But an offensive lull and some questionable coaching decisions allowed the Vikings to mount a big comeback, scoring 14 unanswered points, including the go-ahead touchdown with under a minute left.
The key moment happened with under two minutes remaining. With 1:10 left, the Lions faced a fourth-and-3. Detroit could go for it, punt it, or try a 54-yard field goal. The Lions opted to kick a field goal, which they did not only miss, but it gave the Vikings great field goal position. It took Minnesota just a couple of plays to move the ball downfield, after a busted coverage left K.J. Osborn wide open for the 28-yard game-winning touchdown.
Here’s how the entire game played out.
The Vikings won the toss and deferred, giving the Lions offense a chance to attack first. A 23-yard strike to DJ Chark moved the Lions quickly to midfield, and another connection to Chark—this time for 17—moved Detroit into Vikings territory. But two ineffective plays forced a third-and-12 for the Lions offense, and Detroit opted to connect on a short play in order to improve field goal chance. Austin Seibert bounced a 48 yarder off the right upright, keeping Detroit scoreless.
The Vikings took over with good field position (own 38-yard line). Minnesota started with a couple of successful runs to Dalvin Cook for a collective 12 yards. Then they hit tight end Ben Ellefson for a 12-yard gain that had linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez biting on the play action. But three straight incompletions from Kirk Cousins forced the Vikings into a 56-yard field goal attempt, and he pushed it wide right.
Goff hit Jamaal Williams for a quick 17-yard gain to kick off the drive. But, again, the Lions struggled to move the ball on the Vikings’ side of the field. This time, instead of settling for a 51-yard field goal attempt, the Lions went for it on fourth-and-5, and Goff found Amon-Ra St. Brown 30 yard catch and run, setting the Lions up first-and-goal at the 2-yard line.
On the next play, Williams punched it in for a 7-0 Lions lead.
The Lions were dealt a tough injury to safety Tracy Walker, who limped off the field with six minutes remaining in the first quarter. He eventually took the cart into the locker room and was quickly ruled out for the rest of the game. But Detroit’s defense was able to get off the field quickly, as the secondary held up in coverage on third-and-5, forcing a throwaway from Cousins.
Detroit’s offense moved their way to midfield, and faced a key third-and-4. Swift took a handoff just short of the line to gain. Originally, it was ruled a first down, but a Vikings challenge clearly showed him short of the line to gain. The Lions opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 and Detroit was again able to convert with a 5-yard run from Williams. On the next set of down the Lions faced another fourth-and-1, as time expired in the first quarter.
For the third time in the game, the Lions went for it on fourth down, and a little play action play to Josh Reynolds picked up 16, converting Detroit’s third fourth down in the half. Two plays later, Goff found tight end T.J. Hockenson for an easy 5-yard touchdown. 14-0 Lions.
The Vikings offense finally started to get moving on the ensuing drive. Cook continued to gash the Lions defense with a lot of counters catching the Lions off-guard, and a lot of broken tackles. Cousins also converted a key third-and-2 by lofting a nice ball to tight end Irv Smith Jr. The biggest key play of the drive came on third-and-goal, where it appeared the Lions may have gotten a stop, however nickel corner Mike Hughes was called for pass interference, giving the Vikings a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Cousins found a wide open Adam Thielen for an easy score on the next play. 14-7 Vikings.
The Lions roster took another blow in the next drive, as St. Brown came up limping after catching an 11-yard pass from Goff. After a heavy tape job, he returned to the game, however.
Meanwhile, the Lions offense continued to move downfield, converting a third-and-inches with a nice running throw from Goff to Chark for 6 yards. But the Lions faced yet another fourth-and-short and went for it at midfield. Finally, the Vikings were able to make the stop and they took over at Detroit’s 49-yard line.
The Vikings decided to get aggressive on their own. After failing to gain a single first down, Minnesota opted to go for it on fourth-and-6. Cousins found Thielen for just enough to keep the drive alive. Then Minnesota converted a third-and-4 with Thielen that got the Vikings down to the 4-yard line. Cook bounced it around the left edge on the next play to tie up the game. 14-14 tie.
With 1:16 left and two timeouts, the Lions had an opportunity to retake the lead before halftime. But a failure to convert a third-and-4 at midfield (after Josh Reynolds lost a deep ball), had the Lions punting back to Minnesota with 41 seconds left. Jack Fox pinned the Vikings at their own 8-yard line. The Vikings still attempted to get in field goal range and a screen pass on first down picked up 15. A huge 21-yard pass interference penalty on Amani Oruwariye set the Vikings up at their own 44-yard line, giving them a shot at a field goal. But the Vikings completed a pass over the middle with no timeouts left, and the time expired in the half before Minnesota had a chance to stop the clock with a spike. An assist goes to Charles Harris, who knocked the ball out of the Vikings’ center’s hands, causing a delay to set the ball.
The Lions defense got off the field quickly, forcing a three-and-out to open the half thanks to tight coverage from Jeff Okudah on Justin Jefferson on third down.
Swift took the opening drive carry for 9 yards, but he immediately limped off and was heavily favoring that injured left ankle. He would return on the next offensive drive.
As the rest of the game has gone, the Lions faced another fourth-and-short at midfield and decided to go for it. Goff sidestepped pressure and found Reynolds for a big fourth down conversion—the team’s fourth of the game. Detroit eventually would have to settle for a field goal, however, and this time Seibert was good from 40 yards. 17-14 Lions.
Cook continued to be Detroit between the tackles, rushing for 29 yards on four carries to start the drive. The Lions defense eventually settled down, forcing a third-and-12 at Detroit’s 38-yard line, and a blitz got to Cousins, forcing a quick throwaway. The Vikings attempted another 56-yard field goal and Minnesota missed wide right again.
Starting at their own 46-yard line, the Lions had an opportunity to push the game to a two-score lead. Goff found St. Brown for an early third-and-short conversion, and then Goff connected with Reynolds for another 26 yards moving Detroit to the 13-yard line. Williams punched it in from there. 24-14 Lions.
Due to an absolutely ridiculous celebration penalty on Williams, the Vikings got good field position, starting on their own 36 to start the drive. And just as it seemed like Cook would continue to gash the Lions, he fumbled the ball and it was recovered by safety DeShon Elliott at Detroit’ 42-yard line. Cook was injured on the play.
Goff just missed Chark for a big gain on first down. After another incomplete pass on second down, Goff had to take off due to quick pressure on third down coming up 7-yard short for a first down.
With Cook out for the rest of the game with a shoulder injury, the Vikings offense was looking for someone to step up. A second-down sack from Alex Anzalone forced the Vikings into a tough third-and-19 situation.
A checkdown came up 5 yards short, and the Lions defense got off the field in a hurry. Kalif Raymond let the punt bounce in front of him, and unfortunately for him, it rolled all the way inside the Lions 10-yard line for a 58-yard punt with no return.
Detroit picked up one first down via penalty, but on a third-and-1, they made a controversial decision to throw the ball out of shotgun, and the deep shot to Reynolds fell incomplete. The Vikings took over at their own 43-yard line with 10:39 remaining down 10 points.
The Lions secondary was the target of officiating on the next drive, with Oruwariye getting tagged for a holding and an illegal contact on back-to-back plays. Eventually, Minnesota worked their way inside the 10-yard line, and on second-and-goal, Alexander Mattison broke several tackles for a 6-yard touchdown. 24-21 Lions.
The Lions offense countered with some nice early-possession runs from Williams that got Detroit to midfield. However, the Lions got stuffed on back-to-back plays, forcing a third-and-8. But Goff found St. Brown for 9 yards and a huge first down. That set up another huge play. The Lions faced a fourth-and-1 at the Vikings’ 30-yard line. They could opt to kick a 48-yard field goal and potentially push it to a 6-point lead or go for it with an opportunity to put the game away on offense.
As Campbell had all game, he opted to go for it. But the Vikings stuffed Jamaal Williams on the counter play. The Vikings had 3:30 left and the ball at their own 30-yard line to tie or take the lead.
On the first play, Cousins found Thielen for 15 yards. An incomplete deep shot, a short screen pass for 2 yards, and a pressure-forced incomplete shot created a fourth-and-8. Cousins targeted Oruwariye again, and he arguably got away with a hold, but it fell harmlessly incomplete.
With 2:32 left and two timeouts for the Vikings, the Lions had work left to do on offense to put the game away. A penalty on Minnesota gave Detroit one first down, but they were not able to get another. Detroit milked a ton of clock but made another questionable coaching decision. Facing a fourth-and-4 at Minnesota’s 34-yard line, they opted to kick a field goal, and Seibert’s kick was no good.
That gave the Vikings good field position at the 44-yard line, but with no timeouts and 1:10 left. Cousins proceeded to connect with K.J. Osborn to the 28-yard line, putting the Vikings in field goal position immediately. But the Vikings would get more than that. Osborn was wide open for a 28-yard score with 45 seconds left. 28-24 Vikings.