EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — After almost a month away, protection — of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and of the football — will be paramount for the Vikings to secure a win against the Lions in Minnesota's home opener.
The Vikings suffered five sacks by the 49ers Monday night in San Francisco.
The Lions posted 2.0 sacks and forced three turnovers last week at the Chargers, which tied for the second-most takeaways in Week 1, and are plus-8 in turnover margin since the start of the 2014 season.
Detroit recorded eight sacks on its trip to the Twin Cities last season, which was Bridgewater's second career start.
The quarterback, offensive line, tight ends and running backs must work together to prevent a Motown repeat.
The Lions have overhauled the interior of the defensive line, signing defensive tackles Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker to counteract the free agency departures of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Detroit's defensive approach is "basically the same."
"Predominantly four-man front, same thing," Zimmer said. "Guys getting off the ball, wide nines [where the defensive ends line up], aggressive linebackers, secondary covers tight, same thing."
Left guard Brandon Fusco and right guard Mike Harris offered takes on the differences between Suh and Ngata.
"Both of them are good guys. Suh is more up the field," Fusco said. "Ngata will surprise you. Some up the field movement, but really throw a spin or a swim, so you've got to keep your head back and not just lean into him.
"They run some good stuff. Really it's some of the similar stuff we've seen in the past," Fusco added. "We've just got to play our game, be physical up front and protect Teddy. Protection is not just on the offensive line. It's on the running back and quarterback. Really, to play as one this week."
Harris said Detroit is "still a physical team."
"I think they take pride in stopping the run, so as an offensive line, it's going to be a big challenge for us this week. We have to go out there Sunday, be physical and push these guys around."
Harris is preparing for his second start at right guard after being tabbed this offseason to fill the void created when coaches opted to move Fusco to left guard.
"I'm excited for the challenge of going up against a great player like Ngata," Harris said. "I know he's going to bring his A-game, so I have to be prepared and ready for a good battle."
Like a glove-r
As for the takeaways, Detroit ranked fourth in the NFL in interception rate (3.38 percent) in 2014, with safeties Glover Quin leading the NFL with seven and James Ihedigbo adding four of the Lions 20 total picks (tied for third-most).
Zimmer said that was a combination of pressure by the defensive line and effective play by the secondary.
"Obviously, they had good pressure, but they also, I think their corners do a good job of recognizing routes, their safety (Quin) had a bunch of picks last year," Zimmer said. "They've got some tight coverage with the safeties that allow them to get some tips and things like that."
Two of Quin's interceptions last season were against the Vikings, including one in the end zone to halt the Vikings first possession in Minnesota.
The first loss of any team's season always brings out the first reference of the season to the "24-hour rule." It refers to the length of time for players and coaches regret what transpired the previous day before preparing for the next opponent.
Zimmer and players spoke repeatedly this week about not letting the disappointment from Monday's game carryover into Week 2. He said it's an example he saw from Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells (Zimmer was Cowboys defensive coordinator under Parcells from 2003-06 in Dallas).
"He had you thinking about the next week pretty quickly," Zimmer said.
Although it's been nearly a decade since they worked together, they remain close. Parcells, who was nicknamed "The Big Tuna" while in New England, still offers help from time to time.
"He was good at it. He was good at a lot of things though," Zimmer said. "He called me this week as a matter of fact and we talked for a little bit. He's always got some really good sayings and quotations for me."
Returning to port
Sunday's game will be the first time the Vikings have played in front of the home crowd since Aug. 22 in a weather-delayed win over Oakland in Minnesota's third of five preseason games. Count Zimmer in the column of looking forward to the return.
"I love our fans. I wish they would be as loud as they possibly can be when Detroit has the ball," Zimmer said. "Get there early, get there tailgating and show some of the Vikings pride. Make sure not everybody has jumped off that ship yet."
Shamar Stephen (knee) and Jerick McKinnon (ankle) fully participated at practice Friday and are listed as probable.
For the Lions: DeAndre Levy (hip) and Brandon Pettigrew (hamstring) and did not participate Friday. Pettigrew has been ruled out, and Levy is listed as doubtful. Ngata (shoulder), Golden Tate (quad), Caraun Reid (ankle) and Darius Slay (ankle) were limited. Larry Warford (ankle), Matthew Stafford (upper right arm) and LaAdrian Waddle (elbow) fully participated. Ngata and Reid were listed as questionable. Slay, Stafford, Tate, Warford and Waddle are probable.