Detroit Lions Beat Minnesota Vikings: Instant Analysis

The Detroit Lions won their fourth-consecutive Thanksgiving Day contest, moving them into sole possession of first place in the NFC North. Read further for instant analysis of the big win against the Minnesota Vikings.

The Detroit Lions are in first place by virtue of a Thanksgiving Day victory, beating their closest competition for the division – the Minnesota Vikings.   This game was full of notables, here are my observations from the 16-13 victory.

  • Today’s game represented the seventh time the Lions have been trailing in the fourth quarter this year – a stat that you would think is synonymous with losing but the Lions have parlayed that into a 7-4 record and an inside track to a home playoff game – which would be the first in Ford Field history.

  • The fact that the Lions can continue to overcome fourth-quarter deficits is a testament to their resilience as well as their poise.  Preparation is part of it but a collective innate ability to handle pressure is more important.

  • Kicker Matt Prater is now 25-for-25 in his career when attempting a fourth-quarter or overtime field goal to either take the lead or tie the game.  That includes two such kicks in today’s win.

  • Cornerback Darius Slay now has two games in the season where he has made a game-changing play late in the fourth quarter.  Against the Philadelphia Eagles he forced a fumble that setup the go-ahead points and then intercepted quarterback Carson Wentz the next time he stepped on the field to seal the game.  Today, he made a crucial interception that immediately setup a field goal attempt – without that play the Lions are facing OT, at best.

  • Quarterback Matthew Stafford is thriving in these situations.  Consider this, today represented Stafford’s seventh fourth-quarter or overtime game-winning drive this season.  According to Profootballreference.com, that ties the single-season record since 1950.  Stafford shares the mark with seven other players (a list that includes Peyton Manning twice as well as Andrew Luck) and he has five more games to break the tie.

  • Speaking of Stafford thriving, in his last four Thanksgiving Day games, he’s completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 1,211 yards, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.  The Lions are 4-0 in those games.

  • With all of the praise that the Lions deserve for this win, the Vikings deserve equal amounts of criticism for the way in which they lost.  Among the critical mistakes they made were two costly penalties in the fourth-quarter.

  • With 7:23 left in the game, the Vikings had just moved the chains and were on their own 31-yard line while nursing a three-point lead.  Before they run a play, they are hit with a delay-of-game penalty, moving them to a first and 15.  Minnesota would only manage to get 14 of the necessary 15 yards and end up punting on fourth and one.  Detroit would score the game-tying points on the next drive.

  • After Detroit tied the game, the Vikings offense took the field with an opportunity to play for overtime or score the go-ahead points.  On third and two, they gain seven and are looking at a first and 10 from their 40.  But wait, there’s a flag.  Cordarrelle Patterson is called for an illegal formation, the Vikings are now facing third and seven.  On that play, Sam Bradford throw’s an interception to Darius Slay, setting up the loss.

  • The penalties didn’t only come at inopportune times, they were killers for an offense that simply doesn’t push the ball down field.  According to ProFootballFocus, Sam Bradford’s average pass attempt traveled 3.5 yards in the air – tying for the lowest average depth of target for any game this year.

  • Granted, the Vikings offense is amongst the worst in the league, the Lions defense should still get some credit here.  The unit has now held the opposition to 20 points or fewer in five consecutive games.  That’s the first time in 20 years that the Lions have done that and the first time since 1991 that it happened in the same season.

  • The Lions continue to make a concerted effort to run the ball, attempting 19 rushes this game – although four of them were from Stafford.  One adjustment the Lions made that helped them finish with nearly five yards per carry this week (vs. 0.7 yards per carry last week) was by subbing in tight end Matthew Mulligan for Eric Ebron in some run situations.  Mulligan is a far superior blocker than Ebron and it showed on several plays today.

  • Dwayne Washington had five attempts for 19 yards today and continues to occupy a role in this offense.  He showed good explosion and playmaking ability in the preseason but has failed to demonstrate those skills during the regular season.  Even worse, he whiffed on a pass block early in the fourth quarter, resulting in a sack for a loss of 10 yards.  The Lions were able to overcome the loss and get a first down but Washington didn’t touch the ball the rest of the way.  That’s something to watch going forward.

  • The way the Lions overcame that 10-yard loss was via a 15-yard scramble by Stafford on third and 15.  Defensive coordinators need to think twice before playing man-coverage against the Lions as Stafford is showing the ability to make them pay with his legs.


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