Minnesota Vikings: Five things we learned in the loss to the Detroit Lions

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN – OCTOBER 1: Linval Joseph /

3. The defense has been great, BUT needs to be elite.

The Vikings held Stafford to 209 yards and a 23.3 QBR, even though they were put in poor situations by the offense for most of the game. The defensive front played a large role in shutting down the Stafford and the Lions offense. For the game, they produced six sacks as well as multiple pressures and quarterback hits.

Even though they struggled against the run, allowing 94 yards on 20 carries to Abdullah, the Vikings defense played well enough to win.

That being said, there’s still another level this defense can get to. That level is from great to elite.

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The makings of an elite defense is one that creates turnovers, even turning them into points. Through four games, the Vikings have three interceptions and zero fumble recoveries for no points. Furthermore, the three interceptions all came against the Buccaneers in Week 3.

Of course, they are one of the top defenses in the league. Yet, they have failed to take advantage of turnover opportunities that make a major impact on a game.

In fact, the Vikings had three or four opportunities for interceptions against the Lions. Mackensie Alexander had the best opportunity for one, but dropped the ball with an open field in front of him. Anthony Barr and Trae Waynes also had catchable balls slip through their hands.

Basically, elite defenses make those plays. They don’t let opportunities like that slip through their fingers, especially multiple ones in a game.

Even so, it’s hard to be too tough on the defense given the offense’s struggles against the Lions, but they definitely had opportunities to even out the turnover differential. If they would have converted on those, the outcome could have looked differently.

Given the Vikings luck with injuries on the offensive side of the ball, the Vikings defense is going to need to take that next step sooner than later.

4. The Linval Joseph and Danielle Hunter we know are back.

Getting back to the defensive line, Joseph and Hunter had huge days on the defensive side. Days that we became accustomed to over the course of last season. Joseph was second on the team in tackles with nine, including a sack. His linemate, Hunter, had his first two sacks of the season against prized Lions free agent signee Rick Wagner.

Prior to this game, Everson Griffen was the only starting defensive lineman with more than 10 tackles and a sack. As already mentioned, the defense has been effective, but Hunter and Joseph weren’t creating the degree of havoc that we saw from them in 2016.

In this one, they created problems for Stafford, who didn’t look comfortable for most of the game. Overall, the Vikings pass rush looked the best it has all season with the starting line hitting on all cylinders.

If Joseph and Hunter continue this level of play, which should be expected from the duo, they will create more turnover opportunities and sacks alongside Griffen.