Surprising starts for Vikes, Lions
DETROIT — The Detroit Lions seem to be falling short of expectations so far.
They barely beat the St. Louis Rams, lost at San Francisco by 12 and dropped a second straight game by giving up 44 points to Tennessee.
This isn't what was envisioned for a team coming off a rare playoff appearance, with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson budding into a dynamic duo that is tough to stop, and a defense with a solid front seven.
The Lions (1-2) are highly motivated to beat the surprising Minnesota Vikings (2-1) on Sunday because a .500 record would be much better than the alternative, their first three-game losing streak since 2010, going into a bye week.
"There should be a sense of urgency, definitely in this one," Johnson said. "The worst thing for a competitor is to lose and not being able to come back ASAP and re-prove himself on the field again."
Minnesota, meanwhile, wants to prove it can win an NFC North game for a change.
The Vikings have lost 11 straight within the division since beating Detroit on Sept. 26, 2010, and are tied with Cleveland for the longest active intradivision losing streak.
The skid, which includes three straight losses to Detroit, is something the Vikings are well aware of heading to r Motor City.
"We have to get a lot better in our divisional matchups and do that this year," quarterback Christian Ponder said.
If last week's game was any indication of what's to come, Minnesota might be tough to knock out of first place in the NFC North after entering the season as an afterthought behind Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit.
"I like being the underdogs and I like to be overlooked because when you hit somebody in their mouth, their eyes open then," Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said.
Does Peterson think the Vikings punched San Francisco in the mouth in an eyebrow-raising 24-13 victory?
"Yeah, you watched the game," Peterson said. "We came out and threw the first punch and kept throwing them."
If the Vikings can get ahead of Detroit, which has scored 25 points in first halves and 62 after halftime in three games, they won't let up after a disheartening loss in Week 3 last season. Minnesota led the Lions by 20 at halftime and lost 26-23 in overtime.
In Detroit, the Vikings lost by six after rallying from a 21-point, third-quarter deficit.
"We know how the games ended last year so, of course, we're going to come in and return a favor," Peterson said.
Minnesota wasn't a favorite in the division in large part because Peterson was coming off of major knee surgery and there were questions whether Ponder, a second-year QB, was ready to take the next step.
Peterson's torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his left knee were repaired nine months ago. And he seemed ahead of everybody's schedule other than the one he had for himself when he was ready to play in Week 1.
"I wasn't surprised," he said. "It was a goal that I had set out for myself."
Peterson, who has 230 yards rushing and two touchdowns, has been healthy and durable enough to averaged nearly 20 carries a game. He ran for 100-plus yards five times in his first seven matchups against the Lions, but was limited to just 31 and 78 yards rushing in his last two against them.
Detroit, though, isn't getting cocky about its chances of containing Peterson again.
"I don't know that if you can ever really hold that guy in check," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "He's one play away from going the distance. I know in the past, there have been times that we've had him bottled up and then he broke off a long run."
The Lions will be without one of their best run-stoppers, losing veteran defensive tackle Corey Williams indefinitely because he needed knee surgery a few days after the loss to Tennessee.
They will, however, have Stafford against Minnesota barring a surprising setback following a scare.
Stafford left last week's game against the Titans with an injured right hip, which he hurt a few days earlier in practice, but he was healthy enough to practice Thursday. He hasn't followed up his breakout season very well — throwing just three TDs and four interceptions — and yet Minnesota saw what he was capable of in the last two meetings. Stafford completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 600-plus yards with four TDs and no interceptions against the Vikings.
"Matthew has such a strong arm and makes so many plays down the field with that strong arm and his accuracy, his mobility," Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said. "He does a lot of good things, evidenced by what happened a season ago."