They did it! The Minnesota Vikings actually won a game last Sunday! Some people were beginning to forget how it actually felt when the Vikings score more points than their opponent during a game, but they pulled together in Week 11 to get by the Arizona Cardinals and end their four-game losing streak.
Minnesota was able to get the victory after getting points from their offense, defense, and special teams. It definitely made it easier to get the win, but that is not something the Vikings should count on for the remaining games of their 2016 schedule.
This week, Minnesota gets the opportunity to play a game on Thanksgiving Day for the first time since 2000 when they head to Detroit to face the Lions. Coincidentally, the Lions are the only team to ever beat the Vikings on Thanksgiving (1995) in the six times they have played on the holiday.
After Detroit got the best of them in Week 9, Minnesota will be looking to embarrass the Lions in front of their home crowd at Ford Field on Thursday. What must the Vikings do this time to avoid getting swept by Detroit in their season series?
DO – Sack Matthew Stafford, more than once
For the first time since Week 5, Minnesota’s defense was able to bring down the opposing quarterback multiple times during last Sunday’s win over the Cardinals. The Vikings are now 5-0 this season when their defense ends the day with two or more sacks.
Coincidentally, three of the four Lions losses in 2016 have come during games in which their quarterback was sacked more than once. So the obvious tactic for Minnesota on Thursday would seem be to finding a way to bring Detroit’s Matthew Stafford down at least twice.
DON’T – Let Theo Riddick run wild
It seems pretty obvious to say at this point, but the Vikings’ defense has been god awful against the run since their bye in Week 6. In their last five games, Minnesota has given up an average of 124 rushing yards to opposing offenses.
It seemed like the Vikings run defense was going to fail them once again last week against Arizona when Cardinals running back David Johnson had 89 rushing yards after one half. But then Minnesota stepped up and finished the day by holding Johnson to just 14 yards on the ground in the game’s final two quarters.
Lions running back Theo Riddick only ran for 13 yards last week, but he still accounted for 70 receiving yards on eight catches. Riddick has been playing well recently and could cause the Vikings problems on Thursday.
However, Detroit has yet to win this season when the running back gains less than 70 total yards in a game (0-3) and that may be the key to Minnesota getting a win this week.
DO – Make sure the offense continues Thielen it
Adam Thielen had himself another great game during last Sunday’s win over Arizona when he caught five passes for 65 yards and one touchdown.
It should not have come as a surprise that the Vikings won last week as they seem to play better this season when Thielen gets more playmaking opportunities. When the wide receiver has finished a game this year with four or more receptions, Minnesota is 4-1.
With an opportunity to play in front of a national television audience against the Lions, Thielen may become a household name after Thursday if he has himself another impressive performance.
DON’T – Give the Lions hope
A reminder probably is not needed but the last time these two teams played, Minnesota thought they had the game won after going ahead 16-13 with just 23 seconds left in the fourth quarter. However, Detroit somehow found a way to tie the game and then get the win in overtime.
The Lions are built to play in close games this year. They take care of the ball on offense and their defense is only allowing 18 points per game in their last four matchups.
It seems like a pretty simple strategy but if the Vikings can generate a large lead early in the game, their defense should be able to cause enough havoc to prevent Detroit from having any hopes of another miraculous comeback.