Following Sunday’s 28-19 win for the Minnesota Vikings over the Detroit Lions, head coach Mike Zimmer praised his team for their resilience, calling the game a full-team win from all three phases of the game.
One quarter into the game, however, it looked as though Vikings’ road woes were going to continue, as the Lions ripped them on their first two drives to take a 14-3 lead in the game’s first 13:36 of clock time.
It was an uncharacteristic big-play burning that the Vikings took in the first quarter. Detroit got the ball first and on the third play of the game, Matthew Stafford connected with Calvin Johnson for a 46-yard pass and, four players later, hit Megatron again for a 1-yard touchdown to give Detroit a 7-0 lead less than four minutes into the game.
The Vikings came back with a drive that consumed 7 minutes, 23 seconds off the clock, but had to settle for a field goal to cut Detroit’s lead to 7-3, but once again the defense struggled to keep the Lions offense at bay.
It took Detroit only four plays to cover 85 yards, starting with a 55-yard strike to Eric Ebron. Following runs of 14 yards from Ameer Abdullah and 9 yards from Joique Bell, Stafford found Ebron again – this time for a 7-yard touchdown and, with 1:24 to play in the first quarter, the Lions led 14-3 and appeared the have the Vikings confused and on the ropes.
In those first two drives alone, Detroit piled up 160 yards of offense against the Vikings defense and, more importantly, had put up 14 points against a defense that had been allowing just 17 a game all season.
However, it was at this point the Vikings defense woke up and slammed the door on Detroit.
“We made some adjustments – we had to,” Zimmer said. “(Stafford) was doing a lot of ‘check with me’ things based on our coverages, so we had to fix a lot of those things. But once we got them into throwing situations, I felt pretty good about it.”
In the entirety of the second quarter, the Lions gained 8 yards – 16 rushing and minus-8 passing.
In the third quarter, Detroit had a total of minus-1 yard of offense – 8 yards rushing and minus-9 passing.
In those two quarters, the Vikings outgained the Lions 334 yards to 7 and had turned a 14-3 deficit into a 25-17 lead.
In the first quarter, Stafford completed all six of his passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns. In the next two quarters, he completed 4 of 8 passes for just 21 yards – none of them going to Johnson.
In the five drives Detroit had in the second and third quarters, Stafford was sacked five times and had just two first downs – one of those coming on a penalty. By the time the Lions finally got a drive started in the final 3:21 of the game, they had accounted for just 4 yards from the time there was 1:24 remaining in the first quarter until there was 3:21 left in the fourth quarter – 4 yards in a span of 43 minutes, 3 seconds of the game’s 60 minutes.
The Vikings of previous seasons may have been in “here we go again” mode following their dismal defensive start to the game, but Zimmer has been trying to dispel the daunting numbers that have faced the Vikings in recent years, especially a 1-13-1 record in their previous 15 road games against division opponents. They did their best to start reversing that ugly trend Sunday.
“We talked all week long about the reasons we lost the game up here last year,” Zimmer said. “I think we fixed all those situations today. It has nothing to do with where you play; it’s how you play. They said you can’t have a better record in a temporary stadium. They said you can’t win on the road. They said you can’t do this, can’t do that. It’s all about how you play, not really where you play.”
With the win, the Vikings improve to 4-2 on the season and 2-0 in the division. They will be up against many of those same numbers staring them in the face next week when they head to Soldier Field, but, as Zimmer said following the game, if the Vikings continue to play like they did after the first quarter Sunday, they can go into Green Bay, New England or anywhere else and come away with a “W.”
“If we play like we did in the second half, we have a chance to beat a lot of teams,” Zimmer said.