFL.

“The popularity of the outfield system that stems from Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay has resulted in more teams employing a Vic Fangio-style defense, which asks defensive linemen to play slower and tackle a gap and a half, rather than fly the pitch. and only play an empty space, “Nguyen wrote Thursday.” Theoretically, the defense can live in light boxes and invest more staff in defending the pass, as long as its front can slow the ball carriers long enough to allow the secondary to to help”.

But here’s where things get fun for Lions.

“(Fangio’s scheme) works well against zone racing because offensive linemen move sideways, but Lions like to run straight into defenses with authority,” continued Nguyen. They want their offensive line, one of the best in the league, shooting vertically and punishing the defenders.

In Nguyen’s in-depth analysis of the Lions’ hasty attack, which is a must-read, Nguyen highlights a ridiculous amount of things that make defense so difficult and the positive results that come with their execution. The most impressive statistic is probably:

“Lions lead the league in yards before rush contact (3.79)”

In essence, this means that the Lions’ offensive line is getting so much push forward that they are blocking holes large enough for running backs to gain nearly 4 yards per transport before they are even touched by a defender. alarming.

When looking at Lions running back yards after contact stats, things get even more impressive. D’Andre Swift averages 5.35 yards after contact, Craig Reynolds is at 4.33 yards, while Jamaal Williams has 1.96 yards, although he has typically been used in short-yard situations. Double scary.

In addition to the Lions ‘positive running stats, the Vikings’ running defense was sidelined for two weeks. Against the Packers and Eagles combined – certainly two solid running teams – the Vikings conceded 274 yards on 52 carries and three touchdowns. This is an average of 5.27 yards allowed per run, which ranks 28th in the NFL.

Bottom line: This could be Lions’ biggest advantage and they must continue to channel their attack through the trenches.

Make it rain under the umbrella

Another staple in Fangio’s scheme was on display during the Vikings-Eagles match on “Monday Night Football”: The Fangio Shell.

Here’s a look at a 1st and 10th base in midfield for the Eagles:

Essentially, the Vikings are trying to mask their cover by moving between the players below with an over-the-top umbrella concept. This keeps the game in front of the defenders, allows them to attack and takes away some traditional zones that you would find in the base Cover-2 (like the famous turkey hole).

The Eagles rarely strayed from this basic draw because they wanted to reduce the chances of being beaten in the big game, as did Jalen Hurts fence if he climbed.

Here’s how the above play went:

The corners of the Vikings respect the speed of the Eagles’ receivers and offer a huge cushion, averaging 9 yards during play, which allows Hurts to take the easy option and find his boyfriend for a quick five yards. But he looks to the center of the pitch, where the Eagles have two skill players running free to the first down marker. A little more patience, or crawling, from Hurts and he could have done a bigger take. But Hurts took it easy on completion because frankly, he’s been there all night.

Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler was targeted eight times by Hurts and conceded five catches for just 31 yards. The rest of the secondary allowed 16 receptions on 16 targets for 205 yards. Meanwhile, the linebackers only conceded five of their seven targets, but gave up 97 yards in the air. Basically Hurts simply took what was there and moved across the field at the pace of 333 yards passing, completing 26 of 31 passing attempts.

With the Lions onslaught being a potential big deal for the Vikings, they could continue to try and deploy the Fangio bullet against the Lions and keep the game ahead of them. If they do, the center of the field is the most vulnerable, which means that Lions should focus a lot of attention on Amon-Ra St. Brown and TJ Hockenson when they air in this game.

Earn the right to run the passerby

“When we get quarterbacks (non-mobile) and have the opportunity to turn up our ears, I think we have the skills to chase down quarterbacks,” Lions defensive line manager Todd Wash told media this week. “But we have to do a good job on the first and the second (below). We did it last week. Like I said, we’ve talked about it, if you earn the right to run, I think we’ll get there. But the thing we preach there is that we must first earn the right and stop the race ”.

Lions coaches have consistently preached that a good defense starts to stop the race, and that means focusing on Dalvin Cook.

“The most important thing with him (Cook) is … and we have a lot of respect for him,” Wash said. “I think he is one of the best defenders in the league. We believe they will feed him this week and try to keep him going … So we have to be disciplined with our gap responsibility and stay a little longer than usual, just not to allow a cut. “

The Vikings passed the ball to Cook 20 times against the Packers in the first week and he gave them 90 yards on the ground. In week 2, he only saw six carries for a disappointing 17 yards.

The Vikings pattern, modeled on the Los Angeles Rams, tends to be heavier for passing at first, and in week two they’ve shown that if you take the escape, they have no problem leaving it behind and getting the ball in their hands. quarterback.

Justin Jefferson bracket

“There is no question that he is one of the top five (receivers) in this league and is constantly increasing,” said Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn of Jefferson. “He plays with a chip on his shoulder, he’s competitive, highly competitive. They put him in many different positions, right, where they can give him the ball which I think is a credit to that staff. “

Against the Packers, they tried to bring Jefferson forward and he went out for 184 yards with nine catches and two touchdowns. The Eagles took a different approach, in brackets, and limited it to 48 yards out of six catches and Cousins ​​also threw two interceptions when they targeted Jefferson.

“They have guys playing on top of them, so they didn’t want to be beaten deep and they just played hard, man,” Glenn discussed the Eagles approach. “They have a great defense and they do things the right way, the way defense should be played. And I’ll look at each team’s defense and see how they perform and, like any manager, I think we’ll try to see if you can gather any hints on what they’ve done. But we will have our plan, which we feel will go out there and succeed against them, and that is what we will use. “

Ideally, that game plan will have more Eagles influences than Packers.

Command the blitz

Lions have built up the pressure this season and, in two games, have recorded 50 credits for PFF, most of any NFL team.

One of the main reasons for this increased pressure this season is Glenn’s willingness to ramp up the blitz. For PFF, in two weeks, Glenn called a blitz on 39 of the Lions’ 95 defensive snaps against the pass and produced 19 pressures.

It could be bad news for Cousins, who fought the blitz this season.

Cousins ​​has only been beaten 19 times this season, and while they collectively provoked just nine pressures, his PFF score drops from 69.2 (with a clean pocket) to 33.7. Last week he was hit 12 times, and each time Cousins ​​managed to pull away, but he only completed four of those passes (for 21 yards) and two more were intercepted.

Lions should take advantage of Glenn staying aggressive.

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