Notebook: Long, key drive comes up short

The Vikings put together an 18-play drive that didn’t result in points, one of many difference-making points in the game. Plus, get 30 notes that help tell the strange tale of this Vikings loss.

There are certain points in a season where a team can tell if it has what it takes to compete with playoff-caliber teams. Had the Vikings won Sunday, the coaches and players may have pointed to a key point in the second half of the game that proved the offense – makeshift as it is – had turned a corner.

After keeping Detroit out of the end zone with less than four minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Vikings started a drive from their own 17-line that wouldn’t end until midway through the fourth quarter. But, in the end, that drive came up empty.

It had all the makings of a defining moment for Teddy Bridgewater. He got the drive started with a 12-yard pass to Kyle Rudolph and, one play later, hit Jarius Wright on a 13-yard crossing route to get the ball near midfield.

As the third quarter came to an end, the Vikings had picked up another first down on a direct snap to Matt Asiata that got the ball into Detroit territory. What would follow in the next five minutes as the game moved to the fourth quarter would be a witness to the maturation of Bridgewater.

He dropped to pass on first down from the Detroit 48-yard line, but escaped a ferocious pass rush to gain 9 yards. One play later, facing a third-and-3, he found Rhett Ellison with a screen and the tight end fought his way for a first down.

Following an 8-yard sack and then a holding call on Matt Kalil, Bridgewater was faced with a second-and-28 situation. He picked up more than half of that with a sharp slant pass to Jarius Wright and, when his protection broke down on third down, he scrambled for 16 yards and another first down.

After getting the ball down the 7-yard line, another Detroit sack pushed the Vikings back and, instead of risking not coming away with points, Bridgewater threw a dump-off to Asiata to get the Vikings back inside the 10-yard line for a short field goal that would have given them a four-point lead.

The 26-yard field goal attempt by Blair Walsh was blocked and the Lions remained behind by one point and found a way to score the game-winning points on the ensuing drive.

It was a hard way to lose the game, but, when all was said and done, Bridgewater and the patchwork Vikings offense held the ball on an 18-play drive that picked up six first downs and ate up 11:02 off the clock. Had the Vikings won, it would be pointed to as a critical turning point for the franchise in the Mike Zimmer era. It didn’t happen, but if there was any question that this is Bridgewater’s team, that question got answered in the second half Sunday, even if it didn’t produce the desired result because of a blocked field goal.

GAME DAY NOTES

  • The Vikings dominated just about every statistical category there was to dominate Sunday except on the scoreboard. The Vikings had 21 first downs to just 11 by the Lions, outgained Detroit 360-233, ran 66 plays to just 50 for the Lions and held the ball for 34:43, as opposed to just 25:17 for Detroit.

  • In the battle of the wide receivers Johnson, Charles got the edge over Calvin. Charles Johnson caught five passes for 72 yards for the Vikings, while Calvin Johnson caught four passes for 53 yards and was targeted just six times by Detroit QB Matthew Stafford.

  • The Vikings had Xavier Rhodes chasing down Megatron throughout the game, a departure from past practices in defending Johnson. Wherever Megatron went, Rhodes usually followed, despite having to leave the game in the first half and again late in the game with a left wrist injury.

  • Matt Asiata didn’t have a great statistical day, but it belied the kind of game he had. Asiata had 11 carries for 36 yards and seven catches for 50 yards. While none of the plays gained more than 10 yards, they were some of the most hard-fought yards of the season for the Vikings running back.

  • Teddy Bridgewater had his third 300-yard passing game of the season, completing 31 of 41 passes for 315 yards with one TD and two interceptions.

  • After not throwing a touchdown in the first three games he played, Bridgewater has at least one TD pass in each of his last eight games.

  • In the 11 games he has played, Bridgewater has thrown 10 interceptions – five in two games against Detroit and five in the other nine games combined.

  • Stafford completed 17 of 28 passes for 153 yards, the fewest attempts, completions and yards he has had all season.

  • In the four games since returning from hernia surgery, Kyle Rudolph has caught just seven passes for 66 yards. In Sunday’s game, he caught seven passes for 69 yards – the most receptions and yards of his 2014 season.

  • Asiata scored his 11th career touchdown, but it was the first TD he has scored in a road game during his career.

  • The Vikings punted only twice on Sunday.

  • Marcus Sherels and Cordarrelle Patterson each had big returns that helped give the Vikings a spark. Sherels had a 35-yard punt return two minutes into the game and Patterson had a 51-yard kick return with 3:30 to play to give the Vikings a chance for the comeback win.

  • The Vikings defense held Detroit to converting just 2 of 11 third-down chances. The Vikings converted 4 of 11 chances on offense.

  • The Lions got into the red zone four times, but the Vikings allowed them to score just one touchdown.

  • Of Detroit’s 10 drives in Sunday’s game, they ran five or fewer plays on seven of them.

  • The Vikings didn’t have a single three-and-out in the game Sunday.

  • Gerald Hodges, who was replacing Anthony Barr in the starting lineup, led the team in tackles with nine – including seven solo tackles.

  • The Vikings didn’t sack Stafford one time Sunday. Detroit had four sacks of Bridgewater. In their first meeting at TCF Bank Stadium, the Lions sacked Bridgewater eight times.

  • In what would turn out to be a critical play in the final two minutes, Rhodes reinjured his wrist prior to the final Detroit punt inside the two-minute warning. Because the Vikings didn’t have any timeouts, Detroit was able to allow 56 seconds to roll off the clock between snaps on third and fourth down, leaving the Vikings with just 45 seconds left to mount a final drive.

  • Walsh was 0-for-3 on field goal attempts, missing from 53 yards in the first half, having a 26-yarder blocked and coming up short on a 68-yard bomb at the end of the game.

  • Brian Robison suffered an ankle injury late in the game.

  • The Vikings weren’t called for their first penalty until 12:44 remained in the game.

  • The Vikings have allowed just one touchdown in 32 opponent possessions inside the two-minute warning of both halves.

  • Glover Quin recorded his sixth interception of the season, which tied him for the league lead. Two of those have come against Bridgewater.

  • Detroit didn’t pick up its initial first down of the game until 9:18 remained in the first half.

  • Midway through the first half, the Vikings held a yardage edge of 188-43.

  • Greg Jennings may have made the catch of the year on a poorly thrown ball over the wrong shoulder. Jennings spun around, made the catch and dragged both feet while falling out of bounds. Detroit challenged the play, but a review confirmed the call and gave Jennings a highlight-film catch.

  • In the last five games, Charles Johnson has caught 20 passes for 355 yards and two touchdowns – numbers that lead all Vikings receivers by a pretty wide margin.

  • The Vikings have been constantly replacing starters on offense all season, but Sunday saw the defense shorthanded. Sharrif Floyd, Anthony Barr and Robert Blanton were all sidelined.

  • The Vikings remain winless against the NFC North after finishing off last season with two wins and a tie against the rest of the division.


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