Matt Shepard: Lions have to bring the heat from the defensive end position

Shep previews matchup with Minnesota

By: Matt Shepard
Ford Lions Report Live Reporter

This is just game four for the Lions and Vikings and I hate using the phrase "must win" when it's not an elimination scenario, but this is as important a game as Detroit might play all year for a number of reasons.

The Lions are mired in a two game mini-slide, with the bye week next Sunday and very tough back-to-back road games that follow at Philly and at Chicago.  The game against the Bears is a Monday night game and means a short week that follows against an impressive and surprising hard-core defensive-minded Seattle squad.  

Sunday is also, obviously, a home game and it's difficult to sweep teams in this division, making it vital to hold serve. 

If the Lions lose, then they need to beat the Vikings at the Metrodome on November 11 just to split. That's one of the loudest stadiums in the league and you don't want to put yourselves in that position. 

So how do they do it?  How does Detroit extend their series winning streak to four games over the Vikings?

It would be easy to write "get more pressure on the quarterback." After all, the Lions have just seven sacks…but I'll be more specific. 

The defensive ends  - Cliff Avril, Kyle VandenBosch, Willie Young and Lawrence Jackson/Ronnell Lewis - need to provide better edge pressure. This team is built on its front four, but the end rushers for this team have just two sacks and this club registered just one quarterback hit on Jake Locker last week in 42 pass attempts. 

More pressure on Christian Ponder means the second-year starter won't have time to reach the 70% completion rate that he's averaging so far through three games.  It will mean he won't be able to utilize Percy Harvin as much, a guy who has more all-purpose yards than anyone else in the NFL, or Jerome Simpson, Minnesota's off-season acquisition to stretch the defense. 

If you watched Baltimore-Cleveland Thursday night, the Ravens forced the Browns into a lot of short and quick early throws, meaning Cleveland faced a lot of 3rd & long's.  It's not always about sacks, but quarterback pressures; quarterback hits.  In other words, make Ponder uncomfortable.

I really think the Lions will be able to move the football.   It won't take them another full half to get Calvin Johnson involved, but the question is can the Lions convert those drives into touchdowns rather that settling for field goals and can the defense be the difference-maker we were all hoping it would be before the season began.

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