The road trip continued as the Detroit Lions headed up to
the temporary housing unit TCF Bank Stadium to play the Minnesota Golden Gophers Vikings. With questions hovering over the Lions and an urge to not start the season with two losses, the Lions stacked up against a Vikings squad that had floundered on Monday night against the 49ers.
The Lions won the toss but deferred to the Vikings, who chose to receive. In other news, water is pretty wet. Minnesota's first drive saw Peterson getting his time to redeem himself from Monday night's performance. His first try out of the backfield saw him stopped for no yards; the second time he surged for 11. Ngata broke into the backfield and swatted Bridgewater's first pass, but the Vikings would convert on third-and-eight. Peterson would go up and gash the Lions, and then it was Teddy's turn to do the same. Before there was a moment to think, the Vikings were tossing the ball to Kyle Rudolph in the endzone. 11 plays, 75 yards, and the Lions were already down seven.
Miscommunication plagued the first Lions drive. Golden Tate knocked away a three-and-out with a 19-yard reception, but Matthew Stafford took a hit on the play. After the next series faltered, the Vikings got the ball back. Ezekiel Ansah would answer Peterson, and a reviewed spot on third down would force Minnesota to punt the ball back to the Lions. Detroit did little with the chance, and Stafford's pass would be swatted down on third-and-17. Once again, Stafford went to the sidelines grimacing and the trainers immediately started working on his left hand.
On the next Minnesota drive, the Lions had no anwer for Adrian Peterson. However, it would be Jarius Wright that took the ball inside the ten, setting up for Peterson to punch it in near the end of the first quarter...but it's ruled short on review. Peterson tries again and is stopped. But on fourth-and-goal, the Lions bit, assuming the same attempt from the Vikings, and Teddy Bridgewater dashed out to the open field, where he would be greeted by Kyle Rudolph and stride into the endzone. Detroit was down two scores.
A chance to stop Minnesota on third down turned a broken play into a miracle for the Vikings. As Bridgewater was going down, he slipped the ball out to Adrian Peterson. Before the Lions could smell the hot dish he was 49 yards down the field.
Pressure from Ziggy Ansah would hold the Vikings to a field goal. With a chance to answer at the end of the half, Stafford found Golden Tate. An incompletion brought up the two-minute warning. Stafford found Tate again for 18 yards. One more for 20. Eric Ebron slipped a man to bring the Lions to the 11-yard line. Finally, with Calvin Johnson seemingly forgotten again, Stafford went back to Megatron for a touchdown.
Calvin with pristine footwork. #DETvsMIN https://t.co/OAIeupGX0l— Andrew Doughty (@Adoughty88) September 20, 2015
Somehow, by the end of the half, the Lions were back in the game.
The Lions would start the half from the 20, but Lance Moore's first touch of the game would pop out and Captain Munnerlyn, who owns the best name in the NFL, ran it back towards the Minnesota goal line, stopped only by Ameer Abdullah. Now the Vikings had the ball on the six-yard line and a chance to erase the Lions touchdown at the end of the first half, so they gave it to Peterson...who immediately fumbled it back to the Lions with thanks to Stephen Tulloch and James Ihedigbo.
Missed blocks by Cornelius Lucas would prevent the Lions from getting anywhere. Stafford went to scramble, but couldn't make much of it. Lions punt away. Marcus Sherels would return the Lions punt to the Lions' 34-yard line. Once again, Stafford was on the sidelines getting medical attention, this time on the elbow. Meanwhile, Bridgewater spun away from pressure and made yet another pass downfield. On third-and-six Teddy would once again make moves on Ihedigbo as he raced for a first-and-goal at the two. Peterson would fumble the ball into the endzone, but an offsides call would erase the error. The Vikings would score on the next play and miss the PAT, which seemed about right for the tone of this game.
As if this game didn't have enough fumbles, Theo Riddick would put the ball on the ground on the next Lions drive. But the Vikings would go nowhere as Charles Johnson bobbled a surefire first down and forced his team to punt.
With two minutes remaining in the third quarter and coming off a Golden Tate holding call, the Lions had a chance to get back in it as Riddick caught a pass and dived for the first down. But with Munnerlyn's hands up Tate's backside the Lions would fail to convert and the ball was right back with Minnesota to start the 4th.
After what seemed like three or five of twenty-seven third down-and-short reviews, the Vikings finally ran into a call against them. A Stafford deep ball to Johnson was picked off but erased by Xavier Rhodes' pass interference. Naturally, the next pass thrown by Stafford would be intercepted by Justin Trattou.
The Vikings put together a new drive as Peterson became the second back to put up 100 yards in a game against Teryl Austin's defense. Of course, he also fumbled for a third time on the day, but he didn't let the Lions grab it. The Vikings fired off a field goal and the game was pretty well in hand.
Taking hit after hit, Stafford got down the field and dumped off another desperation touchdown to Eric Ebron, invoking memories of last week at San Diego. A failed two-point conversion and a failed onside kick sealed the game for Detroit.
Final Score: Vikings 26, Lions 16
The defense whimpered, Tate simmered and Stafford took hit after hit after hit. For all the times Peterson put the ball on the ground, the Lions would fail to capitalize. Once again the offense got lost late in the second half; this time they wound up in Maple Grove before anyone realized what went wrong. Joe Lombardi must have sent Abdullah out to get some hot dish; there was really no other explanation as to why the rookie saw as little time as he did.
Surprisingly, the first sack on Matthew Stafford came around 5:30 in the fourth quarter, but the offensive line did nothing for the Lions quarterback all day. Stafford would wince and cringe each time he got up. The injury report for next week is sure to be grim. How long he can survive with such pressure given up is uncertain.