If the Minnesota Vikings don’t make the playoffs this season, they will have two teams to blame – themselves and the Detroit Lions.
For the second time in 18 days, Detroit came from behind late to beat the Vikings. Nov. 6 at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Lions had 23 seconds to play from their own 25-yard line with no timeouts and got into field goal range to send the game into overtime, where they then scored a touchdown on the opening drive to win.
Thursday at Ford Field, the Lions trailed 13-10 and, following a 57-yard punt by Jeff Locke and a holding penalty, the Lions were buried on their own 2-yard line. But Matthew Stafford completed a 29-yard pass to Anquan Boldin on a third-and-8 play. When he followed that up with a 15-yarder to Marvin Jones, the Lions were in scoring position and tied the game.
The Vikings appeared to have a chance to win the game late when they converted a rare third down to get the ball to 40-yard with 45 seconds and a timeout left. But, due to an injury to Kyle Rudolph, the Vikings made a change in personnel and Cordarrelle Patterson lined up off the line, which made the play an illegal formation.
“We fought hard, but we didn’t execute well enough at the end of the game,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “It’s disappointing. We weren’t good enough on third downs offensively. We can’t continue to shoot ourselves in the foot with some of those penalties and negative plays. We’re not overcoming them.”
Bradford didn’t believe the pass was a forced throw on his part, just a great play by Slay, who handed off the outside coverage to a safety and drifted in toward Thielen, where he was in better position to make the catch.
“I think their corner just made a really good play,” Bradford said. “I’d like to have it back. I wish I could have seen him fall off the outside route and come back in, but give them credit. It was a good play.”
With a chance to win both of the games against the Lions, the Vikings failed on both offense and defense. Instead of being 8-3 and cruising toward a second straight division title, the Vikings are now 6-5 and barely keeping their heads above water in their fight for a playoff spot.
The disappointment of the players was evident at game’s end, but Bradford said the team can’t dwell on their recent woes. They still have a chance to right the ship, but their margin for error has dropped down to just about nothing.
“You just keep moving forward,” Bradford said. “There’s a lot of football left to play. We still have five games left and all we can do is worry about who we have next week – and that is Dallas. Obviously, that’s a really big game for us. For us, it’s just rebounding and making sure we don’t let this game affect us and become two games.”
GAME DAY NOTES
- The ravaged Vikings offensive line got more bad news Thursday. Starting center Joe Berger, the only offensive lineman not to miss time this year, left early with a concussion, and right tackle Jeremiah Sirles was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter with a hip injury. Berger was replaced by Nick Easton and Sirles was replaced by rookie guard/tackle Willie Beavers.
- Prater has never missed a game-tying or game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter or overtime in his career, going 25-for-25.
- It appeared that Slay wasn’t down when he fumbled following the interception that led to the game-winning score and, despite the Vikings calling a timeout to give the replay officials a longer chance to take a look at the play, the ruling stood after a quick review.
- The Lions outgained the Vikings 308-306, but had just 90 offensive yards in the second half – 68 of those coming in the final five minutes.
- The Vikings offense was dismal on third down, converting on just two of 10 third-down opportunities. Detroit converted six of 14 third downs, but just two of their last 10 after starting four-for-four.
- The Vikings didn’t convert a third down until the third quarter, failing on their first five chances.
- The Vikings got in the red zone three times, but scored just one touchdown, settling for a pair of short field goals.
- The Vikings held a time-of-possession edge of 31:31 to 28:29, including holding the ball for almost 19 minutes of the second half.
- Bradford completed 31 of 37 passes for 224 yards, with an interception and a passer rating of 80.6.
- Thursday was the first game as a Viking that Bradford didn’t have at least one touchdown pass.
- Stafford completed 23 of 40 passes for 232 yards with one touchdown and a passer rating of 82.5. Stafford completed his first eight passes. After that, he completed 15 of 32 passes for 163 yards.
- The Vikings running attack had one of its more productive games of the season, rushing 16 times for 82 yards. Jerick McKinnon ran nine times for 31 yards, Matt Asiata run five times for 27 yards and Patterson ran a 22-yard double reverse.
- The Lions ran 19 times for 94 yards. Theo Riddick led all rushers with nine carries for 45 yards and Stafford had a pair of scrambles for first downs, finishing with 30 rushing yards.
- Rudolph led the Vikings with nine receptions for 64 yards. Thielen had eight catches for 53 yards and Patterson caught five passes for just 15 yards.
- Boldin led the Lions with seven catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. Golden Tate added five catches for 77 yards and Jones had four receptions for 54 yards.
- Locke had another strong punting game, averaging 48.8 yards per punt with a net average of 48.0 yards.
- Safety Andrew Sendejo led the Vikings with eight tackles and shared a sack with Danielle Hunter.
- Lions middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead led all defenders with 12 tackles, including 11 solo tackles.
- Eric Kendricks made a couple of huge third-down tackles, including an open field tackle on Riddick in the fourth quarter that forced the Lions to settle for a game-tying field goal deep in Vikings territory.
- Detroit did not have a first down in the third quarter and gained just 16 yards.
- The Vikings had one of their longest drives of the season in the third quarter that extended into the fourth. The drive covered 76 yards in 13 plays, but they had to settle for a field goal.
- That drive was highlighted by the best running the Vikings have done all season, rushing five times for 55 yards during the drive.
- Detroit dominated the first-half statistics, outgaining the Vikings 218-110. Those numbers were almost identically reversed in the second half.
- Bradford completed 13 of 17 passes for 93 yards in the first half and 18 of 20 passes in the second half for 129 yards.
- The Lions burned both of their challenges in the first half, and had there been a play they wanted reviewed in the second half, they couldn’t have.
- Both teams went on fourth-down plays near midfield in the second quarter and both defenses stuffed them. Neither of the short-field opportunities led to points for either team.
- The first quarter went quickly as both teams scored their only touchdowns on their opening drives. Detroit started the game with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that took 7:46 off the clock. Minnesota’s first drive was 12 plays and 75 yards as well, taking 6:34 off the clock.
- Detroit has scored on 38 straight drives into the red zone.
- Thursday’s game was just the third time in 57 years that the Lions played an opponent where both of them were in first or tied for first place in their divisions.
- It was also the first time since 1993 that Detroit played in a Thanksgiving game in which they were leading their division when the game was played.
- The Vikings were without key players from all three phases of the game – missing Diggs on offense, Terence Newman on defense and Marcus Sherels on special teams.
- The Lions have now won four straight games when playing host on Thanksgiving.
- Every one of Detroit’s games this has been decided by seven points or fewer – the first time in NFL history that a team has had that streak for 11 straight games to start a season.
- The national anthem was sung by music icon Aretha Franklin and nearly set an NFL record, lasting four minutes, 35 seconds.
- Thursday’s loss was only the second time that Minnesota has lost in seven Thanksgiving Day games.