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Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
1. Detroit’s offensive line: We’ve singled out Lions tailback Kevin Smith several times for his minimal production, and Sunday he was limited to 53 yards on 20 carries. He’s now averaging 3.1 yards per rush this season. But after watching Sunday’s game, it’s hard to blame Smith for running into brick walls. He isn’t seeing much daylight. On Sunday, the Lions also allowed quarterback Daunte Culpepper to be sacked seven times. The Lions notably left their offensive line out of their offseason personnel overhaul, but it’s clear it also has its limitations. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus missed the game because of injury and was replaced by veteran Jon Jansen. But let’s be clear: No offense will get very far with a limited offensive line.
3. Detroit’s pass defense: There’s no way to single out one player for a group effort that has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 73.3 percent of their passes for 15 touchdowns and three interceptions. The Lions have made some improvement against the run, but they are totally vulnerable to the pass. To this point, personnel shuffling has done no good. Cornerback Phillip Buchanon has been in and out of the lineup, and the Lions have also inserted rookie linebacker DeAndre Levy as a starter. But the big problem is they have no one who has established a consistent pass rush. Using 240-pound linebacker Julian Peterson as a defensive end hasn’t worked to this point.
3. Minnesota’s special teams: We’ve never failed to point out the nine touchdowns the Vikings have allowed on special teams over the past 21 games. So it’s only fair to point out that this season, they are having a positive impact on field position. The kickoff return team has helped the Vikings start their average drive at the 31.8-yard line, third best in the NFL. And their kickoff coverage team is forcing opponents to start their average drive at the 24.4-yard line, the 10th-best mark in the league. Sunday in St. Louis, the Rams started six drives inside their 21-yard line.
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