ALLEN PARK - Before brewing the morning coffee or cueing up the game tape from a 20-34 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the Lions coaches may want to brainstorm ways to improve the team’s rushing defense. Vikings running back Dalvin Cook ran for a career-best 206 yards and teammate Alexander Mattison added another 69 yards in the Lions 14-point defeat. The loss that put the Lions at the bottom of the NFC North along with Minnesota at a 3-5 record.
“We know we’ve got to do a better job in a lot of areas,” said Lions coach Matt Patricia. “Their run game is some of the best in the league. Dalvin Cook is one of the best guys after contact in the league and he proved that today.”
Sunday’s Lions loss was the second time this season an opposing team’s player had a career-best rushing performance. In Week 2, the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Jones ran over the Lions to the tune of 168 yards. Both Cook (70 yards) and Jones (75 yards) had long touchdown runs. But Cook’s trip to the endzone may have been a bit easier because the Lions had just 10 players on the field instead of the usual 11.
“Those are things we got to get fixed,” said Lions coach Matt Patricia about not playing with 11 defenders. “Make sure we handle those things better. Communicate on the sideline better when those things happen.”
The Lions will play the Packers and Vikings again later in the season.
In eight games, the Lions defense held just Jacksonville and Atlanta under 100 yards in rushing. The Lions won both games which were on the road. Detroit currently is second to last in the league in rushing yards allowed per game at 148. Only the Dallas Cowboys are worse at 151 yards allowed per game.
Yesterday, the Lions faced one of the league’s premier running backs in Cook. He entered the game having run for more than 100 yards in four games this season. The Vikings ran the ball 34 times versus 19 passes.
“When you can run the ball like we can it tightens everything up,” said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. “They had a bunch of zero blitzes in there or extra rushers really to stop the run. So once that happens you have some opportunities to get some plays down the field.”
The Lions tried to bolster its defensive line, trading for veteran defensive end Everson Griffen last month. Griffen played 10 years for the Vikings before going to the Dallas Cowboys where he was traded to the Lions. Minnesota quarterback Kurt Cousins and Cook said Griffen let them both know he was on the field.
“We heard Grif on the first play he came into the game,” Cook said. “We were on the goal line in the strike zone and he let us know he was coming into the game. We talked all game.”
Everson had three tackles in the game and no sacks.
In the third quarter, a Matt Prater field goal helped bring the Lions within two touchdowns of the Vikings. On the first play of the next Vikings’ series, Cook ran over the left side. Lions defensive lineman John Penisini appeared to have Cook by the ankles but he slipped out and dashed 70 yards for the touchdown.
“I seen my guys get on some guys,” said Cook. “In this league, you’re going to have to break one or two tackles to get where you’re going. I had a guy in the hole and I knew if I broke his tackle some guys were misfitting and I had some daylight.”