Coming off of an agonizing struggle with the Chicago Bears that was capped off with a win, the Lions looked to build onto their victory by taking down another NFC North rival. The trip to Minnesota had not gone favorably for the Lions, but there was hope that the adjustments made would produce a different matchup.
The Lions stormed out of the gate. On the third play, Matthew Stafford went out of the shotgun and found Calvin Johnson deep for 46 yards. Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah took the Lions down to the goal line and Stafford found Johnson again for a touchdown to strike first. On the first drive for the Vikings, Teddy Bridgewater abused the Lions secondary. The Lions would hold the Vikings to a field goal, and once again, as was with the season, Peterson struggled to contribute to the offense beyond one wild spinning move.
It was now the time for Eric Ebron's return. The returning Lions tight end kicked off the drive by busting out for 65 yards and quickly capped it a few plays later with a seven yard touchdown catch.
After the first quarter the Vikings tried to find their feet against the Lions defense. Stefon Diggs busted out a 30 yard play, but a key sack on Bridgewater by Ngata would hold that drive to a field goal. On the next Vikings drive, Charles Johnson would get the Vikings to the red zone, but Adrian Peterson fumbled the football and the Lions recovered, which would lead to a Matt Prater field goal.
Now the Vikings had the ball back and marched down the field. Zach Line was left unguarded as he made a massive gain on a Bridgewater reception. Although it would look as if the Lions would once again hold on the goal line, Bridgewater found Kyle Rudolph unguarded in the endzone and the Vikings would have their first touchdown, although they would miss the extra point.
With a field goal to end the half, the Vikings were only down by two points. The Vikings had adjusted. They were bringing blitzes on Stafford to prevent him from making deep passes and the Minnesota offense had moved leaning on Bridgewater's passing game. Whenever Teddy stayed upright (albeit the Lions would have quite a few sacks) he found ways to make the Lions sting.
Pressure started to get in on Teddy Bridgewater, but each time he managed to get a pass off he'd connect with Wallace or Stefon Diggs for a large gain. It finally burned the Lions as Bridgewater went deep for Diggs (who burned Mathis) for a diving touchdown.
Vikings Stefon Diggs out and up move left Rashean Mathis wondering where he went on this TD pic.twitter.com/Zh98kxUKbQ— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) October 25, 2015
The Lions would go three-and-out. After a fully quiet day, Adrian Peterson finally beat the Lions line on the edge, beating Travis Lewis, beating James Ihedigbo and taking the Vikings to the three-yard line. Another Lions goal line stand would hold the Vikings to a field goal, and now an eight point lead.
The Vikings had yet to punt in the game.
The offensive line for the Lions was getting abused now. Stafford could no longer get off the deep passes that had gotten the Lions on the board early and was now taking sack after sack. The line wasn't executing or Stafford wasn't making the proper protection calls; either way, things were breaking down. The boos were beginning to rain down at Ford Field. With the offense unable to stay on the field, the defense began to let up more yards to Adrian Peterson and the Vikings no-huddle poured it on. The secondary continued to break down as another giant gain was given up to Adam Thielin. Stafford was on the sidelines in pain, favoring his hand.
This is about to go from bad to worse. Stafford spiking the ball on the ground, shaking his hand .. And the Vikings have a first-and-goal— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) October 25, 2015
The Lions once again held the Vikings to a field goal on the goal line, but they were now down by 11 points. Stafford stuffed his hand into the glove and went out to try to lead the Lions back from the deficit. But Stafford would find nothing on the field. He would take another sack as massive pressure and penalties would back the Lions up. On third-and-13 the Lions decided to pitch to Theo Riddick rather than attempt a shot. The fans knew it and the boos were heard again. The punt came again.
The Lions had seven yards of total offense in the second half at this point.
Now they were running. Down 11, the Lions suddenly decided it was important to establish a run game, but it wasn't like Stafford was making throws either as he plunked one on the ground in front of Golden Tate. After that, Stafford took his seventh sack of the game, this time for a loss of 12 yards.
The Vikings began to burn clock. The Lions got the ball back with three minutes and change and started to put together some semblance of a drive. Theo Riddick caught a pass and dashed. Ebron, Tim Wright, and Johnson caught passes from Stafford. Facing what looked to be another sack, Stafford made a poor decision to throw, the ball was batted sky-high, but Calvin Johnson bailed him out by pulling it down at the one-yard line. Beating two or three Vikings in an unbelievable display of athleticism to use his size and power to overwhelm those around him, Calvin was doing all he could to keep his team in the game.
It was promptly wasted by attempting to rush three screens at the goal line. Quickly, it was fourth down. The Lions went for it down 11. Stafford dropped back and made a pass out to Theo Riddick. The pass fell off his fingers.
The Vikings took a safety after a drive, and the Lions had the ball back with a minute to go. With the state of this game, one question remained: Oh mama. Can this really be the end? Well...
Final Score: 28-19
No real analysis to give here. I'll leave that to Jeremy for the quick thoughts and divert my own darkness to another article for the week. I only ask that in the midst of your agony at this Lions loss you take a moment to consider a few thoughts to basketball coach Flip Saunders, who passed away on Sunday. He once coached in Detroit for the Pistons and was battling Hodgkin's lymphoma. Do what you must to give a few thoughts to his memory.