The Lions defense enters Sunday’s game against the Vikings with an NFL-leading eight forced fumbles — by eight different defenders.
That has caught the attention of Vikings coach Mike Zimmer.
“Yeah, especially since we put the ball on the ground the last two weeks,” Zimmer said. “We have to make sure we take care of the football and hold on to it. They’re going to try and strip the football.”
The last time the Vikings entered a Sunday wary of an opponent’s thievery, the Bears took away the ball from quarterback Kirk Cousins and receiver Stefon Diggs in the Vikings’ 16-6 loss more than two weeks ago.
Ball security has been a problem for Vikings players, whose six fumbled giveaways are more than all but the Panthers (eight) and Giants (seven). Half of the Lions’ forced fumbles have been on running backs, which puts Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison on alert after each back has fumbled in the past two weeks.
They’re expecting Detroit defenders to force the issue, as they’re noticeably trained to jar the ball loose, according to Cook, who has four lost fumbles in 21 NFL games.
“You see guys using techniques just going toward the football,” Cook said. “We have to do a great job of our technique and taking care of the football.”
‘You want that’
Diggs and fellow receiver Adam Thielen have enjoyed big games against Eagles and Giants defenses that blend man and zone coverages the past two games.
This week Diggs said he’s looking forward to Sunday in Detroit, because the Lions defense is known to play more man-to-man coverages that give him an opportunity to worry solely about the defender in front of him — if not two defenders.
“You want that,” said Diggs, who caught three touchdown passes last week, “compared to a team that plays a lot of zone and you have to find the open spot and play off that. Now you just got to get open.”
Reiff, Gedeon sidelined
Left tackle Riley Reiff (ankle) and linebacker Ben Gedeon (concussion) were sidelined during Wednesday’s practice. Reiff injured his ankle in the first half of Sunday’s win against the Eagles and did not return to the game. He ran through warmups with teammates at the latest practice before leaving the field. Guard Josh Kline (foot) was limited in his return to practice.
Gedeon, who turned 25 on Wednesday, has been sidelined since suffering a concussion Oct. 6 vs. the Giants in New York. It’s Gedeon’s second concussion in as many NFL seasons.
In one Sunday, the Vikings dropped from third to sixth among the league’s leaders in penalties thanks to a season-low four accepted flags for 30 yards while defeating the Eagles. Among the four were a false start by right tackle Brian O’Neill and an offensive holding call on guard Dakota Dozier, which are the Vikings’ two most frequent infractions through six games this season. Zimmer was relieved after the previous week’s season-high 12 penalties in New York.
“It was about time,” Zimmer said. “We need to keep it that way.”
There was a simple reason the Vikings released third-year defensive end Tashawn Bower this week. Bower, who has been medically cleared to practice, was finally eligible to return Monday after spending the mandated six weeks on the non-football injury list.
But the Vikings were content with their depth at defensive end, where Bower is attempting his return from a torn Achilles’ tendon suffered during a workout in March.
“We felt like some of the guys we had on the team have more upside,” Zimmer said.