The Detroit Lions were without Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush on Sunday, and their kicking game and offensive line continued to be a mess. It didn't matter, though. Thanks to Teryl Austin's defense shutting down the Minnesota Vikings offense, the Lions won quite comfortably. Wins at Minnesota have been rare for the Lions over the years, but they took home a 17-3 victory on Sunday.
The Lions got the ball first in this game, and it didn't take long for them to score. They opened the game with a 12-yard pass to Eric Ebron, and Theo Riddick went for 41 yards on a screen four plays later. Two plays after that, Matthew Stafford found Riddick again, and he went 9 yards this time for a touchdown.
Minnesota looked poised to answer with a touchdown of its own after quickly moving down to the 15-yard line. The Lions defense looked like it was in some trouble, but Teddy Bridgewater bailed them out with a very questionable throw into coverage. Glover Quin stepped in front of Cordarrelle Patterson for the interception in the end zone, ending the Vikings' scoring threat.
Sam Martin punted after the Lions failed to get beyond their own 40, and the Vikings responded with a three-and-out. The Lions got some great field position as a result, and they moved the chains once, setting Matt Prater up for a 50-yard field goal. He missed it wide left, unfortunately, and in hindsight the Lions probably should have just gone for the first down instead of trying a long field goal in the swirling winds of TCF Bank Stadium.
After the missed field goal, this game turned into a punt show. The Vikings went three-and-out again after Bridgewater was sacked by Ziggy Ansah, and the Lions had to punt after a three-and-out of their own. Martin boomed it 63 yards, and the Vikings responded with another punt by Jeff Locke. The two teams actually proceeded to trade punts on the next five possessions after this, making for a busy first half for Martin and Locke.
The string of punts was broken with under a minute left in the second quarter. Matt Asiata couldn't hang on to a pass from Bridgewater over the middle, and it bounced right to Tahir Whitehead for an interception. Whitehead actually had a fumble recovery on the punt right before this, but it was wiped out by offsetting penalties. The interception was not wiped out, however, and it gave the Lions a chance for a 52-yard field goal just before halftime. Prater connected this time, giving the Lions a 10-0 lead after two quarters.
The second half opened with another great play by the Lions defense. Darryl Tapp tipped a Bridgewater pass at the line of scrimmage, and it bounced right to Whitehead for his second interception of the day. The turnover gave the Lions great field position, and they finally started to get it moving on the ground with Joique Bell. Unfortunately, they went away from the ground game, and two sacks killed this drive. This led to a 44-yard field goal attempt for Prater, and he doinked it off the left upright. Clearly Lions kickers are simply cursed at this point.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, the Lions again got good field position on offense, and they actually capitalized on it this time. They put together a nice 14-play drive that covered 60 yards and took 7:54 off the clock, and they capped it off with a 1-yard touchdown run by Bell. This came after George Winn moved the chains on fourth-and-1 two plays earlier, and the touchdown made this a 17-0 game in favor of the Lions.
After the two teams traded three-and-outs, the Vikings finally found the scoreboard. The Lions seemed comfortable with letting Minnesota use up time in exchange for short chunks of yards, and this ultimately led to a 40-yard field goal by Blair Walsh.
Although the kick made this a two-score game, it might as well have been a 10-score game with the way the Lions defense played on Sunday. Detroit went three-and-out on offense, but Bridgewater was sacked twice more after the Vikings got the ball back, including on fourth-and-9. It was more of the same after the Lions went four-and-out -- yes, they passed up a field goal to go for it on fourth-and-5 -- as Bridgewater took another sack on the Vikings' final drive of the game. They ran out the final 1:52, giving the Lions a 17-3 win.
Next week, the Lions will return home for a game against the New Orleans Saints. It will be their final game in the United States until after their bye week, as the Lions are headed to London to play the Atlanta Falcons in two weeks.
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