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5 Vikings-Lions Storylines: Cousins in Motor City & Rejuvenation Effort

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings (5-6) are transitioning from a venue in which they've never won (Levi's Stadium) to a place where they've won four in a row (Ford Field).

The Lions (0-10-1) are eager to record their first win under first-year Head Coach Dan Campbell at noon (CT) Sunday when Minnesota visits. It also would snap an eight-game losing streak to the Vikings.

Minnesota has completed its worst travel stretch of the season, having visited Baltimore in Week 9, Los Angeles in Week 10 and San Francisco in Week 12.

The Vikings are trying to rejuvenate ahead of their final six games and began that process Wednesday by holding a walk-through session instead of a full practice.

Vikings uniform combination: TBD

Matchup to watch: Vikings QB Kirk Cousins vs. Lions defense

Cousins is a perfect 7-0 as a starter against Detroit since joining the Vikings in 2018.

He has completed 153 of 208 passes (73.6 percent) for 1,897 yards with 16 touchdowns against two interceptions. That's good for a combined passer rating of 123.0.

Cousins has never had a passer rating below 93.9 in a game against Detroit, and his numbers in the Motor City while wearing Purple have been even more dominant.

In three games against squads led by former Lions head coach Matt Patricia, the Vikings implemented concepts to challenge man-to-man defenses. Cousins completed 73 of 102 passes for 996 yards with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions for a combined passer rating of 135.1.

Even though the coaching staff has changed, Cousins should have plenty of confidence in his return to the state where he played high school and college football home games. It will be an opportunity for him to re-center after struggling at times at San Francisco.

Here are five storylines of interest this week:

1. Down, not out

The Vikings tumbled from sixth in the NFC to eighth by falling at San Francisco 34-26.

It would be easy to be down, but the team also knows it's not out of the playoff picture with six games remaining. There's plenty of destiny for Minnesota left to control, even if Green Bay is a near lock to win the division.

The NFC North has essentially been decided at Cincinnati, Arizona and San Francisco this season. Minnesota lost three contests in those locales by a combined 12 points. Green Bay won its three games in those places by a combined eight points. The Packers (9-3) are on their bye this week.

The first order of business for Minnesota will be evening its record to .500 for the third time this season.

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Lions.

2. Don't be that team

There's an unwritten rule — "don't be that guy" — that is often understood.

It can be October, November or December (or maybe even January in this extended season), but no one wants to be the first team to lose to a previously winless team late in the season.

Minnesota knows good and well that Detroit has challenged teams before falling. The Lions had the Ravens on the ropes before an NFL-record, 66-yard field goal bounced off the crossbar and through the uprights.

The Vikings led the Lions 16-6 with 4:28 remaining in Week 5. Detroit scored a field goal in 47 seconds and forced a fumble by Alexander Mattison to get the ball back at the 20 and took a lead three plays later.

Minnesota drove 46 yards in 0:37 seconds to set up a 54-yard field goal by Greg Joseph as time expired.

3. Replacing and reviving run game

Mattison could get another big chance against the Lions after recording a career-best 113 yards in Week 5.

Dalvin Cook left Sunday's game at San Francisco via cart after suffering a shoulder injury. Although Zimmer listed Cook as "day-to-day" on Monday, he's not likely to be 100 percent for some time.

Detroit is allowing 133.9 rushing yards per game, which ranks 29th in the NFL, but the Lions allowance of 4.27 yards per carry is 14th. The difference in those numbers usually indicates a team has been playing from behind.

The Vikings are averaging 114.5 yards per game (15th in the NFL) and 4.22 yards per carry (17th), but there have been multiple times this year where the run game has been inconsistent.

Minnesota is 5-2 when it has one player rush for 86 or more yards in a game this season.

Rookie Kene Nwangwu could be added into the mix more this week after rushing for a gain of 7 at San Francisco on his first career carry. Nwangwu has shown his speed on two kickoff returns for touchdowns in just five games.

4. Close out before another close one?

Aside from a Week 3 win in Seattle, the other 10 Vikings games have been decided by one score. There have been opportunities in wins where Minnesota could have put away opponents, including in Week 5 against Detroit.

Minnesota is the only team in the NFL to have led every opponent by seven or more points this season. analyst Gil Brandt noted that Minnesota is the 22nd team in NFL history to do so through 11 games of the season but the first to be sub-.500 at that point.

The Vikings would do themselves a big favor if they are able to get a lead and build on it without having to go to the wire, particularly with a short week (hosting Pittsburgh for Thursday Night Football in Week 14) on the horizon.

5. Possession football

The Vikings offense needs to rebound from a two-turnover game and can do a better job of converting on third downs.

One week after converting a season-best 69.2 percent of third downs (9-for-13) against Green Bay, the Vikings turned in their third-worst performance of the season (25 percent), moving the chains just twice on eight chances.

Those factors led to Minnesota's lowest possession time of 2021 (22:53) on a day when it was playing with a shorthanded defense.

When the teams met the first time around, Minnesota converted 38.5 percent of its third downs and held the football for 32:06.