If the only play you saw from the Detroit Lions‘ season opener against the Minnesota Vikings was Adrian Peterson‘s 78-yard touchdown on the Vikings’ first play, you wouldn’t think the Lions did a good job with run defense. But the Lions were able to shut Peterson down after that, holding him to just 93 rushing yards and the Vikings to 105 as a team.
The Vikings weren’t able to get Peterson going after that. He did score three touchdowns in the game (one receiving, two rushing), but the Vikings are going to have trouble controlling the time of possession and winning the turnover battle if they can’t establish a running game. The Lions stifled the Vikings and forced Christian Ponder into three interceptions.
The Lions certainly made plenty of boneheaded plays, but they were the only team to win a divisional match up in week one by more than one score and one of just three teams to win by double-digits. They committed 11 penalties for 88 yards, and the punishment may continue for Ndamukong Suh who may be facing additional penalties for a low block after an interception return.
They also botched their first field goal attempt of the season. When rookie holder Sam Martin dropped the snap on the first drive of the game and Peterson took it to the house on the next play, it was looking like it was going to be a miserable start to the season for the Lions. Martin did work toward redemption when he and the Lions’ special teams unit were able to down a punt at the one-yard line, forcing the Vikings to go the length of the field for a shot at getting the game within reach late in the fourth quarter.
The biggest keys to the Lions’ success after the first two possessions was the fact that they won the turnover battle and stopped the run. They were able to force three interceptions because they weren’t predictable defensively. They were versatile on defense and confused Ponder.
Peterson praised the Lions’ run defense after the game, calling them one of the best defensive fronts the Vikings will play against all season. Nick Fairley, Ezekiel Ansah and Suh are a formidable trio up front, and if they can continue to dictate whether or not teams are able to run up the middle they’ll make things a lot easier on their secondary.
The Lions will be on the road at the Arizona Cardinals in week two, who weren’t able to get a running game going whatsoever in their opener. Rashard Mendenhall and Alfonso Smith racked up just 86 yards on 26 combined carries. If they’re able to shut down those two like they did Peterson after his first carry, they should be able to cause a lot of problems for Carson Palmer. Don’t be surprised if the Lions are able to hold them to a similar total in week two. If they did it to Peterson, they should be able to do it again.