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Bleacher Report – Vikings

With Griffen looking like himself, Vikings’ D-line crushes Lions

By Matthew Coller

MINNEAPOLIS – Before the Minnesota Vikings’ game against the Arizona Cardinals, quarterback Kirk Cousins told his defense that rookie quarterbacks can be suffocated. Turns out that when the Vikings’ defensive line is at its best, it can suffocate any quarterback.

Detroit Lions Pro Bowl QB Matthew Stafford won each of his previous two trips to US Bank Stadium, but on Sunday he was given no chance as the Vikings sacked him a franchise record 10 times in a 24-9 win.

The Vikings opened the game in bounce-back fashion after a 30-20 loss to the Saints last week. Kirk Cousins and Co. cruised down the field on Minnesota’s first drive, completing a fourth down pass to rookie Chad Beebe, who was playing in his first game and hitting on a 16-yard pass to Latavius Murray. They finished off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by Murray.

And that was all the Vikings’ defense needed against a sputtering Lions team. On Detroit’s second drive of the game, Stafford completed passes of 11, 18 and 10 yards to bring his team into the red zone, but the Vikings’ defense went to work. Stafford’s 15-play drive was brought to an end by a Tom Johnson/Sheldon Richardson sack for a 9-yard loss.

Cousins opened the door for Detroit by tossing an interception to Darius Slay on an ill-advised throw down the sideline. Once again, the Vikings’ deep and dangerous D-line went to work.

With first down at the 12-yard line, the Vikings forced three straight negative plays by Stafford – an incompletion on first down and back-to-back sacks. The second down sack was half credited to Everson Griffen, who looked like there was no remaining rust from his five-week absence prior to last week’s game.

The trend continued throughout the NFC North battle. On the next drive, Stephen Weatherly sacked Stafford. To end the second quarter, Danielle Hunter increased his season total to 9.5 with a Stafford takedown.

Trailing by 11 points, Detroit opened the third quarter by allowing a Tom Johnson sack that stifled their first drive. It was Mackensie Alexander’s to ruin the Lions’ chances of a comeback, taking turn at Stafford on a blitz off the edge.

And then Griffen pulled Stafford down to the ground to force another punt.

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Vikings already had eight sacks.

By the end of the game, Stafford was such a mess that he missed a wide open touch pass to a receiver on third down that would have gone for huge yards and potentially brought the Lions back within striking distance and he made an incredibly bizarre decision to flip a lateral to Kerryon Johnson while on the run. The ball bounced off his hands and appropriately Hunter ran it ack for a touchdown. Game over.

For good measure, Hunter added another sack on the Lions’ final drive to put the Vikings over the top for the team all-time mark. By the end of the game, Detroit was throwing screen passes in the red zone.

The presence of Griffen not only directly resulted in multiple sacks and pressures against, but it clearly changes the entire look of the Vikings’ defense.

With the return of Johnson and emergency of Weatherly as a solid edge rusher, Griffen’s role is only enhanced by having another interior D-lineman to take away attention along with Sheldon Richardson and another quality player to give Griffen the occasional rest.

The look of the defensive line against Detroit was what the Vikings dreamed about when they added Richardson in the offseason. It was the look of a team that could be carried by its defense for long stretches. It was the look of a D-line who could paint over any dings and scratches in the second or third level a la the absence of Anthony Barr and Andrew Sendejo.

Now the Vikings head into the bye week not only playing at an exceptionally high level on the D-line, but with an opportunity to get healthy for a very difficult stretch run.

Griffen’s presence gives them a better chance to compete against a Bears defense that could slow down Cousins’ attack and in a three-game stretch against Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson.

The strong performance against the Lions also confirms that the Vikings’ defense is back to playing the way everyone expected — and that it’s very likely to stay that way. That’s a good omen for their chances at winning the NFC North.

The post With Griffen looking like himself, Vikings’ D-line crushes Lions appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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