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Dave Campbell / Associated Press, Published November 10 2012

Vikings, Lions look different from last matchup

MINNEAPOLIS – Detroit and Minnesota are due for their second of two annual matchups. The Lions and Vikings might need a reintroduction to each other, even though they’re NFC North foes that played just six weeks ago.

They’ve each looked a lot different on the field lately, since that convincing Sept. 30 victory in Detroit by Minnesota.

“Much more balanced,” Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said, assessing the change in the Lions since their 1-3 start. “They’re running the ball well.”

The Vikings held the Lions, who haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher in any season since Kevin Jones in 2004 and last year didn’t even have a guy get to 400 yards, to 55 yards on the ground on 20 attempts when they met earlier. The Vikings used two special teams touchdowns to win 20-13 that day, and despite only 227 total yards of offense they were in control from kickoff to finish.

After becoming the first modern-NFL team to allow scores in consecutive games by both punt and kickoff returns, the Lions (4-4) haven’t yielded a special teams touchdown since. They’ve also found a featured runner from their oft-injured backfield, now that Mikel Leshoure is healthy and beginning to blossom. Last year’s second-round draft pick scored three times in the first half last week in beating Jacksonville and is averaging nearly 4.7 yards per carry over the last four games. The Lions have won three of those.

“I never questioned myself. It was just a matter of getting on the field. Talent-wise, I’ve always had confidence,” Leshoure said. “We’re on a roll and we’re doing some good things. We’re doing a good job of being balanced and if we can keep doing that, it’ll be hard for teams to defend us.”

The Vikings effectively quieted star wide receiver Calvin Johnson in the last matchup, hitting him hard almost every time the ball went his way, and the man they call “Megatron” has just one touchdown catch this season while being bothered by a bad left knee. But quarterback Matthew Stafford is in fine form again, and with each productive carry by Leshoure the offense can only be better. Their 3,287 total yards are the most in franchise history through eight games and second in the NFL behind New England.