The Vikings ended the game with a big advantage in the yardage department, but their defensive dominance was even more evident earlier in the game before Detroit got desperate. Plus, get more than two dozen game-day notes of analysis.
It's been a long time since people have talked positively about the Vikings defense, but, with the team riding a five-game winning streak, it has been the defense that has carried the day for the Vikings over the last month.
In Sunday's win, the Vikings defense allowed the Lions just 223 yards of offense. While that in itself would be impressive enough, consider this: of that yardage total, 99 of those yards came on the final two drives with the Vikings playing prevent defense.
The Lions were stymied all day long by the Vikings defense, taking dink-and-dunk passes and mixing in short runs here and there to accumulate just 124 yards over the game's first 50 minutes. In their last two drives, the Lions ran 10 times for 64 yards and completed four of seven passes for 35 yards. Prior to that, Detroit had rushed 13 times for just 45 yards and Garcia had completed just 13 of 28 passes for 89 yards.
While many of the national commentators have credited Brad Johnson
with the Vikings resurgence – they're now 5-0 with him as a starter – it's the Vikings defense that has stepped up and made the big difference. Their rankings are still in the bottom third of the league, but ask teams like the Lions about their defense and you'll hear a different story.
With their late yardage totals, the Lions ended the game out-rushing the Vikings by a slim 105-103 margin, but thanks to more than double the pass yards for the Vikings (242 to 118) the Vikings held a total yardage edge of 345 to 223.
Both Johnson and Garcia completed 17 passes, but there were two significant differences. Johnson averaged 15 yards per completion, while Garcia averaged just 7 yards. Johnson threw only 23 passes, while Garcia put it up 35 times.
The Vikings continued to struggle in third-down situations, converting on just 3 of 11 opportunities. The Lions did better (5-for-13) for the game, but after converting their first three attempts on the opening drive of the game, Detroit converted just 2 of 10 the rest of the way.
Much has been made of the Lions using three first-round picks in the last three years on wide receivers. How's that working out? Charles Rogers was de-activated by the decision of coach Dick Jauron, and Roy Williams and Mike Williams combined for just five receptions for 40 yards. Prior to the final drive with less than three minutes to play, the two had combined for just two catches for nine yards.
Vikings defensive tackles Pat Williams and C.J. Mosley combined for just two solo tackles and two assists Sunday.
Detroit might want to take a look at Michael Bennett in free agency – just to keep him away from playing them. In two meetings vs. Detroit this year, Bennett has rushed 40 times for 185 yards and scored three touchdowns (two of those receiving). In the other 10 games combined this year, he has 50 carries for 94 yards and no touchdowns.
Sunday was the fifth straight game as a starter that Brad Johnson threw for more yards than he did the previous week.
Injured QB Daunte Culpepper surprised his teammates by showing up at the game to give them some inspiration. He wasn't on the sideline, however.
Artose Pinner showed he has some game in the late going. On Detroit's touchdown drive, he ran eight times for 49 yards and a touchdown. Prior to that, he had just six carries for 15 yards.
Since 2001, the Lions are 20-56 – the worst record in the NFL. That futility had fans passing around a homemade signs that said "Fire Millen" – a reference to general manager Matt Millen. Security tried to get rid of the signs, but fans passed one around until one glory hog held it too long and was tackled and presumably either arrested or ejected from the stadium.
Not only didn't Pat Williams have a solo tackle Sunday, he got called for a roughing-the-passer penalty on a play in which Brian Williams picked off the pass and returned it for a touchdown that would have put the game away much earlier than it did.
The AARP had a vested interest in Sunday's game. Johnson and Garcia are a combined 73 years old – the oldest matchup of starting quarterbacks this season.
The Vikings have allowed just two touchdowns in the last 10 quarters.
The Vikings may have incurred a huge blow when punter Chris Kluwe suffered what looked like it could be a broken ankle on a blocked punt attempt by Detroit's Vernon Fox. Paul Edinger had to come in to do the kicking and he responded with two punts that averaged 37.5 yards – including a critical punt in the final three minutes that pinned the Lions on their own 5-yard line.
In the first half, Garcia threw 19 passes – only two of them of more than 10 yards and neither of those were completed.
The Vikings took control of the game on the opening drive of the third quarter – running nine plays for 59 yards, picking up five first downs and scoring a touchdown to take a 21-6 lead.
At the half, the Vikings held a huge yardage disparity in their favor. The Vikings had 211 yards (143 yards passing and 68 yards rushing on 16 carries), while the Lions had just 70 yards (33 yards passing and 37 yards rushing on 12 attempts).
In the first half alone, Johnson completed six of eight passes for 157 yards and a touchdown, Bennett ran 12 times for 62 yards and a score and Koren Robinson caught two passes for 125 yards.
K-Rob became the Vikings' first receiver to top 100 yards this season (fill in your Randy Moss references as you see fit).
In the first half, Kluwe made an impressive play to avert a potential touchdown or safety. A horrible snap on a punt sailed over his head, but he leapt and knocked it down and, while running away from a defender, managed to get the kick away. The Vikings were penalized for ineligible men downfield, but it could have been a disaster late in the first half.
The Vikings briefly stuck rookie Ciatrick Fason in the game in the second quarter when a punt pinned the Vikes on their own 6-yard line. He responded with two carries for 17 yards to get them out of the shadow of their own end zone.
Guard Anthony Herrera was replaced in the second quarter by Chris Liwienski, but Herrera returned in the second half. He was replaced after being ovewhelmed by Detroit DT Shaun Rogers on consecutive plays in an earlier drive.
The lopsided nature of the stats were evident early. Despite Detroit holding the ball for 9:09 of the first quarter, the Vikings held a stat edge of 117 to 44 yards.
When Bryson came up lame in the first quarter there were some serious concerns on the Lions sidelines. The team had just three running backs (including fullback Cory Schlesinger) in uniform – injured starter Kevin Jones was de-activated before the game.
As expected, the Vikings de-activated rookie WR Troy Williamson for the second straight week.