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Vikings' play-action gives Lions' defense fits

Nolan Bianchi
The Detroit News

Detroit — Detroit Lions linebacker Devon Kennard had a single sentiment for Dalvin Cook’s 142-yard, two-touchdown day on Sunday in Detroit.

“That’s ridiculous.”

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins laterals back the ball to running back Dalvin Cook he heads up field for a gain in the fourth quarter Sunday at Ford Field.

Ridiculous, frustrating, detrimental; whatever the word, the Lions inability to contain the run sent Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins into a play-action frenzy that continuously hurt Detroit’s defense at every crucial turn, and ultimately, resulted in a 42-30 home loss.

“Any time you don’t stop the run, they run a lot of play-action,” Lions defensive end Trey Flowers said. “Now, it’s like you try to stop the run, but now it’s a play-action pass.”

Cousins threw for 337 yards and four touchdowns on 24-for-34 passing and finished with a passer rating of 141.4, his highest mark since Week 3 of the 2017 season. For his final trick, the former Michigan State quarterback got the Lions to bite on a second-and-5 with 3:00 remaining, faking the give to Cook before chucking a deep ball to Stefon Diggs that went for 66 yards and helped put Minnesota firmly in the driver’s seat.

Even when the Vikings didn’t go play-action, Detroit’s defense still suffered from the threat of it. Flowers said that the Lions’ defense — which already blitzes at a rate that falls near the bottom of the league — was unable to rush Cousins the way it wanted to.

“We’ve got to earn the opportunity to rush the passer,” Flowers said. “I think we’ve got to start out by stopping the run.”

Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.