Vikings vs. Lions: 5 Storylines To Watch

Posted Dec 26, 2013

The Vikings play host to the Detroit Lions on Sunday in the season finale for both teams. Each team enters this weekend’s contest coming off a loss, as last Sunday the Vikings dropped a 42-14 decision in Cincinnati and the Lions lost in overtime to the NY Giants for their third consecutive defeat and their second in a row at home.

Here are five storylines we’ll be chasing between now and kickoff on Sunday...

End of an era
Sunday’s game marks the final game in Mall of America Field history. It’s fitting that the opponent will be the Lions because the Vikings have defeated Detroit more than any other opponent in the building’s history, boasting a 23-7 record against the division foe and having won 14 of the last 15 games at Mall of America Field. In fact, the Vikings have a winning mark against each of their division opponents at Mall of America Field, with a record of 20-11 against the Bears and a 16-15 mark against the Packers.

In 32 seasons the Vikings have played 250 regular season games in the stadium, and 260 including playoff games; the Vikings hold a 167-92 record in regular season and playoff action at Mall of America Field.

There will be a closing ceremony inside the stadium after the game featuring special guest speakers among other elements.

Number chasers
The Vikings will fall short of their team goal of making the playoffs, but several individuals on the team are chasing numbers and records with one game to go. Here are a few of them…

-- Cordarrelle Patterson is four yards shy of the Vikings single-season record for kickoff return yards. He currently averages 33.6 yards per kick return, which leads the NFL in 2013 and is the second-highest season average since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Also, Patterson has scored a touchdown in four consecutive games, becoming the first Vikings rookie to do so since Randy Moss scored in seven straight games in 1998 and he is just 116 all-purpose yards shy of 2,000 for the season.

-- Marcus Sherels currently holds a team record and ranks second in the NFL with a 13.6-yard punt return average on 19 returns. He needs one more return to qualify for season-long records.

-- Defensive ends Jared Allen (9.5) and Brian Robison (9.0) can be the first Viking duo to each get 10 sacks in a season since 2004 – Kevin Williams (12.0) & Lance Johnstone (11.0). If Allen gets there, it will mark the seventh consecutive season he’s reached a double-digit sack total. If Robison gets there, it will mark the first double-digit sack season of his career.

-- Chad Greenway is on pace to lead the team in tackles for the sixth consecutive season, which would tie Ring of Honor member Scott Studwell’s team record.


Containing Calvin
Calvin Johnson has a lot going for him. He has better-than prototypical size for a NFL receiver at 6-5, 236 pounds. He was a first-round pick who surpassed expectations and is now widely-considered the best player at his position in the NFL. He even has a cool nickname – “Megatron.”

What the Vikings defense has is its hands full trying to defend him. Johnson ranks second in the NFL with 1,492 receiving yards, tied for second with 12 receiving touchdowns and 11th with 84 receptions. But there’s good news. The Vikings have had success holding Megatron in check. He has seven touchdowns in 12 games against the Vikings and earlier this season was held to four receptions for 37 yards. But the Vikings can’t lean on past success for results on Sunday. They must be mindful of Johnson’s whereabouts, or else he could ruin the game.

How many regulars will play?
Both the Vikings and Lions are out of playoff contention in the season’s final week, which always begs the question: How many of the regulars will play? Starters Audie Cole, Letroy Guion, Adrian Peterson, Shaun Prater and Harrison Smith were listed as non-participants in practice on Wednesday’s injury report. Starters listed as limited participants were Jerome Felton, Brandon Fusco, Cordarrelle Patterson and Xavier Rhodes.

The Lions injury report was similarly long and also included several starters, so it’s fair to wonder how many of the Lions regulars will be in the lineup.

One more memory?
The San Francisco 49ers closed their long-time stadium in style, with a pick-six by linebacker NaVorrow Bowman in the final minutes to clinch a 34-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. It was a memorable way to close Candlestick Park, a stadium that has provided football fans with many memories over the years. Will something memorable happen in the Vikings last game at Mall of America Field? Adrian Peterson has shredded the Lions defense over the years and, if he plays, will be looking to take a season’s worth of frustration out on the division foes. A 200-yard game would give him the sixth of his career and tie him with OJ Simpson for the NFL record; that would be a fitting final-game memory. Or, in a building that has aided many a Vikings defense thanks to deafening crowd noise, will the Vikings defense give the fans something to holler about and chase quarterback Matthew Stafford all over the field? Perhaps it’ll be a special special teams moment, with Patterson, Sherels and Blair Walsh all capable of changing a game with spectacular performances.

In situations like this, something special just tends to happen. What will it be on Sunday?