Tale Of The Tape: Detroit Lions At Minnesota Vikings
- QuarterbackA season that was so promising is ending with the team going down in flames. It seems likely that this will be Jim Schwartz’s last game as the Lions’ head coach. Matthew Stafford did not do his head coach any favors in losses to the Ravens and Giants in the last two games. Stafford’s inconsistency has led to frequent turnovers. Stafford has thrown 19 interceptions this season, including 11 in the last five games.The Vikings were overwhelmed by the Bengals in their Week 16 loss, but they have generally played better with Matt Cassel under center than they did with Christian Ponder taking snaps. Cassel is not the most physically gifted passer, but he will throw the short- and medium-range passes accurately and he will get rid of the ball quickly.
- OffenseDespite a boatload of supremely talented offensive players, the Lions tend to flash their talent rather than give a great effort for 60 minutes. Reggie Bush has gamebreaking speed, but he does not leave it all on the field. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson has made some key drops in recent weeks, but he is still a game-changing receiver. Joseph Fauria is a solid red-zone contributor.The Vikings have punished the Lions with their running game in the past, and Adrian Peterson would like to end the season with a huge performance against his division rivals. Greg Jennings has caught a team-high 63 passes and he will hold onto nearly everything he touches. Rookie Cordarrelle Patterson has the speed to make game-changing plays.
- DefenseThe Lions have solid defensive personnel up front and they should rank much higher than 16th in yards allowed. The defensive tackle combination of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley is among the most intimidating in the league, but they can often take undisciplined penalties. Middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch has a team-high 123 tackles.The Vikings have had a number of games where they have given up points early and have not been able to stem the tide. That’s the primary reason they rank 31st in yards allowed. Outside linebacker Chad Greenway is a solid athlete who leads the team with 129 tackles, but he can get pushed around at the point of attack. Veteran defensive end Jared Allen leads the team with 9.5 sacks.
- Special TeamsThe Lions have done a reasonably good job on special teams, but they have given up some big returns at key moments. Joique Bell is a willing kickoff returner, but he does not have the quickness to make game-changing plays. Veteran PK David Akers has made 17-of-22 FG attempts this season.The Vikings have one of the best special-teams weapons in Cordarrelle Patterson, who has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and is a threat every time he gets his hands on the ball. Placekicker Blair Walsh has made 26-of-30 FG attempts this season.
The Lions were eliminated with their overtime loss at home to a poor New York Giants team. It’s unlikely they will do anything but show up for the season finale against the Vikings. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor