[size=13pt]Lions may cure what ails Vikings[/size]

Detroit's defense has been very porous, and that might be just what Minnesota needs to start an offensive revival.

Mark Craig, Star Tribune
Last update: October 04, 2006 – 8:52 PM


As one of only four NFL teams not to score 20 points in a game this season, now is probably a darn good time for the Vikings to play host to the Detroit Lions.
Sunday. Monday. Whenever they can make it.

The Lions gave up 41 last week, at least 31 in each of the past three weeks, and have a history of giving up a lot of points -- and losing -- to the Vikings.

In 16 meetings going back to 1997, the Vikings have scored at least 21 points every time. They're 14-2 in those games, including 8-0 under Mike Tice from 2002-05.

"I think this will be a good game for the Vikings," said Vikings backup running back Artose Pinner, a former Lion. "It should be. Let's hope it's a good one for us."

Both teams have new head coaches and different offensive and defensive schemes. But Detroit looks like the same old Lions under Rod Marinelli. They're one of the league's four winless teams and are 0-4 for the 10th time in franchise history.

"People want instant success," Marinelli said. "That's a part of the problem in our country, instant coffee. It just doesn't happen. You have to go out and work at it, and it's not like a light switch that you turn on and it just happens."

Marinelli, a well-respected disciple of Tony Dungy's Tampa-2 defensive scheme, turned heads in Week 1 by holding defending NFC champion Seattle without a touchdown in a 9-6 loss. But since then, the Lions have fallen to 28th in scoring defense (28.8 points allowed per game).

"At times, I think they out-tempoed Seattle," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "I think they did a great job in the offseason of game-planning those guys. They hit them with some things. Some of Seattle's formation looks, I don't think they were quite ready for."

Detroit's pass defense collapsed immediately following the Seattle game. In losses to Chicago (34-7), Green Bay (31-24) and St. Louis (41-34), the Lions gave up a combined 957 yards, 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions on 67.6 percent passing. Three of the touchdown passes covered 75, 41 and 31 yards.

"They're a good defense; they've just had breakdowns in their secondary," Vikings running back Chester Taylor said. "They have a great defensive front, and their linebackers are real fast. You can't be fooled by their 0-4 record."

While the Lions' pass defense ranks 30th (282.0), their run defense is 10th (86.5).

"Not many teams are going to be able to run the ball on us," Lions cornerback Dre Bly said. "I really feel like teams really feel like they can throw the football on us. So as a defensive backfield we have to have better eyes and better recognition and stop the big plays.

"We did that against Seattle, didn't give up the big play and forced [Matt] Hasselbeck to throw check-downs and forced Shaun [Alexander] to try to run the football. That's when we are at our best."

The Vikings rank 22nd in rushing (96.5) and 27th in scoring (15.8). Only Denver (2-1), Miami (1-3) and Tennessee (0-4) have also failed to score at least 20 points in a game.

So, technically, the tables could be turned to suggest this is a good time for the Lions' struggling defense to face the Vikings.

Marinelli is trying to make it happen by simplifying the defense this week. He's "subtracting some of the subtleties and the verbiage" in hopes that eliminates some confusion, especially in the secondary.

"I think we match up pretty well, but I'm not going to ever say we don't match up well," Bly said. "I feel that if Brad [Johnson] gives me enough opportunities where he throws my way, I'm going to make some plays, and the same with the other corners that we have and the other guys in the secondary."


Mark Craig • [email protected]