By Ashley Scoby
After Detroit's 26-16 loss to Minnesota in Week 2, the Lions had plenty to take personally.
For starters, the Vikings destroyed Matthew Stafford. He only took one sack, but was hit eight times and had to go for chest/rib X-rays after the game. He also finished the game in an arm wrap.
"We definitely took it to heart," said offensive lineman Cornelius Lucas. "When your job is to protect someone and obviously they go and protect it like that, you kind of beat yourself up about it. Hopefully this go-around we'll do a lot better than we did last time."
It would be difficult to be much worse. Stafford was in visible pain for essentially the entire game, then continued to move slowly in the locker room over the next couple of days. He also kept the arm sleeve on that week.
And to boot, he finished the game 32-of-53 for 286 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. With no ground game (38 total yards) to support Stafford, Minnesota's defense didn't have to be rocket scientists to know where to focus their energy.
"We all had our hand in that a little bit," said offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. "We've got to be smarter as coaches to try to stay out of those situations which allows Minnesota to tee off on your because they've got – it's a tough, nickel pressure package that they have and you can't watch a game where they're not getting someone free on the quarterback."
After allowing six sacks of Stafford through the first three games, the Lions' offensive line has allowed half that through the next three.
And the offense (scoring 37 points against Chicago, showing some semblance of a run game, protecting Stafford more) isn't the only unit showing improvement. The defense has been better – and took its own failures against Minnesota in Week 2 personally as well.
Adrian Peterson ran over the Lions like a Tonka truck in the first matchup, rushing 29 times for 134 yards, and catching two passes for 58 more.
"We have to do a better job of holding the edge of the defense," said defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. "I think when we go back and you study that game for a lot of the game we were in pretty good shape and then he got to bottle them and then we committed too soon to tear off our blocks and then he bounced it outside or cut it back because he jumped out of our gap. So we've got to do a better job of holding our gap, making sure he commits through or to the line of scrimmage, through the line of scrimmage before we tear off and try to make the tackle."
Put simply, "he's going to get his," head coach Jim Caldwell said of Peterson, and how the Lions can contain him more than in their first meeting.
"The thing you have to do is don't let him break your back."
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