Two of the more scrutinized Vikings on the offensive line will be facing stiff challenges Sunday.
Center John Sullivan may not be completely recovered from a calf injury that kept him from playing in any of the preseason games, but he’ll have to be on top of his game facing rookie defensive tackle Ndamakong Suh, the second overall pick of April’s draft for the Detroit Lions.
“He’s a strong guy. There’s no two ways about it. He penetrates and he’s relentless trying to get to the quarterback,” said Sullivan, who is relying on game film for that assessment since he has never played against Suh before. “You’re always asking around about the guys you go against.
“You can ask guys about their personal battles that they’ve had with certain people, but we have all the game tapes so we’ve seen him all throughout the preseason and these first two weeks of the regular season. … We know our job here is to block the guys put in front of us. We know he’s talented, but we play a lot of talented guys.”
Suh already has nine tackles and two sacks, the first Lions rookie to record sacks in each of his first two games since the statistic became official in 1983.
Left tackle Bryant McKinnie might have an even more difficult task. He will be charged with slowing down defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, a free-agent acquisition for the Lions this offseason.
“He seems like he’s the leader of the defensive line and plays with a high energy,” McKinnie said. “He has a good motor, so he’s going to keep going.”
Vanden Bosch leads the Lions with 17 tackles and has 1½ sacks. During his previous five seasons with the Tennessee Titans, he had 38½ sacks and led the defensive linemen in three of those seasons.
McKinnie, who played his college ball at Miami, said he faced Vanden Bosch, a Nebraska alumnus, once in college. McKinnie didn’t allow a sack during his high school or college years.
When informed he must have had a good game against Vanden Bosch in college, McKinnie just smiled and just said, “Yep … sooo, I need to have another one.”
Sullivan sees both Vanden Bosch and Suh presenting a challenge for the Vikings.
“They’ve got a lot of guys on their defense that can get after it. They play very hard,” Sullivan said. “Obviously Vanden Bosch has incredible tempo, incredible motor on film, and Suh is everything he’s cracked up to be.”
Sullivan isn’t using his calf as an excuse. “After training camp, I don’t know if anybody is ever at 100 percent. It doesn’t matter. I’m out there, I’m playing, I’m responsible for my job and going 100 percent all the time,” Sullivan said.
A pair of Lions tight ends aren’t widely known outside of Detroit but could cause issues for the Vikings. Brandon Pettigrew had a career-best 108 yards on seven catches last week, and Tony Sheffler had seven catches for 52 yards in his only game against the Vikings (as a member of the Broncos) in 2007.
Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, who is 6-foot-5, has a touchdown catch in four of six career games against the Vikings. He had eight catches for 84 yards in his last outing against the Vikings.
Brett Favre needs two TD passes to become the first ever with 500. He is 15-2 in his last 17 games against Detroit and has had a passer rating above 100 in his last five against the Lions. In his past four games against Detroit, he is 4-0, has completed 83 of 108 passes for 979 yards with eight TDs and no interceptions for a 128.6 rating. His 8,753 yards against Detroit are his most against any opponent.
Visanthe Shiancoe leads the all NFC tight ends with 162 receiving yards. He has a touchdown catch in two of his last three games against Detroit.
Jared Allen has six sacks, three forced fumbles and a safety in five career meetings against Detroit. He has 22 sacks in his past 19 home games, including the playoffs.
Allen’s counterpart on the other side of the defensive line, has also had good games against the Lions. Ray Edwards has eight sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in eight games against Detroit.
Finally, Kevin Williams has six sacks in his past five games against Detroit.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.