The Lions entered the game with a 2-0 record while the Vikings had squandered second-half leads twice while entering with a 0-2 record.
The Vikings did not appear to be the winless team during the game’s first half, building a comfortable, 20-0 lead that they brought into the third quarter. However, the Lions mounted what would be the first of their many second half comeback, eventually winning the game in overtime, 26-23.
The win propelled the Lions to a 5-0 start and their current 7-5 mark, leaving them in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt while the Vikings are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention and are owners of a 2-10 record.
“Man, I have thought about (that) a couple different times,” said Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier this week. “We have had some opportunities and in our league, the fragility of the mindset is one of those things that if you can gain some confidence by winning a close game like that game – and we had a bunch of those early in the season – maybe they would have gave us a boost and helped us play on. But unfortunately, we weren’t able to get that close win and have struggled since.”
If the loss did have a negative impact on the Vikings confidence -- playing a significant role in spoiling their season -- they have a chance to return the favor. That is something Vikings defensive end Jared Allen is eager to do.
“Obviously (we) aren’t playing in the playoffs,” said Allen. “I always tell people misery loves company and it’s pretty miserable around here. So, I’m trying to drag as many folks into it as I can.”
The Lions are all too familiar with playing the role of spoiler, a role they’ve been relinquished to often over their 11-year playoff drought.
“They’re more dangerous,” said cornerback Chris Houston. “They’re in a position that we were in last year, we were dangerous to a lot of teams last year going in to the last four games. We wanted to spoil everybody’s playoff runs and we actually helped Green Bay make it in the playoffs last year. So (the Vikings) are pretty much in the position we were in last year.”
Either the Giants or Cowboys will win the NFC East, leaving the Lions and three other teams to wrestle over two Wild Card spots.
The close race has prompted the Lions to view the remainder of the schedule as their season, forgetting the previous 12 games.
“Basically it is a four-game season,” said head coach Jim Schwartz. “It doesn’t matter when you won your first seven. It doesn’t matter when you win the others that come after that. But there is urgency every single week in the NFL, more so now when we are down to a four-game season. It is not a 16-game season anymore. That other stuff is in the books. There is nothing we can do about what happened before. There is nothing that is going to change with the first 12 weeks. What we can affect is the last four and that is what we are concentrating on.”
The Lions and Vikings will meet again this Sunday at Ford Field. Detroit will look to begin their four-game season with a victory while the Vikings will simply look to derail it.
The importance of the contest can be summarized in two words, according to Houston: “Must win.”