Detroit News scouting report: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings

Detroit News

Detroit News staff writer Nolan Bianchi breaks down the Detroit Lions’ Week 3 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.

Lions at Vikings

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis

TV/radio: Fox/97.1

Records: Lions 1-1, Vikings 1-1

Line: Lions +6

Key matchup

LIONS’ RUN DEFENSE VS. DALVIN COOK

Sixth-year Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is averaging 106.3 rushing yards per game in his career against the Lions, and he’ll be the focal point of Detroit’s defensive attack this Sunday as the Lions visit Minnesota.

There’s a strong case to be made that Cook isn’t even the most dangerous offensive weapon on his team, and yet, his ability to unlock everything else for Minnesota makes him priority No. 1 on the Lions’ defensive game plan this week.

Kirk Cousins can — and will — hurt you, if you let him. In nine career games against the Lions, Cousins has a 7-2 record, 74.2% completion percentage, a 19-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, a 119.9 passer rating and is averaging 282 yards per game.

Cousins’ two best games as a Viking? They both came against Detroit, with the first meeting between the two teams in 2019 and 2020 producing his top two passer ratings over his 65-game career with Minnesota. In those two games, Cook rushed for 384 yards on 47 touches (8.1 yards per carry) and four touchdowns.

The Lions — like any other team in the league — will have a tough time slowing down the Vikings’ offense as a whole, which means it’s even more important to make sure that they do it right. That starts with slowing down Cook; if the Lions can do that, they will also have a chance to slow down Cousins, Jefferson and the still-dangerous Adam Thielen.

Vikings to watch

WR Justin Jefferson: Jefferson might be the best pound-for-pound receiver in the National Football League, and while he didn’t necessarily show it in a six-catch, 48-yard performance on Monday night against the Eagles, he’ll remain the biggest threat for any opponent that Minnesota faces this season. Jefferson led the league in receiving yards in Week 1 with 184 yards and two touchdowns. One could argue that the performance of Jefferson — and the Vikings as a whole — on Monday will actually be to the detriment of the Lions, as Minnesota will likely be looking to Jefferson early and often in Week 3.

LB Jordan Hicks: Two weeks into the season, Detroit leads the league in rushing average (7.2 yards) and is tied for first in touchdowns scored. The touchdowns likely aren’t there without a rushing attack, though, which means that Hicks, who tied a career high with 14 tackles against Green Bay in Week 1 and is the team’s best pass rusher according to Pro Football Focus, will be a vital piece in stopping the Lions’ multi-pronged offense

RB Dalvin Cook: Cook was stopped dead in his tracks on Monday night against the Eagles, going for 17 yards on six carries. Just like with Jefferson, the Lions can expect a healthy dose of Cook, as the Vikings look to get him back on track. And even though he stumbled against Philadelphia, there’s no real reason to believe he’ll be held under 20 rushing yards for a second straight week — especially given that Cook has run for more yards on the Lions than any other team in his career, averaging 6.13 yards per attempt in six career games.

Facts and figures

  • Second-year Lions receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown simply can’t keep his name out of record-breaking conversations lately, and that’ll continue entering this weekend as well. If St. Brown can score a touchdown against Minnesota, he’ll set the Lions’ franchise record for most consecutive games (nine) with a touchdown — a streak that started with no time on the clock in Detroit’s first win of the season last year against the Vikings. With eight more receptions, he’ll set the new league record for having nine straight games with eight catches or more.
  • With that St. Brown walk-off against the Vikings last season, Detroit in Week 13 snapped an eight-game losing streak to Minnesota. As the Lions travel to play the Vikings this week, they’ll be looking to break another bad mark: A four-game losing streak in Minneapolis. The Lions last won in Minnesota in 2017. In four games since, they have been held to single-digit points twice and been outscored by a total of 97-53.
  • New-look offense? Pish posh. The Lions have been racking up touchdowns since the end of last season; Detroit has now scored a touchdown in every quarter dating back to the second quarter of Week 17 last year. With a touchdown in 15 straight quarters — a franchise record — the Lions currently own the longest active streak in the NFL.

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