Nolan Bianchi of The Detroit News offers quick observations from the Lions' 24-9 loss to the Vikings on Sunday.
Vikings set single-game franchise sack record
Absolutely nothing went right for the Detroit Lions today. But perhaps nobody had it worse than quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was sacked a career-high eight times before the fourth quarter even started. The Vikings finished with 10 sacks on the day, setting a new franchise record for a team once known for its Purple People Eaters.
The volume of sacks hurt, sure, but the timing of those sacks was a particular blow to the Lions' chances of gaining ground in Sunday's loss. Four of those 10 sacks occurred on third down. Four of them were taken during a trip to the red zone — from where Detroit kicked all three of its field goals.
So, about that offensive line
Not all of Detroit's troubles can be blamed on the offensive line, but let's be real: The unit played poorly. Minnesota's front penetrated the group with ease in both the running and passing game. There was even a moment in the third quarter where Detroit attempted a flea-flicker, but LeGarrette Blount was taken down for a loss before he could give the ball back to his quarterback.
With all the pressure it produced, the Vikings' defense never let Detroit get in a rhythm. Kerryon Johnson was held to 37 yards on 12 carries. Without a running game, Detroit couldn't work the ball through the air at all. Of course, Stafford was without his No. 1 safety valve, Golden Tate, who was shipped to Philadelphia earlier this week for a third-round draft pick, and most likely would have received targets before Stafford went down on a few of those sacks.
If the Lions expect to have any success down the stretch, the offense line has to be able to give Stafford and Johnson the opportunity to make plays, which it did not do Sunday.
Cook, Murray run over Lions' D
After Chris Carson and Mike Davis ran all over the field a week ago, Detroit actually did a decent job of shoring up its run defense. So where did things go wrong in the 120 combined yards given up to Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook? The Lions' run defense is still very susceptible to the big play.
After pulling within a point late in the second quarter, Cook — who hadn't played since Week 4 at the Los Angeles Rams — ripped off a 70-yard run that set up the Vikings to take an eight-point advantage heading into the locker room. That was the fifth run of more than 40 yards allowed by the Lions this year, which is tied for most in the NFL.
Entering Sunday's loss in Minnesota, opposing quarterbacks have maintained a perfect passer rating when throwing at second-year cornerback Teez Tabor. His run of ineffectiveness continued against the Vikings. When Kirk Cousins threw at him, the result was either a completion or a holding/pass interference penalty. But he wasn't the only one who needs to improve in coverage.
Dating to last week's loss to Seattle, Russell Wilson and Cousins combined for just seven incompletions in 39 total passing attempts. Even Darius Slay — who did have an interception Sunday — got beat by practice squad-signee Chris Beebe on a third-down play and then was beaten by Aldrick Robinson, who dropped the pass, early in the third.
Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.