After starting the season with wins against Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, the Lions have gone from a team that had dark horse potential to one that is definitively ass. This afternoon, the Vikings took advantage.
Minnesota managed to sack Lions quarterback Matt Stafford a franchise-record 10 times with six different players in Sunday’s 24-9 victory. Today’s performances on both sides of the ball were outliers compared to the teams’ prior games. Football Outsiders had the Lions’ offensive line ranked a perfectly respectable ninth in the league in terms of pass protection, and the Vikings’ pass rush was ranked 13th. Pretty bad timing for the Lions’ o-line to have their worst game of the season the same day the Vikings’ d-line was firing on all cylinders.
The Vikings’ standout was defensive end Danielle Hunter, who finished the day with 3.5 sacks, four quarterback hits and a defensive touchdown. Even though he led the team in sacks, he didn’t even get in on the Stafford-eating action until the second half.
All this defensive pressure slowly started to break Stafford’s brain. On a 2nd-and-14 in the fourth quarter—with the team only down 11—the Lions quarterback was forced out of the pocket because of poor blocking. Stafford started to scramble when he saw Kerryon Johnson running next to him. Rather than continue the run, he decided to pitch the ball to Johnson, which caught the back by surprise. Hunter pounced on the resulting fumble and ran the ball all the way back for a touchdown.
While the sack total wasn’t quite at the level of what Marcus Mariota had to deal with—he had fewer completions than sacks in a game earlier this season—it was more than enough to cripple the Lions’ offense. Detroit wouldn’t score again after a field goal on the drive following the fumble return. As a result, the Vikings ended the game with more sacks than their opponents had points. Lions center Graham Glasgow was straight up with reporters after the game, calling the performance an embarrassment.