By: Herman Moore
Ford Lions Report Live Analyst
The primary concern for the Detroit Lions this week should be their secondary and special teams – the units that gave up 60- and 70-yard plays this past Sunday during a heartbreaking, 44-41 overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans.
As the Lions gear-up to host the Minnesota Vikings at 1 pm Sunday, glaring inconsistencies among corners, safeties and coverage teams need to be addressed.
The Vikings disposed of the San Francisco 49ers with relative ease last week, 24-13 – the same 49ers squad that downed the Lions in Week 2, 27-19. The 49ers defense is widely regarded as one of the best in the NFL, surrendering 21.7 points per game (No. 12 in NFL) and 321.3 total yards per outing (No. 11).
However, Christian Ponder, the Vikings' second-year quarterback out of Florida State, found a way to modestly dissect the 49ers with 198 yards from 21-of-35 passing. He may not be the flashiest quarterback in the league, but Ponder proved that he could pick apart elite defenses with ease and tact.
If the Lions aren't careful, he'll do the same Sunday. Ponder is efficient and led the NFL completion percentage prior to Minnesota's victory.
That being said, the Lions were mediocre at best against Tennessee's Jake Locker, who completed 29-of-42 passes for an astonishing 378 yards; he threw a pair of touchdown passes – and didn't throw an interception.
Match-ups will be important for Lions
Detroit was burned when using man-coverage schemes against the Titans. Locker took care of business, hitting tight end Jared Cook each of the four times he was targeted (77 yards, one touchdown). The same was true for Nate Washington, who absolutely abused Lions cornerback Jacob Lacey on a 71-yard touchdown reception.
Washington, who caught each of three passes he was thrown, moved backward – with Lacey sandwiched against his chest – caught the ball from behind Lacey's back and high-tailed it for a score that put Tennessee up 33-27 (Rob Bironas PAT) with 3:11 to play in the fourth quarter.
The Lions can't allow Vikings receivers like Sidney Rice, who isn't nearly as physical as Washington, to make awe-inspiring catches at Ford Field – not in front of a group of befuddled fans that asked for answers after being hit in the throat by the Titans.
And if the Lions thought Cook was a load to handle, they'll be in for a newsflash come Sunday when they meet former Notre Dame star tight end Kyle Rudolph, a 6-foot-6, 258-pounder with brute strength and incredible agility for a player his size.
Percy Harvin is another wideout for Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham to bring to a stop. Harvin finished with 89 yards on nine catches against San Francisco; he was targeted 11 times.
Point being, the Vikings receivers didn't drop too many balls Sunday; Detroit won't get help in that department.
Control the ground
The Lions were on task this past Sunday when containing the run game. That was imperative last week when facing Titans running back Chris Johnson, who rushed for just 24 yards. The frustration continued for Johnson, but the Titans found other ways to effectively brush aside the Lions defense.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is still one of the best in the game. The former Oklahoma Sooners standout hung 86 yards on the 49ers defense – and that was running at linebackers like Patrick Willis, an elite, big-bodied run-stopping specialist.
Being stout in the middle, containing the ground game and plugging lanes will stop Peterson from doing what he does. But that's easier said than done. The Lions gave up 89 yards and a touchdown to San Francisco's Frank Gore, another powerful runner like "All Day" Peterson.
Offense needs to keep feeding Megatron
Give the NFL's best receiver plenty of chances to make plays without pegging him as a strictly deep-ball threat. Shorter routes, perhaps having him lined up differently, will help Calvin Johnson be more dangerous.
Johnson was targeted 12 times Sunday in the Lions' loss to the Titans, catching 10 of those passes for an impressive season-high 164 yards; he added a touchdown for good measure.
Herman Moore joins Tom Leyden and Rob Rubick on the Ford Lions Report Live every Sunday at 11am throughout the season. You can follow Herman on Twitter @HMAN84