Arguably the biggest play of Sunday’s game came late in the fourth quarter when the Detroit Lions attempted a two-point conversion but failed. The Minnesota Vikings had just kicked a field goal on the previous drive and were up 26-10, meaning the Lions would have to score two touchdowns and convert two two-point conversions to tie the game.
They started on their own 18-yard line and began what turned out to be a 20-play drive that lasted 4 minutes, 32 seconds and ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Eric Ebron. The Lions then lined up for a two-point conversion and if they converted it they would have had a chance to tie the game with one more touchdown and two-point conversion.
The Lions handed the ball off to running back Joique Bell, who was stopped short of the goal line by Vikings safety Harrison Smith.
“Even before the play I was saying, ‘This is as big as the touchdown because it keeps them at two scores if we stop them,’” Smith said. “So, yeah, that was my mindset.
“I was just reading my key. Just read run and kind of got in there and made sure I got to him before he got to the goal line.”
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer also knew the importance of that play by Smith and informed his players of it after the game in their locker room.
“You never know how important a two-point play is there at the end,” the head coach said. “Us stopping them in that two-point play, up by 10, there’s no way they can come back and win that football game. Then we do a great job on the onside kick, critical situations of the game. Correct, critical situations of the game.”
After the failed two-point conversion the Lions were down by 10 points with 1:48 left to play in the game. It was very unlikely that they would be able to record two scores in that time period, but there was still a chance. That’s what made the onside kick so important.
Vikings tight end Rhett Ellison was able to fall on the ball, which allowed the Vikings offense to run out the clock and secure the win. Smith was not on the field during the onside kick, but from what he saw he knows there are a lot of people to give credit to for the recovery, not just Ellison.
“(Ellison) made a good play,” Smith said. “(Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer) put us in the right spots and Rhett made a good play. Some guys laid some good blocks for him. I think (Robert) Blanton blocked two guys on that play so it was some good stuff.”
The Vikings played well on Sunday in all three phases of the game, but they stepped up when they needed to the most. It was their key plays in critical situations at the end of the game that sealed the team’s first victory of the season.