It took a little longer than it normally does, but we've exchanged our Five Good Questions with our friends over at Pride of Detroit for this week's contest. The questions that head PoD blogger Sean Yuille sent my way can be found right here. These are the questions I sent his way, along with his answers
1) After these two teams played against each other in Week 4, the Vikings were 3-1 and appeared to be on the rise, while the Lions were 1-3 and in the NFC North basement. The Lions have gone 3-1 since then. What have the Lions been doing over their last four games that they weren't doing in their first four?
For starters, they seem to have a clear idea of how they want to run their offense. In the first few weeks, Matthew Stafford was out of sync, partly because the Lions were trying to run the ball so much. This seemed to get the passing game out of rhythm, but the Lions have since been able to mix in running plays at the right time rather than force it. Also, guys like Titus Young and Ryan Broyles have really stepped it up lately, and Stafford's accuracy has been a lot better.
In the other areas of the game, the Lions haven't had any major breakdowns on special teams since the Vikings game, and defensively they have been playing pretty well despite being ravaged by injuries. All three aspects of the game have come together nicely as of late, which is why the Lions have started to get back to what we saw them do last season.
2) Even though he's been racking up the yardage this season, Calvin Johnson has yet to hook up with Matthew Stafford for a scoring pass this season, and only has one touchdown on the year. As a Megatron fantasy owner, I have to ask. . .what the heck is going on?
The Lions' Twitter account made an interesting discovery this week: Calvin Johnson has been tackled inside the five-yard line on five separate occasions this season. He has just barely missed touchdowns on numerous occasions because of that, which speaks to having some bad luck. On a more general basis, it's pretty clear Johnson's injuries have caught up with him. While he did put up big numbers against Jacksonville last week, he had been struggling quite a bit since taking some big hits in the first game against the Vikings. After that, he didn't look like himself for a while and had numerous drops, including one in the end zone against Seattle.
To sum up his struggles, a lot has been working against Megatron this season.
3) In the first meeting between these two teams, the Vikings had a punt return and a kick return for a touchdown in the same game, and the Lions' special teams looked fairly atrocious. Has the team shored things up in that phase of the game since then?
In the games since that meltdown, we haven't talked too much about the Lions' special teams coverage units. This is obviously a good thing for the Lions, as they haven't allowed any big returns. Be it changing who is on the units or simply making scheme adjustments, the Lions have seemingly corrected whatever issues existed. The Vikings could obviously throw all of that out the window with a single big return on Sunday, but for now, the special teams units have been much better.
4) Louis Delmas didn't play in the first game between these two teams, and it doesn't appear as though he'll be playing on Sunday, either. How has his absence affected the Lions' secondary, and what do you see them doing against a Vikings' pass offense that has really been struggling as of late?
The biggest thing missing when Louis Delmas is out is the attitude he brings to the defense. He has a mindset where he is very aggressive, and the defense seems to feed off his energy. He made quite an impact against the Eagles when he returned from his first injury, especially when the Lions blitzed him. Unfortunately, another knee injury has kept him out lately, but Ricardo Silva and Erik Coleman have done a good job of filling in at safety. As long as the Lions can put pressure on Christian Ponder and limit big plays, I don't think they will lose too much by not having Delmas. Against the run, on the other hand, I think Delmas' absence will be noticeable as soon as Adrian Peterson runs over a safety on Sunday.
5) Adrian Peterson is averaging over 150 yards a game and over 8 yards per carry over the last three games, despite the Minnesota pass offense being horrific. Do you think the Lions' defensive game plan involves anything other than completely selling out to stop #28?
I would hope that is their main focus. The Lions have handled average passing offenses pretty well this season, and at this point it's pretty clear that the Vikings' passing offense is nothing more than average. With that in mind, I would expect the Lions to load up the box and put their focus on containing Peterson. If Ponder puts together an excellent game and beats you, that's one thing. But getting beat by Peterson, who you know is going to get the ball a lot on Sunday, would just be a sign of a lack of preparation, so I can't imagine the Lions will let that happen.
If you're still looking for Minnesota Vikings tickets for the game tomorrow . .which, again, is Military Appreciation Day. . .hit that link there and get some for a very good price (as low as $16).