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NOTEBOOK: Vikings Expect Early Aggressiveness by Lions Offense

EAGAN, Minn. — When Vikings safety Anthony Harris turned on the film of Detroit's offense from Monday night, it didn't take long for the Lions to grab his attention.

Detroit ran a flea-flicker on its opening play from scrimmage, with Matthew Stafford connecting with Kenny Golladay for a 66-yard gain.

While that led to a Lions field goal, Detroit was at it again on the first play of its next series. This time, Stafford sold a play-action fake before firing deep to Marvin Hall for 58 yards. That eventually led to a Lions touchdown.

"It shows they're trying to take their shots," Harris said. "A lot of times early in the game, teams like to do stuff they haven't done. Maybe come out, try some gadget plays and stuff that's going to mess with your eyes.

"This year, you turn on the film and you see them being a lot more aggressive. Especially early on in the game, you see them come out and try to get those big plays and try to get momentum," Harris added. "It's going to be important that everyone take care of their responsibility so we can put together a good game."

Stafford is a veteran with plenty of experience against the Vikings, as Sunday will be his 19th career start vs. Minnesota.

The No. 1 overall pick in 2009, Stafford doesn't lead the league in any major stats. He has completed 106 of 173 passes (61.3 percent) for 1,387 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions in 2019.

But Stafford is among the league's best at going deep and hitting those shots.

According to NFL's Next Gen Stats, Stafford ranks first among all quarterbacks in average completed air yards at 8.1, which measures the average air yards a passer throws on completions.

Stafford also ranks second in the NFL with 23 pass plays of 20-plus yards, despite playing in just five games so far in 2019. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is fifth in that category through six games.

Stafford has four touchdowns of 20-plus yards for Detroit, which had a bye in Week 5.

Of those 23 explosive plays, wide receiver Marvin Jones, Jr., leads Detroit with seven such receptions. Golladay has five catches of 20-plus yards. Rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson has four, and running back Kerryon Johnson has three.

But for Vikings safety Harrison Smith, his focus is on the man getting them the ball.

"It starts with the quarterback," Smith said. "He's throwing it around really well … throwing into tight windows, but throwing in places the defender can't get it. He's playing really awesome.

"They have vertical threats … guys who can go up and get the ball," Smith added. "Jones, Golladay, the young tight end. They can all get downfield and make big plays."

Added Harris: "You have to be aware, even more when you have a quarterback with a big arm. Sometimes you think the receiver can outrun the quarterback, but with a guy like that, you know he's got it in the tank."

Minnesota ranks seventh in passing yards allowed per game (218.7). The Vikings have yet to allow 300 net yards passing by an opposing quarterback in 2019.

"I like the energy we've got," Harris said. "Part of the performances we've put together as a group is us just going and having fun.

"Just kind of live in the moment and enjoy where we are, enjoy being on the field," Harris added. "We put the work in together during the week, but then it's time to go out there and cut loose and go play."

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster for the 2019 season.

Responding to Fake FG, Facing Real Return Threat

While Harris will be focused on stopping Stafford in Detroit, the Vikings safety made one of the biggest plays in Week 6 on a fake field goal by the Eagles.

Harris noticed Dallas Goedert go out for a pass when the ball was snapped to kicker Jake Elliott, and he quickly converged on the Philadelphia tight end.

Harris stayed in coverage for a few seconds, eventually tipping Elliott's pass, which was picked off by Everson Griffen.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf said he was proud of the unit's effort and execution on that play.

"It worked out well for us, I'll say that. I like what our guys saw," Maalouf said. "I like that our rules really came into place there. Anthony was in the right spot.

"There's even some things that we can clean up there, to be honest with you, but I like how everybody was tuned-in. We've been talking about situational football and where we were at in the game, I think with our call and how they executed it, it's a credit to them," Maalouf added. "They were ready."

Minnesota will now get ready for a different special teams challenge, as Lions kick returner Jamal Agnew is one of two players with a kickoff return for a score in 2019.

Agnew also leads the NFL with a kickoff return average of 31.0 yards.

"Agnew is an exceptional talent," Maalouf said. "The last thing you want him to do is get the ball in his hands because he is explosive.

"Unless that thing goes through the back of the end zone, we're expecting him to take it out, and our coverage has to be on point in punt and in kickoff, as well. Our gunners are going to have to get down the field," Maalouf added. "We're going to have to protect and get as many guys into coverage as we possibly can."

Agnew also has nine punt returns for 27 yards, with a long of 24.

Cousins earns FedEx Air Player of the Week honor

Cousins has been rewarded for his best game of the 2019 season.

The NFL announced Thursday that the Vikings quarterback earned the FedEx Air Player of the Week honor for Week 6, beating out Arizona's Kyler Murray and Jets quarterback Sam Darnold.

Cousins completed 22 of 29 passes for 333 yards with four touchdowns and an interception against Philadelphia, earning a passer rating of 138.4.

FedEx will donate $2,000 to the USO on behalf of the NFL award winners through FedEx Cares. The $4,000 donation will support the USO Pathfinder program, which provides resources and personalized services to assist service members and military spouses in their transition back to civilian life. FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Year winners — announced each year during Super Bowl Week at NFL Honors — will receive a $20,000 donation in their name to the USO.

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook won the FedEx Ground Player of the Week honor in Week 2 when he ran for 154 yards and a touchdown against the Packers.