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Vikings Defense Fights, Sacks Matthew Stafford 6 Times

MINNEAPOLIS –Matthew Stafford felt the pressure of the Vikings defense Sunday.

The Lions quarterback was sacked six times for a combined loss of 55 yards. Two of the takedowns were credited to Danielle Hunter, who tackled Stafford for a 5-yard loss on the first play of the game. They were his first of the season.

"You just have to keep going out there, and eventually you'll get a sack," Hunter said.

On Detroit's third drive, Hunter sacked Stafford for a loss of seven on first-and-10. Six plays later, he helped corral the signal caller, allowing Linval Joseph to notch the Vikings third sack of the day.

"That was our job – keep him in the pocket, don't let him scramble out, because he's a scrambler," Hunter said. "We saw that on film, that he made plays with his legs. So that was one of our main focuses."

In the teams' last meeting, at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day 2016, Stafford demonstrated his mobility and rushed for 30 yards against the Vikings.

On Sunday, Stafford didn't have a rush until he took three kneel-downs to run out the clock. He finished the game 19-of-31 passing for 209 yards and a passer rating of 81.2. He did not throw a touchdown pass. 

"We felt good. We were able to contain the pocket," Hunter said. "We rushed together as a team, so we feel pretty good about that."

Following the game, Stafford said the Vikings defense "played pretty darn good."

Eric Kendricks and Everson Griffen also recorded sacks of Stafford. The sixth was awarded when Stafford fumbled while under duress from Harrison Smith and Kendricks. Originally ruled an incomplete pass, the call was challenged by Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and then reversed and ruled a fumble for a loss of 24 yards.

The Vikings also were credited with nine tackles for loss – two apiece from Kendricks, Griffen and Hunter – and eight quarterback hits.

Shamar Stephen made his first start of 2017 and had a tackle against the Lions.

"We wanted to stop the run, and we wanted to be able to get after [Stafford] and get him on the ground," Stephen said. "I think we did a good job of getting him on the ground, but they rushed a little bit on us, and we have to clean that up a little bit."

Griffen said there was a sense of pride on containing Stafford, but Minnesota's loss to Detroit overshadowed any individual accomplishments.

"We fought to the end. We did a good job up front," Griffen said. "But this is a team game, the best team game in the world.

"The biggest thing we have to do now is go back to the tape," Griffen added. "I think the biggest thing we have to do is eliminate the turnovers and make the plays where they need to be made."

Zimmer saw things that can be improved defensively but emphasized the way the unit battled.

"I thought the defense played their hearts out today," Zimmer said. "We didn't tackle in some situations as good as I would have liked. They had their backs to the wall after those first two turnovers, I believe. I thought they fought." 

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