The Detroit Lions beat the Minnesota Vikings by a score of 30-20 to finish the regular season with a 12-5 overall record. It’s just the second time in franchise history the Lions have finished the regular season, with the other time being 1991—the last time this team won a playoff game.
The Lions held the lead for the entirety of the game, although there were times in which the Vikings offense looked like they were going to make it close.
Perhaps the bigger story of the game was injuries. Several Lions got banged up during the course of the game, with the most notable being rookie tight end Sam LaPorta, who suffered a knee injury in the first half and did not return. Punt returner and reserve receiver Kalif Raymond also suffered a knee injury and did not return.
Regardless, the Lions are hosting a playoff game, and we’ll await whether they can get the NFC’s two seed based on the afternoon results.
Here’s how the game played out
The Lions won the toss and elected to receive. But the offense would not stay on the field long. Jared Goff and the offense went three-and-out after two incomplete passes. A booming Jack Fox punt—61 yards—set the Vikings up at their own 10-yard line.
The Vikings were able to pick up a couple of quick first downs. Then on a third-and-4 from their own 38-yard line, Nick Mullens threw it behind his receiver with pressure in his face, and the drive ended.
Kalif Raymond took the ensuing punt 42 yards to the Lions’ 48-yard line to give Detroit’s offense good field position.
Goff immediately found a wide-open Amon-Ra St. Brown for 34 yards down inside the Vikings red zone.
Goff went back to St. Brown for a wide receiver screen all the way down to the 5-yard line. Sam LaPorta cashed in two plays later for a 2-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Lions lead.
The Lions defense immediately got Detroit the ball back after a Jack Campbell sack on first down set the Vikings behind the sticks.
Mullens would check down on third-and-long, leading to another Vikings punt.
The Lions converted a fourth-and-1 by an inch at midfield. Then on the next play, Goff hit Raymond for a huge 41-yard bomb.
From there, Jahmyr Gibbs punched it in with a toss for a 13-0 Lions lead (Michael Badgley missed the extra point).
A couple of penalties got the Vikings into a second-and-30, but Mullens found a Johnny Mundt for an impressive 32-yard gain.
The Vikings started with a third-and-8 at midfield that turned into a third-and-13 following a false start. But the Vikings would eventually convert on a fourth-and-6 scramble from Mullens. The Lions appeared to finally get a stop with a Romeo Okwara sack on third down, but a defensive holding penalty on Brian Branch extended the drive.
Minnesota got into the red zone, but Aidan Hutchinson completely blew up an end around for a 12-yard loss, forcing a third-and-goal from the 20 that moved back another 5 yards after a delay of game.
Vikings kicker Greg Joseph was good from 39 to make it 13-3 Lions.
The Lions were able to pick up one first down on the ensuing drive, but LaPorta was tackled short of a first down on a third-and-8, forcing a punt. Fox had another spectacular punt, that died right at the 2-yard line where Khalil Dorsey downed it.
A play-action pass to Josh Oliver went for 20 yards and quickly got the Vikings out of the end zone. But a sack from Hutchinson set the Vikings behind the sticks and after a third-and-1 came up well short of the sticks, Minnesota punted back to Detroit with under three minutes remaining.
The Lions would pick up one first down, but more importantly, rookie tight end Sam LaPorta suffered a leg injury and walked off under his own power. Eventually, LaPorta was carted off and listed as questionable to return with a knee injury. He was later downgraded to out and did not return.
Eventually, the Lions would punt back to Minnesota with 1:12 left. But with a personal foul penalty on the punt, Minnesota would be backed up inside their own 20-yard line.
The Vikings were immediately in business with a 26-yard pass to Jefferson. Eventually they would get in field goal position, but another Hutchinson sack put the drive to an end. Minnesota would add a field goal to make it 13-6 Lions at halftime.
The Vikings offense took over to start the half and quickly moved into Lions territory with a 12-yard pass to Jefferson and a 19-yard run by Chandler. Minnesota faced a fourth-and-3 from the Lions’ 31-yard line, and opted to go for it. The Lions stopped Brandon Powell a half-yard short and took over from there.
Detroit countered by converting their own fourth-and-1, with Goff finding Donovan Peoples-Jones for a 20-yard gain. Then the Lions went to REPORTED ELIGIBLE RECEIVER DAN SKIPPER:
A few plays later, a pass interference on the Vikings in the end zone set the Lions up at the 1-yard line, and David Montgomery punched it in two plays later. 20-6 Lions.
The Vikings would go three-and-out on the next drive thanks to Levi Onwuzurike, who picked up his first sack of the season on Mullens.
Raymond pulled off another nice return, moving the ball 18 yard to Detroit’s 43-yard line, where the offense would take over with 5:07 left in the third quarter. But they, too, would go three-and-out. St. Brown was a little banged up on the drive, but he came right back in.
It only took two plays for the Vikings to get into Lions territory: a 22-yard pass to tight end Nick Muse and an 11-yard run by Alexander Mattison. On the next set of downs, the Vikings faced a fourth-and-1, and Mullens found Jefferson for a 38-yard touchdown pass, after the star receiver had beaten Kindle Vildor. 20-13 Lions.
On the first play of the quarter, Goff uncorked a shot to St. Brown, who caught it and ran another 30 yards for a huge 70-yard touchdown. 27-13 Lions.
But it took the Vikings no time to respond. A three-play, 75-yard drive is all it took, as Mullens found Jefferson for 29 yards and Jordan Addison for a 42-yard touchdown. 27-20 Lions.
On the next drive, the Lions suffered another injury. Kalif Raymond was tackled from behind and got up holding his knee. He would get up and walk off very gingerly. He would later head to the locker room, and was immediately declared out with a knee injury.
Detroit would move the ball into Vikings territory thanks to a nice pass from Goff to Josh Reynolds for 18 yards. Then, on the run, Goff found a wide-open James Mitchell—who made an impressive 24-yard grab. But Detroit’s drive would stall in the red zone thanks to a Danielle Hunter sack on third down. Badgley would line up for a 39-yard field goal, and make it to push the score to 30-20 Lions with 8:14 left.
The Vikings methodically drove the field, eating up plenty of clock as they went. But when the Vikings got in scoring position, pressure by Ifeatu Melifonwu forced a terrible Mullens throw that was picked off by Cam Sutton to essentially clinch the game.
The Vikings would get one more shot, but C.J. Gardner-Johnson picked off another horrible Mullens pass.