Saturday, September 7, 2013
Four keys for Detroit against Minnesota
By Michael Rothstein
Detroit opens its season Sunday against Minnesota, a division rival and a team the Lions have beaten only three times at Ford Field.
Will it be four? Here are four keys to making that happen:
1. How the new-look offensive line performs. The Lions cleared out three of last year’s starters, opening up the left tackle spot for second-year pro Riley Reiff and the right side of the line for tackle Jason Fox and rookie right guard Larry Warford. The right side of the line will have to learn on the fly, but Warford says he feels comfortable between Fox and center Dominic Raiola, who has been the stalwart of the line. How Reiff handles All-Pro Jared Allen will be a matchup to watch early on. If he is unable to at least neutralize Allen on occasion -- with or without help from left guard Rob Sims -- it could lead to ...
2. Matthew Stafford’s accuracy. It’s been an issue in the preseason as he’s completed less than 50 percent of his passes. Granted, he played almost the entire preseason without his large safety blanket, Calvin Johnson, or his newest checkdown weapon, Reggie Bush, but it is still a little concerning. If Reiff can do at least a decent job on Allen, Stafford will have time to make reads instead of having to rush throws.
3. Containing Adrian Peterson ... at least a little bit. Listen, Peterson is going to gain yards. He’s going to have some plays that defy the scope of what a player can do running with a football. At least once a game, he does something extraordinary. The goal for the Lions, particularly the front seven, is to limit that. If they can keep him somewhat contained on first down, it puts more pressure on Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder and a receiving corps without a true star. Force Ponder into making fast decisions with the strength of the Lions, the defensive line, and there could be a couple of turnovers to be had. That said ...
4. Keep an eye on tight end Kyle Rudolph. The 6-foot-6, 259-pound tight end had somewhat of a breakout season in 2012, gaining 493 yards and catching nine touchdowns in the regular season. It culminated in his first Pro Bowl appearance, where he was named MVP. He has had some success against the Lions, catching seven passes for 64 yards and a touchdown on Nov. 11. From the time he left Notre Dame, he always appeared to be on the verge of being a matchup nightmare. With Percy Harvin, the Vikings’ former electric wide receiver, now in Seattle, someone has to make up his receptions. Look for Rudolph, who has really good hands and speed for a tight end.