The Lions moved to 3-1 on the season with a gritty, grind-it-out road victory over their division rival.
Allen Park — The Detroit Lions came in with a clear game plan against the Minnesota Vikings and executed as they drew it up, controlling the time of possession behind a surprisingly successful ground game in the 14-7 victory.
Because of that commitment to run the ball, it meant the Lions leaned heavily on Ameer Abdullah in the backfield rotation. It also meant Theo Riddick’s role was significantly reduced.
That didn’t make it any less strange to see, given Riddick’s ability to be a quick-hitting weapon out of the backfield as a counter to an aggressive pass rush. Despite a fourth-quarter injury to Abdullah, Riddick even played fewer snaps than Zach Zenner.
When Riddick was on the field, he wasn’t his best, running the ball four times for four yards. As a receiver, his specialty, he caught a single pass. On his only other target, he didn’t appear on the same page his quarterback, turning his head late for the ball when the defense blitzed.
Here are some additional observations from Sunday’s snap counts:
■ The Detroit Lions were clearly taking it easy with Tavon Wilson, who is still nursing a shoulder injury. The starting strong safety played fewer than 50 percent of the defensive snaps, ceding most to Miles Killebrew, but also a handful to Charles Washington.
■ Speaking of the Lions’ plan to run the ball, that meant a hefty workload for blocking tight end Darren Fells, who played 73 percent of the offensive snaps. That outpaced Eric Ebron by a significant margin. The former first-round pick played 31 snaps to Fells’ 51.
■ If you blinked, you missed Emmett Cleary’s debut along Detroit’s offensive line. The former Cowboys lineman stepped in and played one snap at right guard when officials removed T.J. Lang for a suspected concussion. He was quickly cleared and returned the next series.
■ Also making a debut was rookie cornerback Teez Tabor. He didn’t get any work on defense, but was on the field for six special teams plays.
■ Armonty Bryant comes off the suspended list this week, and the Lions would need to let someone go in order to add him to the active roster. That decision would likely come down to recently re-signed veteran George Johnson and undrafted rookie Jeremiah Valoaga. If you’re looking for hints from Sunday’s playing time, Valoaga played a season-low eight snaps, half of Johnson’s workload.
■ A few days after losing his father to a tragic accident, Steve Longa played a career-high 12 snaps on defense. He finished the game with four tackles (two on defense, two on special teams).
■ The Lions continue to rotate cornerbacks Nevin Lawson and D.J. Hayden opposite Darius Slay. For the first time, Hayden got the bigger percentage of the workload, out-snapping Lawson, 32-24.