After being overwhelmed by Detroit’s pass rush in Minnesota’s earlier meeting with the Lions, Teddy Bridgewater confidently led the Vikings to two early touchdowns in the rematch.
That alone was progress — but it wasn’t enough for an upset victory.
Bridgewater went 31 of 41 for 315 yards with a touchdown, but his two interceptions in the second quarter helped start Detroit’s rally, and the Lions ended up beating Minnesota 16-14 on Sunday. Blair Walsh missed a 68-yard field goal on the final play that could have won it for the Vikings.
“As I told the team, I’m not into moral victories but these guys fought and played and scratched and clawed and gave a great effort today,” Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer said. “I thought we did an awful lot of good things.”
Bridgewater was sacked eight times in a 17-3 loss to the Lions in October. Detroit had four sacks Sunday, but Minnesota’s rookie quarterback was difficult to rattle.
The Vikings (6-8) held Detroit to 11 first downs, but after Jason Jones blocked Walsh’s 26-yard field goal attempt with 7:43 left, the Lions drove 65 yards to set up Matt Prater’s third short field goal of the game. His 33-yarder put the Lions ahead 16-14 with 3:38 remaining.
Detroit (10-4) then withstood two more tense possessions for the Vikings.
Trailing for the first time all day, the Vikings had a good chance to take the lead again after Cordarrelle Patterson returned the ensuing kickoff to the Minnesota 49. But a holding call pushed the Vikings back, and Bridgewater eventually threw incomplete on fourth down.
The Vikings got the ball again at their 30 with 45 seconds left, but could only make it far enough to set up Walsh’s long attempt at a game winner. Zimmer decided to go for the field goal instead of a last-ditch pass.
“Either one is kind of a shot in the dark, but Blair has hit 70-yarders in practice before,” Zimmer said. “So I figured that was the best chance to win.”
Walsh couldn’t convert. He also missed from 53 yards earlier in the game.
Matthew Stafford threw for 153 yards and a touchdown for the Lions, who pulled into a first-place tie with Green Bay in the NFC North.
In its last home game of the regular season, Detroit looked flat in the first half, falling behind by two touchdowns and drawing boos from the crowd at Ford Field. The Lions couldn’t manage a first down until the second quarter, on their fifth offensive possession.
Matt Asiata opened the scoring with a 2-yard touchdown run. Bridgewater added an 8-yard TD pass to Greg Jennings in the second quarter to make it 14-0. The Vikings were in Detroit territory again when Glover Quin intercepted Bridgewater and returned it 56 yards to the Minnesota 11.
“We did everything we could to hurt ourselves in the first half, in every phase, but GQ made a huge play to get us back into the game,” Stafford said.
Stafford threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate, and Bridgewater’s next pass was behind Jennings and intercepted by Darius Slay, giving the Lions the ball at the Minnesota 32.
“The second one was just a horrible throw,” Bridgewater said. “I was late. When you’re late for an out route, I left the ball inside. So I just have to continue to work.”
Prater’s field goal made it 14-10 at halftime.
Prater, who helped stabilize Detroit’s terrible kicking game when he joined the Lions in October, connected from 30 yards in the third quarter to cut the deficit to one. Jones’ block in the fourth meant Detroit only needed a field goal to take the lead.
NOTES: The Lions went 7-1 at home during the regular season. The previous time that happened was 1995, when the team still played at the Silverdome. … Bridgewater was sacked 12 times in two games against the Lions this year, including four times Sunday. … Walsh’s career long is 56 yards.
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