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5 Vikings-Lions Storylines: Minnesota's Offense Aims for Rebound

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings (1-3) will host the Lions (0-4) for the teams' first meeting this season and will look to start digging themselves out of an early hole.

Minnesota started its three-game homestand with a defeat of Seattle but fell 14-7 Sunday to former assistant Kevin Stefanski and the Cleveland Browns.

The Lions have lost to the 49ers, Packers, Ravens and Bears and will certainly be desperate for a win – particularly one within the division – this weekend.

Kickoff is scheduled for noon (CT).

Vikings uniform combination: Purple jerseys and white pants

Matchup to watch: Kirk Cousins versus the Lions secondary

Detroit has yet to win a game but has played tougher than its record indicates (more on that below).

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and the offensive line struggled some against the Browns pass rush in Week 4 and spent a majority of the afternoon under duress. The result was longer times to throw and forcing a pass here and there that either didn't find its mark or, in the case of one, was intercepted.

Cousins entered the matchup with Cleveland having not thrown an interception since Week 15 of the 2020 campaign. He broke his own franchise record (201 attempts without an interception in 2019) earlier in the day but saw the streak snapped on his 225th attempt when he was picked off by Browns cornerback Greedy Williams late in the game.

This week, Cousins will look to continue a strong run of performances against Detroit. He'll have to keep his eyes out for Lions corner Amani Oruwariye, who already has tied his career high for a season with two interceptions this season. Oruwariye also is tied with safety Bobby Price for the Lions team lead in passes defensed (three).

If the Vikings offensive line protects Cousins better this week than last, the QB could re-establish his rhythm.

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

Here are five Vikings-Lions storylines to follow in Week 5.

1. O-Line bounceback

Speaking of the offensive line, Minnesota is looking for its starting five to rebound after a poor performance against Cleveland.

When the Vikings tried and failed to get the run game going, Minnesota found itself relying much more on the pass game, and the offensive line wore down. Rashod Hill and Olisaemeka Udoh struggled against a Browns pass rush led by Myles Garrett, and even right tackle Brian O'Neill – who entered the game without any sacks or pressures allowed – gave up four pressures of Cousins.

O'Neill acknowledged that he and his linemates need to execute better this week; they hope to establish a run game early, which then will enable the group to provide better pass protection.

2. Take nothing for granted

Vikings fans are all too familiar with this adage: teams' records are not always an indicator of their talent.

Detroit would have defeated Baltimore if not for a 66-yard field goal by Justin Tucker hitting the crossbar and bouncing through as time expired in Week 3.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has emphasized that very fact about Minnesota's 1-3 record, and looking at how narrow each of their losses has been, it really drives the point home. The Lions may be winless, but they certainly can't be counted out. In fact, sometimes those teams can be the most dangerous, as the Vikings have experienced in the past.

It's gonna have to be all hands on deck at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday as Minnesota works to notch its first NFC North win of the season and avoid slipping to 1-4.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 5, 2022.

3. Going after a complete game

The Vikings have been straight-up explosive to start their past three games.

They've scored touchdowns on their first drives against Arizona, Seattle and Cleveland, but the offense has struggled to click in second halves.

Minnesota's defense has been a roller-coaster ride for fans, as well. The unit has floundered especially in the final two minutes of each first half, allowing opponents to score an atrocious 35 points during that particular time span.

The Vikings have shown flashes of elite-level performance but just haven't been able to pull it all together for an entire 60 minutes of football.

Sunday's contest against the Lions is a must-win for Minnesota, so a complete game is a must-have.

4. Meeting the new-look Lions

The Vikings are plenty familiar with the Lions. After all, this week's game will mark the teams' 120th meeting in franchise history.

That being said, though, Detroit is bringing a new-look roster – and coaching staff – to Minnesota.

The 2021 season marks the Lions first under Head Coach Dan Campbell, who most recently served as the Saints assistant head coach and tight ends coach (2016-20). Campbell played tight end himself in the NFL from 1999-2009 and actually overlapped three seasons (2003-05) in Dallas with Mike Zimmer, who served as the Cowboys defensive coordinator.

Detroit's offensive coordinator is Anthony Lynn, who was released from his head-coach duties with the Chargers, and its defensive coordinator is Aaron Glenn, who coached defensive backs in New Orleans. The Vikings are familiar with Lions Senior Defensive Assistant Dom Capers, who held the same role in Minnesota last season.

Minnesota has grown accustomed to facing Matthew Stafford whenever the Vikings and Lions meet up, but this year there's a different quarterback in the huddle. The Lions traded Stafford to the Rams following the 2020 campaign, in exchange for Los Angeles sending Jared Goff to Detroit.

So far this season, Goff is 110-of-161 passing for 1,100 yards, seven touchdowns and two touchdowns, with a passer rating of 96.8. He's been sacked 10 times. Goff interestingly is 0-11 in games under a head coach other than Sean McVay.

The Lions receiving corps has changed, too, with longtime wideout Marvin Jones, Jr., signing with the Jaguars as a free agent this spring. During his career in Detroit, Jones racked up 49 catches for 715 yards and nine touchdowns in games against Minnesota; all three stats are higher than against any other opponent.

Detroit's leading receivers thus far in 2021 are actually a running back and tight end. D'Andre Swift has 23 catches out of the backfield. T.J. Hockenson, a first-round pick out of Iowa in 2019, has 22 catches for 215 yards and two touchdowns. Three Lions are tied with two touchdowns apiece: Hockenson, Kalif Raymond and Quintez Cephus. This is Raymond's first season in Detroit.

5. Pressure's on to protect the house

The Vikings only have eight home games this season, it's imperative that they make the most of them.

After losing to the Browns at U.S. Bank Stadium, the pressure is on to protect the house and regain a winning record at home. Vikings fans provide a home-field advantage unlike any other, and it's important that Minnesota capitalizes on the luxury.

Winning games on the road is always a more difficult task, and with the 17-game season, the Vikings have nine away contests.

If they hope to right the ship and still pursue a spot in the postseason, the Vikings have to win at home.