The Detroit Lions are HOT! On Sunday, they had an opportunity to prove their recent 4-1 streak was legitimate by hosting the 10-2 Minnesota Vikings, and they did exactly that.
Jared Goff eclipsed 300 yards for his second straight game, but Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was up for the shootout. Cousins and Justin Jefferson connected for 213 yards on offense, but it wasn’t enough.
Detroit held on despite a furious comeback attempt from Minnesota. Now the Lions are 6-7 and winners of five in their last six games.
Here’s how it happened.
The Lions offense got the ball quickly, and unlike last week, they punted right away. Detroit quickly went three-and-out after gaining just a single yard. A 66-yard Jack Fox punt made sure Minnesota wouldn’t get the field-position battle, though.
Minnesota got the ball moving early, with a play-action pass to T.J. Hockenson gaining 13 yards. But the Lions defense stood tall before they could get to midfield. A nice tackle for loss by Aidan Hutchinson forced a third-and-long, and Chris Board helped break up a pass to force a punt. However, an offsides on the punt, gave the Vikings an extra opportunity to go for it on a fourth-and-1. But the Lions made the Vikings pay for the aggression, and Dalvin Cook was stopped for no-gain, giving the Lions the ball at Minnesota’s 46-yard line.
It didn’t take long for the Lions to cash in, as Goff found a wide-open Jameson Williams for his first NFL catch and a 41-yard touchdown. 7-0 Lions.
The Vikings offense quickly responded. Detroit’s defense nearly got off the field with a sack of Cousins, but a holding penalty on safety Kerby Joseph gave Minnesota a fresh set of downs. A pair of Jeff Okudah penalties (unnecessary roughness and pass interference) set the Vikings up at the 1-yard line and Cook punched it in to tie the game. 7-7.
The tables were turned on the next possession, as it looked like the Vikings had a third-down stop, but a roughing call on a Goff slide kept the drive alive for the Lions. A clutch wide receiver screen to DJ Chark picked up a third-down conversion and pushed into Vikings territory. The Lions failed to convert on the next set of downs, forcing Detroit into an interesting situation: fourth-and-4 from the Vikings’ 39-yard line. With the end of the first quarter, Detroit took the extra time to ponder their decision.
The Lions opted to go for it, but Goff’s pass to DJ Chark was well behind the receiver and fell incomplete.
The Vikings took over at their own 39-yard line. A nice Jerry Jacobs pass breakup and a false start set Minnesota in a third and long. Cousins found a wide open Hockenson, but the former Lions TE dropped it, forcing the Vikings to punt it back to Detroit.
The Lions were able to drive into Vikings territory with a nice 15-yard pickup to Rey, and a third-down jet sweep to Amon-Ra St. Brown. However, the Lions offense stalled from there, and instead of the going for it on fourth-and-6 from the Vikings’ 39-yard line, Detroit opted to punt. Fox pinned the Vikings down at their own 10-yard line.
Detroit got a quick three-and-out. It looked like Justin Jefferson may have picked up a third-down conversion, but replay confirmed he was a yard short of the sticks. Kalif Raymond had a big punt return to set the Lions up at the Vikings’ 48-yard line.
Goff wasted no time taking advantage of the good field position, hitting DJ Chark with a perfectly-placed 48-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the drive.
On the ensuing drive, the Vikings avoided a three-and-out thanks to 17-yard pass to Hockenson on third down. Cousins narrowly escaped a sack on the next third down, and found Jefferson for 13-yard gain, pushing the Vikings inside the Lions 40-yard line. Another strike to Jefferson set the Vikings up first-and-10 at the 13-yard line with two minutes remaining in the half. After converting yet another third down, Minnesota had the opportunity to punch it in, but the Lions Isaiah Buggs forced a fumble on Dalvin Cook and rookie Kerby Joseph recovered for Detroit.
On replay, it looks like Cook was going to throw it, but he was swallowed up before he had the chance.
With under a minute left, the Lions offense went to work to extend their lead before half. Goff found St. Brown for 25 yards then D’Andre Swift for 15. Eventually the Lions settled for a 47-yard attempt, but Michael Badgley pushed it wide left, and the score remained 14-7 Lions at halftime.
The Viking started with the ball, and the Lions were without starting cornerback Jeff Okudah, who was battling an illness all week and was in and out of the lineup in the first half. Regardless, Minnesota went three-and-out thanks to a solid tackle from Mike Hughes, who stopped Adam Thielen 1 yard short of the sticks.
Detroit quickly answered with their own three-and-out. However, Detroit dialed up a nifty fake punt and C.J. Moore made a nice cut upfield for a 42-yard gain.
Goff took advantage of the play and was dealing, finding finding St. Brown for 12, Chark for 16, Raymond for 14 and eventually Josh Reynolds for this 5-yard touchdown. 21-7 Lions.
The Vikings offense quickly got into scoring position with big gains from Hockenson (21) and Jefferson (34). After a few defensive stops, the Vikings then faced a fourth-and-4 from the 23-yard line. Cousins lofted a pass to Theilen, and Hughes was late getting there, missed the tackle and allowed the Vikings receiver to scamper into the end zone.
Minnesota attempted a two-point conversion, but failed. 21-13 Lions.
Detroit moved to Vikings territory after completions to Chark (12 yards) and Reynolds (18). A completion to St. Brown got Detroit to the Vikings 29-yard line as the third quarter ended.
After finding Justin Jackson for a 12-yard gain on third-and-8, the Lions went right back to him on a draw play and Jackson scampered in from 15 yards to make it 28-13 Lions.
The Vikings would just not go away, though. On the first play of the next possession, Cousin rifled a perfect pass to Jefferson for 47 yards. But a sack from Aidan Hutchinson put the Vikings behind the sticks.
Minnesota eventually had to settle for a 41-yard field goal, cutting the lead to 28-16 Lions with 10:47 left.
Detroit was in danger of going three-and-out, but Goff found Chark for an 11-yard gain on third-and-9. Goff converted the next third down with a 14-yard pass to Shane Zylstra, bleeding more time off the clock and moving Detroit into Vikings territory. With five minutes already burned off the clock, the Lions faced a third-and-6 at Minnesota’s 27-yard line. Detroit was stopped short, and settled for a 41-yard field goal. 31-16 Lions.
With 4:06 left, the Vikings had to muster two touchdown drives. They got their first right away. A big 39-yard strike to Jefferson got the Vikings into Detroit territory and a few plays later Cousins found K.J. Osborn for a 15-yard touchdown. Minnesota opted to kick the extra point. 31-23 Lions.
The Vikings onside kicked, but Josh Woods. That left the Lions offense with the opportunity to put the game away with a single first down. They got that first down with the ballsiest call from offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, who called a pass to Penei Sewell on third-and-7.
Game. Over. Lions would tack on a field goal to put it away for good. 34-23 Lions.