By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings will play their final game at Mall of America Field Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
The Vikings (4-11-1) are coming off a blow out road loss at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals and the Lions are coming off an overtime loss to the New York Giants.
The Lions are one game under .500 with a 7-8 record. They are also one game under .500 away Detroit. They have wins over the Washington Redskins, Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears and losses to the Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles.
Lions on Offense
The Lions signed running back Reggie Bush to invigorate their rushing offense. However, the Lions are still a wide open, passing attack offense. They rank third in the league with 286.7 yards per game and are 17th in rushing with 115.3 yards per game.
Injuries have been an issue. Bush has missed two games, Nate Burleson has missed seven games and Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew missed one game each. Johnson has also been slowed by various leg injuries when he has been in the lineup.
The key to stopping the Lions is to get pressure on quarterback Matthew Stafford. The former No. 1 overall draft pick has a big, accurate arm, but lacks mobility.
Lions on Defense
The strength of the Lions defense is their front seven. Defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley are among the best in the league. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah is emerging as a special pass rusher.
They are fourth in the league in rushing defense allowing 94.8 yards per game. However, against the pass they are 26th allowing 251.9 yards per game.
The Lions have issues in the secondary. Louis Delmas is their best safety, but he has had trouble staying healthy. He was a very promising prospect before suffering injuries that forced him to miss 13 games over the last two seasons. This year he has been hampered by a knee injury. He hasn’t missed time, but also hasn’t been as effective.
Lions Players to Watch
Running back Reggie Bush. The 6-foot, 203-pound eighth-year veteran is the leading rusher for the Lions and is tied for second in receptions. In the first meeting between the two teams he recorded 90 rushing yards on 21 carries. He also had four receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown in the victory.
Defensive tackle Nick Fairley. The 6-foot-3-inch, 291-pound third-year veteran is third on the team with 4.5 sacks on the season. In the first meeting between the two teams, he recorded five tackles, 1.5 sacks, one tackle for a loss and two quarterback hits.
Along with closing the doors for the final time in Mall of America Field, both teams could be sending their head coaches out for good after the game as well. The Lions melted down in each of the two last two games, both at home, that took them from the driver’s seat to win the division to eliminating them from contention. The Vikings were a playoff team a season ago, but have struggled to stop opponents this season. Head coaches Jim Schwartz of the Lions and Leslie Frazier of the Vikings are expected to be relieved of their duties at the completion of the season.
For more Vikings news and updates, visit Vikings Central.
Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.