The Detroit Lions entered Sunday's game as 13½-point underdogs to the host Minnesota Vikings for a reason. The Lions were 0-4, they had held the lead all of two minutes and 24 seconds in those 240 minutes of football, and they had been outscored 147-66.
Sunday, that all changed – except for that losing thing. The Lions took a 3-2 lead in the top of the fourth inning (or late in the second quarter) and held the lead until nine seconds remained in the game, when Ryan Longwell kicked his second consecutive game-winning field goal to help the Vikings overcome a host of mistakes in a 12-10 win.
It seemed every offensive player in the Vikings locker room found areas in which to place the blame, and every one of those accusations were against the offense.
There were the penalties – seven of them for 99 yards. There was a lack of third-down conversions – 3-for-15. There were the fumbles – four of them with two of them lost. And eventually, it was all overcome – even if part of that came down to a questionable pass interference call – with another last-second field goal that pulled the Vikings out of a very precarious position and left them with a 12-10 victory over a winless Detroit Lions team they were supposed to blow out of the Metrodome.
Actually, many of the numbers favored the Vikings. Running back Adrian Peterson had his first 100-yard game in the last four contests despite fumbling the ball two times. Gus Frerotte nearly threw for 300 yards (he finished with 296) with a touchdown and an interception. Bernard Berrian had five catches for 131 yards and Minnesota's only touchdown.
It wasn't a lack of moving the ball, it was clearly the mistakes and the inability to score that nearly cost the Vikings a chance at victory in what will likely prove to be their easiest opponent of the season. Through all the offensive bumbles, the defense held it together, thanks to six sacks – four of them from Kevin Williams – that helped limit the Lions to 212 yards total offense and 2-for-13 on third-down conversions.
In the end, the Vikings had a salty victory and a tie for the lead in the NFC North with next week's opponent, the Chicago Bears, and the Green Bay Packers.
The Vikings had their opportunities on their first three drives. They picked up a 24-yard pass interference penalty on the first series before a 9-yard sack on the ensuing play put them in hole. On the second drive, a 33-yard completion to Berrian was followed by a holding call on Anthony Herrera that put them in another down-and-distance they couldn't dig out of. On the third drive, it looked like the Vikings would finally score, driving 66 yards before Peterson fumbled the ball at the 7-yard line.
As it turned out, the Vikings still got points, when Lions QB Dan Orlovsky, making his first professional start, ran out of the back of the end zone with Jared Allen in pursuit, giving Minnesota a 2-0 lead with a safety in the bank.
The defense continued to do its job, not giving up a first down until the Lions' fifth drive of the game. The Vikings gave up their second one of the first half in the final minutes, but it was a costly one. On the Lions' sixth drive, RB Kevin Smith broke free for a 50-yard gain down to the 12-yard line. Three plays later, Jason Hanson gave Detroit a 3-2 lead with a 40-yard field goal with 1:56 to play in the half, leading to a cascade of booing as the Vikings left the field for halftime.
With momentum and a crowd ready to turn on the Vikings, the Lions took the opening drive of the second half 69 yards. The running game picked up the initial first down of the drive and the short passing game moved the chains another time, but it was an explosive play that produced the Lions' only touchdown of the game. Facing third-and-19, Orlovsky found WR Calvin Johnson for a 37-yard pass. One play later, Johnson caught a 12-yard touchdown that expanded Detroit's lead to 10-2 midway through the third quarter.
The Vikings gave the Lions another opportunity when Frerotte threw an interception as CB Leigh Bodden undercut an out route. From there, however, the Lions became the Lions of late, finding ways to crumble.
After three plays, they punted, and Bernard Berrian got free for 86 yards and a touchdown on the first play of the Vikings' next possession. Trailing 10-8 with 4:33 remaining in the third quarter, the Vikings opted to kick the extra point in lieu of trying to tie the game 10-10 in hopes of more chances in the final 19 minutes, 33 seconds of the game.
The defense continued to do its job, with third-down sacks from Kevin Williams and Charles Gordon ending the next two Detroit drives. But the Vikings offense struggled as well, allowing a third-down sack to end one drive and another Peterson fumble that was recovered by the Lions ending the next drive.
In a game of many mistakes, the Lions immediately returned the favor when Calvin Johnson fumbled the ball after a 32-yard gain and a big hit. When Ben Leber recovered that fumble at the 40-yard line, the Vikings broke through for another big gain with a 46-yard catch-and-run by Bobby Wade that went to the 10-yard line. But, once again, a holding call, this time on Ryan Cook, back up the ball to the 20-yard line and, three plays later, a Longwell field goal attempt was blocked with penetration from the right side of the line, keeping the Lions in control of a one-point lead with 10:04 to play.
Again, a Kevin Williams sack ended a Detroit drive. After an exchange of punts, the Vikings got one more chance with 4:41 on the clock.
Peterson got it started with a 10-yard run and passes to Berrian and Jim Kleinsasser continued to move the chains. But a 5-yard loss on a pass to Peterson and a false start on Cook brought more bad feelings the Vikings' way. But they got the break they needed on second-and-20. Frerotte dropped to pass and found Aundrae Allison down the right sideline. While it didn't appear to be that Bodden interfered with Allison, the receiver got the call – one that was worth 42 yards … and eventually a win. With the ball at the 26-yard line, the Vikings continued to go forward and backward. Peterson picked up 8 yards, but a holding call on Wade made that a net gain of minus-2. Chester Taylor took the next carry 13 yards to the 15-yard line at the 2-minute warning. The offense still struggled to move the ball much more, but enough damage had been done. Longwell came on the field for a 26-yard field that got past the defensive line and between the uprights for another game-winning field with nine seconds to play.
This wasn't the blowout it was supposed to be. It was a game filled with mistakes – penalties, fumbles and questionable decisions from the sidelines and the officials. But Longwell's only field goal of the game, and his second game-winner in six days, gave the Vikings a 12-10 lead and tied them for first place in the NFC North with a 3-3 record.
Vikings overcome mistakes in 12-10 win
Viking Update Top Stories
Vikings’ odds to win Super Bowl LIIThe odds are out for Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium a year from now. The Vikings aren't one of the favorites, but they are getting respect from oddsmakers.
Viking Update7:12 AM
Vikings were only average in special teamsThe Minnesota Vikings ranked in the top seven in two of the five special teams categories used in the rankings, but were in the bottom seven in two other categories.
Viking Update6:52 AM
Vikings near bottom in cap carryoverWith four teams sporting more than $20 million available to carry over in salary-cap space, the Minnesota Vikings are one of five teams with less than $1 million available in that…
Scout NFL NetworkYesterday at 10:01 AM
Too many factors in Thielen not getting 1,000Adam Thielen obviously wanted to get to 1,000 yards. But he was only targeted once in the season finale and still took that in stride.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 7:53 AM