For a lot of current Detroit Lions, both players and coaches, Sunday may have been their last game in a Honolulu Blue uniform. The Lions are headed for a pretty significant rebuild, with a new general manager and new head coach soon to be decided. Aside for a handful of team centerpieces, no one’s job is safe, and, yes, that include one Matthew Stafford.
So even though they didn’t win their Week 17 game against the Minnesota Vikings, it was nice to see them compete and Stafford and Marvin Jones Jr. put up ridiculous performances. The defense, however, was predictably awful, and the Lions lost 37-35. Here’s how it happened.
The Vikings wanted the ball first, but Kirk Cousins couldn’t get the offense moving. Two batted down passes forced a quick punt, giving Detroit the opportunity to take the lead first. However, the Lions answered with a three-and-out. Detroit’s defense answered with a three-and-out of their own, but Jamal Agnew made the first big mistake of the game, fumbling the punt return and handing the Vikings good field position.
But Romeo Okwara kept the defensive battle going. The Lions’ soon-to-be-free agent defensive end picked up his 10th sack of the season, pushing the Vikings out of field goal range, and forcing Minnesota’s third punt of the day:
The Lions offense finally woke up and put together a beautiful seven-play, 90-yard drive. Detroit found the end zone after Matthew Stafford targeted a wide-open Marvin Jones Jr. for a 43-yard touchdown. Matt Prater did miss the extra point, though. 6-0 Lions.
Minnesota quickly responded, though. Though Detroit did get a nice third-down stop with the Vikings in the red zone, Minnesota decided to go for it on a fourth-and-2. Then Alexander Mattison embarrassed half the Lions defense on the way to a 28-yard touchdown. 7-6 Vikings.
Detroit next offensive drive got off to a hot start thanks to a big 38-yard run from Adrian Peterson.
A few plays later, Stafford rifled the ball to rookie Quintez Cephus for a 20-yard touchdown and the Lions retook the lead. 13-7 Lions.
The shootout was on. As Kirk Cousins went 5-for-6 for 73 yards and a touchdown on the ensuing drive. On third-and-goal, Cousins found former Lions running back Ameer Abdullah for a 4-yard score. 14-13 Vikings.
Stafford connected with Marvin Jones for a 38-yard bomb to put the Lions in field goal range, but they would stall from there. Prater made amends for the missed extra point by nailing a 54-yarder and putting the Lions back on top. 16-14 Lions.
Minnesota looked poised to score and re-take the lead, with a 20-yard pass to Adam Thielen and a 20-yard run by Mattison. However, KEvin Strong picked up a huge sack on third down, pushing the Vikings back 9 crucial yards. Because of that Dan Bailey missed a 46-yard field goal, and the Lions retained the lead with just under three minutes left in the half.
Detroit couldn’t get it going on offense, despite a ridiculously accurate throw from Stafford to Sanu that nearly went for a 52-yard touchdown but fell incomplete. The Vikings’ last-minute attempt to score points got to midfield. With just 11 seconds left in the half, it looked like Minnesota would have to settle for a long field goal. However, the Lions secondary put on a clinic of how not to tackle and Chad Beebe went 40 yards for a touchdown. 21-16 Vikings.
TOUCHDOWN @VIKINGS!— NFL Brasil (@NFLBrasil) January 3, 2021
Kirk Cousins achou Chad Beebe, que tomou a pancada mas não caiu e só parou na Endzone! #MINvsDET #NFLBrasil
Jogo EXCLUSIVO no #NFLGamePass! Acesse https://t.co/uMRqwxJ5yr e aproveite! pic.twitter.com/qQKZlJrhCq
Jamal Agnew got the second half off to a hot start with a 70-yard punt return to Minnesota’s 33-yard line. Two plays later, Marvin Jones Jr. just absolutely embarrassed a Vikings defender for a 26-yard score. 23-21 Lions
The Vikings answered in less than three minutes as Cousins connected with Justin Jefferson for a 37-yard gain. After a roughing the passer on Romeo Okwara, the Vikings were able to punch it in with Alexander Mattison to re-take the lead. 28-23 Vikings.
On the next drive Stafford made a critical error, staring down Marvin Jones as his receiver, and Vikings safety Harrison Smith jumped the route.
Detroit’s defense, however, was able to make a stand, holding the Vikes to just a field goal. 31-23 Vikings.
Matthew Stafford was much better on the next drive, connecting with Quintez Cephus for 31 yards, and completing a nice 18-yard pass to D’Andre Swift on a screen play. From 2 yards out, Adrian Peterson punched it in, but the Lions couldn’t convert the two-point play, and the Vikes kept the lead. 31-29 Vikings.
The Vikings offense went right back to work. And although Austin Bryant had an easy chance at an interception, he dropped it, and the Vikings drove their way into the red zone as we crossed over to the fourth quarter.
It wouldn’t be a Lions game without an officiating controversy. It appeared Tracy Walker had sacked Kirk Cousins for a huge fourth-and-goal stop, but the refs called one of the worst roughing the passer calls I’ve seen in this league.
Two plays later the Vikings punched it in, but missed the extra point, keeping it a one-score game. 37-29 Vikings.
MORE REF CONTROVERSY AHEAD. The Lions appeared to score what could’ve been the game-tying score, but this 38-yard “touchdown” pass was ruled incomplete upon review:
However, the Lions would overcome the penalty and score on a 3-yard run from D’Andre Swift. They would miss the two-point conversion, however, and still trail 37-35 with 4:26 left.
Unfortunately, the Lions couldn’t get a stop, and the Vikings just ran the final 4:26 off the clock.
With the loss, the Lions drop to 5-11. They will be in line for a top seven pick in the draft, maybe higher depending on the results of some later games. Check our Rooting Guide for guidance there.