What Can the Vikings Do Differently in Detroit?

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Two weeks after hosting the Detroit Lions for a whiteout home contest at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Minnesota Vikings travel to Ford Field. It’s a quick turnaround against a familiar opponent, but if Kevin O’Connell wants a different result, Minnesota will need to come up with a new gameplan.

What Can the Vikings Do Differently in Detroit?

The turnaround for Detroit has been stark this year. After a ho-hum 2022 season, not only will the Lions win the NFC North, but they’ll do so with double-digit victories. For the regular season, they have been the cream of the crop in the division, and Dan Campbell has his group firing on all cylinders.

Vikings Do Differently
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After a referring debacle had the Lions coming up short against the Dallas Cowboys a week ago, it stands to reason they will be motivated to end the year on a good note. While the playoff positioning isn’t of much consequence at this point, ridding the poor taste of a defeat going into the playoffs could be determined as a must.

When the two teams squared off in Week 16, the Vikings found themselves coming up six points short. With an opportunity to win the game, Nick Mullens uncorked an absolute duck of a throw that left Justin Jefferson waiting forever, ultimately seeing the pass land in the hands of a Detroit defender. It was the fourth interception from Mullens on the day and punctuated an afternoon of truly terrible decision-making.

Maybe the most notable thing on the field was the substantial tilt towards Detroit’s direction in time of possession. If it felt like the Vikings rarely had the ball, that’s because they didn’t. Nearly doubled up in how often they held the football, Minnesota also ran a substantially fewer 51 plays to the Lions 77. Opportunities for the Vikings to succeed were few and far between, and often, they gave the ball back freely to Detroit.

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It’s not as though the goal for Minnesota should be to bleed the clock on Sunday, but a more balanced attack would be a good place to start. While the Lions can be beaten through the air, they are more stout against the run. However, the Vikings abandoned that phase of the game altogether when Ty Chandler and Alexander Mattison combined for just ten touches. The running game wasn’t at all efficient, but it didn’t have much chance to launch either.

During the home contest against Detroit, Minnesota found themselves ahead for the first time after K.J. Osborn hauled in a touchdown pass early in the third quarter. That was the only lead the Vikings experienced throughout the contest, and getting ahead early is a must on Sunday. While the Lions intend to play their starters, working from behind or keeping them in through the duration of the contest is not likely to be something Campbell has interest in.

As we have seen during different points this season, the Lions are a beatable team within the division. Both Chicago and Green Bay split their season pair with the Motor City Kitties, and it will be on the Vikings to play a complete game in order to follow suit.

Fans Have the Worst
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With playoff possibility being a minute longshot and draft positioning being ever important, it might make sense for Minnesota to no-show this contest. That said, if they want to salvage any semblance of respectability from the positive momentum they once had at the midway point, a better showing than a couple of weeks ago is a must.

Kevin O’Connell likely expects his team to finish on a positive note, and rectifying some very straightforward mistakes this time is the path to victory. Possess the ball and value it while doing so. The result can be different.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.