If there was any optimism remaining after the Detroit Lions traded Golden Tate, the Minnesota Vikings buried it along with Matthew Stafford on Sunday. Stafford was sacked 10 times—a Vikings record—on Sunday as the offense failed to reach the end zone and the Lions dropped another ugly game, 24-9.
Here’s how it happened.
Ezekiel Ansah was back, but the Lions defense remained vulnerable to start. The Minnesota Vikings took the opening drive for a touchdown, but they had to work for it. Facing a fourth-and-2 at midfield, Kirk Cousins found undrafted rookie Chad Beebe, who had thoroughly beat Teez Tabor for the first down. A few plays later, Latavius Murray would rush for a touchdown—although officially he fumbled in the endzone and it was recovered by Kyle Rudolph. The Lions found themselves down early. 7-0 Vikings.
The Lions came out as many expected them to—with Theo Riddick in the slot. Unfortunately, it didn’t result in any points early. After just one first down, the Lions punted back to Minnesota.
After a decent punt, the Lions forced a three-and-out and got the ball back in good field position.
Detroit would take advantage, converting on a couple third down thanks to both TJ Jones and Marvin Jones Jr. A defensive penalty would set up the Lions first-and-goal at the Vikings’ 4-yard line as the first period came to an end.
Unfortunately, the Lions would only go backwards from there. First, a false start moved Detroit back five yards. A stuffed run and a throwaway later, Matthew Stafford was sacked on third down and the Lions settled for a field goal. 7-3 Vikings.
The Vikings couldn’t answer, because Cousins made a terrible decision and Darius Slay made him pay. Slay notched his second interception of the year, putting the Lions immediately in Vikings territory.
The Lions, once again, got into a goal-to-go situation, but, once again, had to settle for a field goal. A third-down screen play was busted by someone running the wrong route and Matt Prater was true again. 7-6 Vikings.
The Vikings would strike back quickly. Thanks to a 70-yard run from Dalvin Cook—in which he was barely touched—Minnesota would quickly find themselves in the red zone. Just a couple plays later, the Vikings were able to capitalize on the opportunity, with Cousins finding Adam Thielen for a 2-yard touchdown. 14-6 Vikings.
Stafford continued to be under duress as the Lions tried to work a two-minute drill to draw the game even before halftime. The pressure would be too much. Stafford was sacked and it would be too much for the Lions stagnant offense to bear. On third down, Theo Riddick went out of bounds, saving the Vikings a timeout... and Minnesota would make Detroit pay for the mistake.
With 40 seconds on the clock, Cousins easily worked Minnesota into field goal position. Thankfully, Ezekiel Ansah picked up a huge sack in the red zone, forcing Minnesota to settle for a field goal. The Lions were getting outplayed, but it was just 17-6 Vikings at the half, with the ball coming to Detroit in the third quarter.
The Lions couldn’t take advantage of getting the ball first as both teams traded punts to open the second half. Stafford continued to take sacks, while the Lions defense was bailed out by a drop on third down.
As a result, the Lions’ second possession started inside their own 5-yard line. Detroit would earn one first down, but that’s it. Another sack would stall the drive and the Lions would punt again.
The defense would continue to give the Lions’ offense some chance, but they would continually squander them. Stafford was sacked for the seventh and eighth time on the final drive of a scoreless third quarter.
The Vikings took over on their own 22-yard line and marched down the field to start the quarter. They looked ready to punch it in again and potentially put the game away, when Cousins and Cook missed on a pitch that was recovered by A’Shawn Robinson.
Starting in their own territory, the Lions faced another long field. Faced with a quick three-and-out, Detroit pulled out a rare fake punt and picked up the first down. Unfortunately, a horrible decision to pitch the ball by Stafford resulted in a scoop-and-score, pushing the deficit to 24-6 Vikings.
With the outcome of the game no longer in doubt, the Lions meaninglessly moved down the field with six minutes remaining. Stafford converted a fourth-and-long pass to Kenny Golladay and the pair connected again three plays later to get into the red zone at the two-minute warning.
Detroit never made it into the end zone. Stafford was sacked on second down for the 10th time on the day, overthrew a screen on third down and the Lions settled for their third field goal of the day with 73 seconds left on the clock. 24-9 Vikings.
The Lions went for an onside kick to try for a miraculous victory, but Minnesota easily recovered. Head coach Matt Patricia decided to keep fighting until the end, calling timeouts after each Vikings run. Detroit got the ball back on its own 1-yard line with 46 seconds to go and plunged forward twice as the clock expired.
The loss drops the Lions to 3-5 on the year, and their hopes of salvaging a season look to be slipping away at an increasingly fast rate. Next week, Detroit heads to Chicago for a matchup against the division-leading Chicago Bears.
Ezekiel Ansah is active; as is Darius Slay and T.J. Lang. For the Vikings, Stefon Diggs is OUT, but Xavier Rhodes is in.
It’s a key game between the Vikings and Lions, as both teams are a game or less out of first place in the NFC North. The Lions have never lost at U.S. Bank Stadium, but they’ve also never played there without Golden Tate. WHAT. WILL. HAPPEN?
It’s time to find out who this Detroit Lions team is. Fans have had whiplash with the flip-flopping identity of this team since opening weekend. Every time the Lions seem to pack it in for the season, they pull themselves out of a hole and give their fanbase a reason for optimism. 0-2 start? Yeah, how about a huge win over the Patriots in primetime? Heartbreaking loss to the Cowboys? Follow it up by sacking Aaron Rodgers four times on the way to a decisive victory.
But now the Lions face their toughest trap. Not only are they coming off from a hugely disappointing loss to the Seahawks, but they’ve also just traded away one of their best players. With the Minnesota Vikings on tap, the outlook is bleak and Lions fans seem to know it. Our FanPulse polls suggest the average Lions fan is expecting a three-point loss this week. Meanwhile, the Vegas line has moved to Vikings -5.5.
The good news for Detroit is that injury luck appears to be in their favor. The Lions are optimistic Ezekiel Ansah returns this week, while cornerback Darius Slay is expected to play despite a new knee injury. For the Vikings, however, they’ll be without linebacker Anthony Barr, starting left guard Tom Compton, and wide receiver Stefon Diggs is also not expected to play.
Will that result in a Lions victory—their third straight in Minnesota? We’ll have to watch to find out. Here’s how you can do that.
How to watch Lions-Vikings
Date: Sunday, November 4, 2018
Time: 1 p.m. ET
Location: U.S. Bank Stadium—Minneapolis, MN
Week 9 TV Map: Courtesy of 506 Sports here
Announcers: Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman, Jen Hale
Online streaming: Fox Sports Go, Yahoo Sports app
Local radio: WJR-AM NEWS TALK 760
Radio announcers: Dan Miller, Lomas Brown
Odds: Vikings by 5.5