Allen Park – For as steady and stable as the Minnesota Vikings defense has been in recent years, the team has had its fair share of offensive coordinators under coach Mike Zimmer. For the second time in three years, the team is going through a midseason change at that spot.
In November 2016, Norv Turner resigned. Pat Shurmur stepped in the for the remainder of that year and stayed in the role until he was hired for the New York Giants head coaching job this offseason. Eagles quarterback coach John DeFilippo was the next man up, but after the Vikings limped out to a 6-6-1 start to the season, he was fired and replaced by Kevin Stefanski, an assistant who has held various roles in the organization for the past 12 years.
In Stefanski’s debut last week, the Vikings posted a season-high 41 points, propelled by a season-high 220 rushing yards. And that’s all the Detroit Lions have to go on this week as they prepare for the new-look Vikings offense.
“It definitely is a challenge,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “They played a really solid game last week. They balanced themselves out and they controlled the game in all three phases, and I think that’s what they’ll try to do from that standpoint. Certainly, the more they can run the ball, then the better their play-action game is set up and that’s how it fit together for them last week.”
The first priority, as it often is, will be stopping the run. For the most part, the Lions have done that well the past month. The same could be said for the team’s earlier-season performance against Minnesota, had they not allowed running back Dalvin Cook to break free for a 70-yard touchdown.
If Cook and backfield mate Latavius Murray are able to have success this week, the Lions fear it will open up more play-action opportunities for the Vikings dangerous set of receiving weapons – Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph.
“They still have the same cast of characters, the same players,” Lions safety Glover Quin said. “We know who those guys are, what their strengths are and what they like to do with them.”
Lions vs. Vikings
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit
TV/radio: Fox/WJR 760
Records: Lions 5-9, Vikings 7-6-1
Line: Vikings by 6