If you’re a Vikings fan, there was much to like about how the Lions played while taking the defending NFC champion Falcons down to the final snap of the game before losing 30-26 at Ford Field last Sunday.
For starters, the Lions couldn’t stop the run. The Falcons continually gashed them. The final tally was 151 yards on 28 carries for a 5.4 yard average. And two more runs of 25 and 15 yards were negated by penalties. This is something to keep in mind now that the Vikings actually have a running game with a set of fresh legs and versatile skills in Dalvin Cook.
Secondly, I’m not sure if left tackle Greg Robinson is lazy, as Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen accused him of being this week. But I do know Robinson is a giant liability who consistently gives up sacks and pressure in key moments. Three snaps after an interception gave the Lions the ball in Falcons territory late in the third quarter, a rookie, Takk McKinley, simply ran past Robinson for an easy third-down sack. And that was in Detroit. U.S. Bank Stadium will make for a much more difficult challenge on Matthew Stafford’s blind side.
On the flip side, obviously, is Stafford. He’s a late-game magician, as the Vikings found out not once, but twice last season. In both comebacks, the Lions looked finished only to have Stafford lead them to victory.
Since Stafford is the obvious Lions player to watch, let’s switch to the other side of the ball and highlight a key player I think the Vikings have to be most concerned about, assuming their improved pass protection doesn’t completely implode, which it shouldn’t at home.
The player: Glover Quin, safety
Since 2013, Quin and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman lead the NFL with 18 interceptions. Quin has 22 in his career, including thee in nine games against the Vikings.
Last week’s play: 37-yard pick-six
The Lions had just kicked a field goal and trailed 17-6 with 1:55 left in the first half. Atlanta took over at its 25-yard line.
Quarterback Matt Ryan, the reigning league MVP, had thrown 308 consecutive passes without an interception when he walked to the line of scrimmage.
The Falcons had tight end Austin Hooper lined up as an H-back to the left. They were on the left hash. Glover was 15 yards from the line of scrimmage and on the opposite hash mark.
The Falcons were running the ball so well, they decided to go play-action right and throw a slant left to Julio Jones. The ball was snapped, Ryan faked to Tevin Coleman going right. The line went right.
The assumption had to be that Glover would be frozen by the play fake long enough for Ryan to zip the ball to Jones on a deeper than normal slant. Ryan never even looked at Glover.
But Glover obviously knew exactly what was coming because he sprinted immediately to the spot where Ryan was going to throw. He grabbed the pass in full stride and scored from 37 yards out.
In 14 seconds, the Lions had scored 10 points and trailed 17-13.
Ryan would throw two more interceptions, both to cornerback Darius Slay, but those were deflections off receivers hands. The Glover pick was the most concerning for Vikings fans considering a reigning league MVP would make that mistake in judgment. If that happened to Ryan, what will Glover do to Case Keenum when he’s making his 27th career start?
I asked Vikings offensive coordinator what he thought Ryan saw to cause him to make that mistake.
“I don’t know, you’d have to get into the mind of Matt Ryan,” Shurmur said. “You’re talking about a great football player. But [Glover] obviously made a great play on it.”