The Detroit Lions defeated the Minnesota Vikings 14-7 on Sunday, moving to 3-1 on the year. They are now tied with the Green Bay Packers atop the NFC North. After a heartbreaking home loss last week at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons, the Lions were able to come back and win a huge divisional road game. Here are three takeaways from Sunday’s week four win.
Week Four Detroit Lions Takeaways
Defense Wins The Turnover Battle
In a low-scoring affair like this one, the winner is usually determined by whichever team makes the most plays on defense. And on Sunday, that team was Detroit. The Lions may not have been the stingiest defensive unit- allowing Dalvin Cook to rush for 66 yards on 5.1 yards per rush, but they got it done when they needed it most.
Entering the week, Detroit had a plus six turnover margin, an NFL best. In Minnesota, the team only added to that league-leading value. Overall, they forced three Vikings fumbles, all helping the team make up for a seemingly lost day on offense.
The most important of those fumbles came on Minnesota’s last offensive snap. There was just under two minutes remaining in the game and the Vikings were threatening to tie the score with one final drive. But on the very first play of that possession, Pro Bowl safety Glover Quin punched the football out of the arms of wide receiver Adam Thielen. Linebacker Tahir Whitehead recovered the fumble, clinching the win for Detroit.
Last season, the Lions were minus one in the turnover department, ranking 20th in the NFL. This year, they have dramatically turned it around. Detroit’s defensive playmakers are finally stepping up, relieving the pressure off the offense to carry the load week in and week out. Hopefully, this success will continue as the year moves along.
Passing Game Struggles
Matthew Stafford’s performance has taken a slight dip over the past two weeks. After tossing six touchdowns over the Lions first two games, the Georgia product has totaled just one score since. Not only that, but his passer rating has fell from 113.1 and 117.6 against Arizona and New York to 80.2 and 81.3 against Atlanta and Minnesota.
Obviously, stats aren’t everything. It is more important that Stafford goes out there and wins the football game, which he did on Sunday. And there is no need for the former first overall pick to pass for 300 yards and three touchdowns every week. But it is still crucial that Stafford stays efficient on a consistent basis.
Overall, the 29-year-old’s statline against Minnesota wasn’t terrible. Stafford completed 19 of 31 passes for 209 yards, no TDs but also no interceptions. Yet his QBR- a stat developed by ESPN similar to passer rating- was an abysmal 23.3. The last time Stafford posted a QBR that low was November of 2015 in Kansas City.
The blame cannot be placed completely on the quarterback, though. On Sunday, Stafford’s offensive line failed him. He was sacked six times for 55 yards, and was pressured all afternoon. Still, the ninth-year quarterback must learn to overcome such obstacles if he wants to live up to that $135 million contract. It’s proving grounds time for the richest man in football.
Ameer Abdullah Falls Short Of History
Entering Sunday’s matchup in Minnesota, the Lions had gone 55 consecutive games without a 100-yard rusher. The last time a Detroit back hit the century mark was Reggie Bush back in 2013. Against the Vikings, that painful streak nearly came to an end.
After three quarters, Ameer Abdullah had 94 rushing yards and counting. But then, with 13 minutes left in the game, he rolled his ankle and did not return. His yardage total would stay at 94, continuing the streak to 56 games.
Luckily, Abdullah’s injury is not serious. He told the Detroit Free Press that he “was ready to go back in, but circumstances kind of changed a little bit when [Minnesota] got the ball back only two minutes left and we’re flopping on the ball. Maybe it was a good thing.”
Perhaps it was a good thing. The Lions got the win without having to risk major injury to their top rusher, a back who was forced to miss all but two games last year due to foot problems. But then again, it’s tough to swallow how close Abdullah was to ending the 100-yard drought.
However, there are positives that came out of the Nebraska product’s performance as well. Abdullah’s 94 yards set a career-high, and he added his first rushing touchdown since December 2015. Furthermore, those 94 yards are the most by a single Lions rusher during Jim Caldwell’s tenure as head coach.
So despite not making history, Abdullah still presents hope for a Detroit team that has seriously struggled to run the ball over the last few seasons. And he’ll have another shot at that 100-yard mark next Sunday at home against the Carolina Panthers.