The Minnesota Vikings face the Detroit Lions on the road in Week 14. Dan Campbell’s Lions lost in Week 3 in Minnesota, partly because of some horrendous mistakes of the Lions. The Lions got called for seven penalties, the majority in crucial game moments.
Another reason for the loss was a decision made by Campbell, who sent out his kicker with just 74 seconds remaining to hit a 54-yarder. Seibert missed the kick. That kick was the wrong decision because it didn’t change much in the game, as the Vikings were down three points, and a touchdown would’ve won the game anyway. It was a fourth down with four yards to go, and the better decision was to go for it on fourth down.
The teams now have four more games to go and have changed a lot since their Week 3 matchup. One thing, in particular, is a very interesting subject leading up to the game. When the trade deadline approached, the Vikings desperately needed a tight end, as Irv Smith Jr had to be placed on IR and has not played since Week 8 in Arizona because of a high ankle sprain.
General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made a deal with a team with which he had already done business during the draft, the Detroit Lions. Controversially, Adofo-Mensah traded down 20 spots in the first round of his first draft in charge and allowed the divisional opponent to select the explosive receiver, Jameson Williams. Many Vikings fans have been irritated about the move since April.
This time, Lions fans were confused about the trade, as they gave up one of their best players, T.J. Hockenson. Teams rarely trade in their own division, and the Vikings did it twice in one season with the Lions alone. Hockenson is one of the more productive tight ends in the league and had to give up only a pick swap that equaled about a day-two draft pick.
The term’ revenge game’ implies that Hockenson has any ill will towards the Lions, but he downplayed the story and expressed that he is thankful for his time in Detroit. However, in the world of sports, every game against the old team is some kind of revenge game. Hockenson has been the starting tight end in Minnesota since the trade and fills a key role in the offense, as he’s the main target in the middle of the field and on short-yardage situations, especially on third downs.
In the five games with the Vikings, Hockenson recorded 225 receiving yards on 30 catches. His first score came on Thanksgiving against the Patriots. A crucial game was his first one against Washington. The Vikings needed every single one of his nine catches for 70 yards. He was just a few days in the building and had to learn the playbook. Hockenson made some mistakes, especially with the blocking assignments, but he was important in the passing game and converted multiple third downs. Hockenson is functioning as the second receiving threat next to Justin Jefferson in the Vikings’ offense.
Former Lions quarterback and now Vikings practice squad player, David Blough, helped him prepare for the game. In theory, Blough is also enjoying a revenge game, even if he’s not playing.
Curiously, Hockenson won four out of the five games in purple, but he only won four games of his last 30 in Detroit. However, since the Lions traded him away, they have also won four out of five games, just like the Vikings.
There’s a good chance the Vikings will have a few tricks up their sleeves and use their tight end against his former team. Detroit’s struggling passing defense gave up eight touchdowns to tight ends. In Week 3, no Vikings’ tight end scored against them but all three of Irv Smith, Ben Ellefson, and Johnny Mundt caught two passes for more than 20 yards. The game plan may look different against Hockenson, who is a much better player but the Lions are certainly susceptible to players of that position.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt