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Vikings must right their ship vs. Lions

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Every week in the National Football League is billed as a critical, end-of-the-world, do-or-die moment. In truth, each game usually is weighted equally.

However …

The Minnesota Vikings have arrived at a very important moment in the early stages of coach Mike Zimmer’s head coaching career. It’s not end-of-the-world stuff, but it’s big.

Monday night’s 20-3 loss at San Francisco was such a thorough physical and mental mismatch that Sunday’s bounce-back game against a division opponent, Detroit, at TCF Bank Stadium takes on a heightened sense of importance. Righting the ship, so to speak, has never felt more important for a boatload of players and coaches who were expected to set sail one way only to go the opposite direction immediately.

“It’s just about redemption,” said running back Adrian Peterson, a non-factor with 31 yards on 10 carries in his return to the playing field after missing 15 games a year ago. “You have to come back better than you were before. Thank God it’s Week 1 and it’s only one game. We have a divisional game coming up Sunday. We need to come out and take care of business.”

The Lions, meanwhile, have their own ghosts to bust. They led the Chargers 21-3 in the first half of Sunday’s game in San Diego before losing 33-28.

Now, they face a Vikings team they beat twice a year ago. The game at TCF Bank Stadium featured physical and mental domination. Despite playing without Calvin Johnson, the Lions won 17-3, posting eight sacks and intercepting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater three times.

Of course, the Lions aren’t the same physically dominant team without their defensive leader, tackle Ndamukong Suh, who signed a mega free agent deal with the Miami Dolphins in the offseason. They also lost end George Johnson. Those two players combined for 3 1/2 of the eight sacks.

But the Lions do have defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, who had 2 1/2 sacks while punishing struggling left tackle Matt Kalil, and middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead, who had two interceptions.

For now, however, the Vikings appear to be more concerned about themselves and fixing their minds after a game several players called “humbling” and “embarrassing.” The Vikings gave up 230 yards rushing and five sacks while mustering just 71 yards rushing in Peterson’s return.

“I was confident going into the ballgame,” Zimmer said. “I said, ‘Man, these guys are ready to go.’ So much for that. There was no indication of this coming whatsoever.”

The answers the Vikings seek appear to lie as much between the ears as they do on the practice field.

“It was a poor performance; Disappointing,” Zimmer said. “We did not play together as a team in most all phases. We’ve got a lot of soul-searching to get done.”

NOTES: TE Kyle Rudolph had five catches for 53 yards in Week 1. In the last meeting against Detroit, Rudolph caught seven passes for 69 yards. … LB Anthony Barr had the only pass defensed by the Vikings in the loss at San Francisco. Barr was the only bright spot on defense with 10 solo tackles, two assists and a tackle for loss. … OT T. J. Clemmings struggled in his first start in place of RT Phil Loadholt, who is out for the season with an Achilles tendon tear.


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