Friday, September 6, 2013
Vikings, Lions both in search of balance
By Ben Goessling
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- For all of the talk about how much Reggie Bush changes the Detroit Lions' offense, the Minnesota Vikings certainly haven't been acting this week like they'll see much of a different approach on Sunday in Detroit than they did last season. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams said Minnesota will have to account for Bush, but he sounded more worried about the running back as a receiving option than anything else.
"You have another dimension, where not only can Calvin Johnson beat you, but Reggie Bush can beat you underneath," Williams said on Thursday. "That’s the problem, but you have to pick and choose your poison. You can’t defend everything. If you try and defend everything, you’re not going to defend anything. That’s what we have to be cognizant of, again play the coverage, try to tackle well, and when they check the ball down to him in the zone coverages that we run and tackle."
The Lions threw the ball 740 times last season, with Matthew Stafford attempting a NFL-record 727 passes, and in Bush, they've added a running back who has posted eight catches in a game (nine times) more often than he's logged 20 carries (seven times). He might fit perfectly into the Lions' scheme, but he's not the kind of back who offers the impression that the Lions will be more balanced.
But in many ways, the Vikings have the same problem with different variables. They reached the playoffs last season largely because Adrian Peterson ran for 2,097 yards, but their biggest offseason moves on offenses -- signing Greg Jennings and drafting Cordarrelle Patterson -- were geared at upgrading a passing game that finished 31st in the league in both total yards and yards per attempt.
"You know, their design is well thought out and their coordinator has a good background in Bill Walsh's system and a lot of systems. They've got that kingpin, (No.) 28, back there and he makes me not sleep very well at night," Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said. "They've added some wrinkles, but they are still based on 28 running the ball."
There's no reason to expect these teams to make fundamental changes to what they do. They each have a MVP-caliber player in Johnson and Peterson, and their respective offenses are built on getting that player the ball as much as possible. But it is worth wondering if both teams need to find a counter-punch. Five of the seven teams who threw the ball the most last season missed the playoffs, as did five of the league's seven-worst passing teams.
Both teams, obviously, spent plenty of time and money this offseason trying to restore some balance to their offenses. Sunday should begin to answer the question of how centrally their new additions will fit into their offense.