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What'd They Say: Stafford Explains How Vikings 'Make Life Tough' on Offenses

The Vikings are readying for their third road division game, while the Lions are prepping for their second NFC North foe in less than a week.

Detroit lost narrowly at Green Bay on Monday Night Football, and the theme among Lions players and coaches after controversial penalties were called against them? Move on to Minnesota.

"I'm staring at a really good Minnesota team. I'm staring at a team that has a lot of talented football players; they're very well coached," Lions Head Coach Matt Patricia told Detroit-area reporters on Wednesday. "I have a lot of respect for [Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer] – I think he does an unbelievable job up there.

"I think that team is on fire right now, and they're getting ready to come down here and play a great game," Patricia added.

Patricia, in his second season in Detroit after 14 seasons with the Patriots, sees a tough challenge from the Vikings offense and defense alike.

He called Minnesota's front seven "the major issue" on defense in addition to the specific schemes they run under Zimmer.

Asked specifically about safety Anthony Harris, Patricia said that his progression in the game pays off in multiple ways because it benefits fellow safety Harrison Smith.

"I think Harris has really allowed Harrison Smith to do some more things with the front and be able to be down in the box a little bit more, be aggressive. He's a really instinctual football player," Patricia said of Smith. "He's good in the deep part of the field, but when he gets down closer to the box, you can really see some of his run instincts, and I think they're doing a good job of, really, a lot of the guys, most of their pre-snap looks are like eight yards from the line of scrimmage – these guys are tight. They're down in there really, really tight, their run force is fast.

"They're on the ball extremely quick, and Harrison Smith is freed up a little bit with Anthony Harris being able to handle some of that stuff on the back end," he continued.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is also well-acquainted with the Vikings defense.

The 2009 first-round draft pick (No. 1 overall) pointed out that Minnesota doesn't give up many big plays.

"Their front seven's really, really good in all phases – against the run, against the pass – and I think they're a top-10 defense in every category I can look at," Stafford said. "They do a good job against everybody. They make life tough on you; you've gotta go out there and execute the details and play physical."

Stafford has been sacked 63 times over his career by the Vikings, far more than any other opponent. He was sacked by Minnesota 12 times last season, including a Vikings single-game record 10 last November.

"Obviously they have a unique pressure system that's pretty good, but at the same time, if they just want to rush four, they're pretty good at that, too," he said. "They've got talent and scheme, which makes them difficult to [handle]."

View the Vikings practice photos from October 16 at the TCO Performance Center as they prepare to take on the Lions.

Here are other highlights of the Lions talking about the Vikings:

Patricia on Vikings LB duo in Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr:

"They're two outstanding linebackers, and I think they play really well together. They've had that camaraderie for a while now, and I think that they both complement each other really well. You see that on tape – you see those guys moving through traffic, you find that open space, and there's a lot of run-throughs with this defense. These guys come free, both of them do, and that's where they're getting teams off-track … in the run game and getting them behind the sticks. And once that happens, here come all the different pass packages, and the fronts and the looks and the double-A gap stuff, and you have to deal with all that."

Patricia on Minnesota's offense under coordinator Kevin Stefanski:

"I give credit to Coach Stefanski and the game plans that he's had up. I think he's doing an awesome job getting the run game going, letting the line of scrimmage kind of get going and take over up front. I think he's using the tight ends really well. I would say [Kyle] Rudolph is in a little bit of a different role than he's been in the past, but with the addition of Irv Smith and some of the things that he's able to do, they're putting defenses in a lot more of a bind.

"We talk so much … about sub-personnels and 11 personnel and things like that, kind of the trends of the league, and I would say they're a little bit different in that facet. They'll have a fullback on the field; they'll have multiple tight ends on the field. They're creating a lot of mismatches for defenses or trying to put them in situations where they're not really sure how to match it or how to get lined up in some of those areas. From a game-planning standpoint, they're doing a really good job of that."

Stafford on the continuity on Minnesota's defense

"Those guys communicate really well; they play well off of each other. … I turn the tape on, and it's almost like I'm watching the same thing every year. I'm watching the same guys playing at an extremely high level. It doesn't seem like anything's dropping off, and if anything, they're getting better."

DE Trey Flowers on the Vikings offense:

"Very physical run game. They've got great backs that run the ball hard, run the ball well, and the offensive line is definitely gonna block it up. There are guys on the outside that can make big plays, get separation down the field. It's going to be a task for us defensively, understanding there's a great offense coming in, and we have to prepare well for them."

CB Justin Coleman on Minnesota's playmakers:

"What makes [Adam Thielen] better than a lot of guys is his competitive nature, and he works hard. I applaud him for that."

"It's a huge challenge. They've definitely got guys who can make plays all over the field – wide out, running back, quarterback, whatever. The challenge we're going to have is to not beat ourselves and not have as many penalties this week and execute better. That's basically what we're facing this week."

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