Despite their furious comeback attempt in the game’s final 20 minutes, the Detroit Lions fell at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings, 34-24.
The Vikings took immediate control of the game in the first half, and led 13-3 at halftime. Detroit was able to get within six when Matthew Stafford hooked up with Brandon Pettigrew for a 16-yard score, but 16-10 was as close as they got.
Despite Detroit’s 21 points in the final 20 minutes, Minnesota had an answer for every Lions score.
The Vikings controlled the game on both sides of the ball, operating efficiently from start to finish. Offensively, quarterback Christian Ponder managed the game effectively, while running back Adrian Peterson gashed Detroit for one big run after another in the second half.
Peterson finished the game with 171 yards on the ground, including a 61-yard burst that went for six.
While Peterson and the Vikings rushed the ball well, Mikel Leshoure and the Lions gained only 60 yards on the ground. Minnesota’s ability to run the ball gave them a balanced offensive attack that Detroit lacked.
Even though the Lions were able to gain 368 total yards and 23 first downs, the Viking defense was able to get off the field eight out of nine times on third down. Detroit’s inability to convert third downs put them in a hole that they never dug themselves out of.
In addition to all this, the Lions got killed in the field position battle. The Lions started on their own 20 on average, while the Vikings’ average starting position was their own 39. The field position battle was in part lost by Lions punter Nick Harris, who averaged just 38 yards per punt. By comparison, Vikings punter Chris Kluwe averaged 48.6
Stafford’s nice second half couldn’t overcome Peterson and the Vikings
Calvin Johnson was a big-time bright spot for Detroit, gaining 207 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 12 catches. Stafford once again put together a very nice second half, throwing for three scores, but it was too-little, too-late.
Getting dominated in the ground game, not converting third downs, and giving the Vikings a short field with regularity all added up to a ten-point Detroit loss. The loss drops the Lions to 4-5, now 3.5 games behind the division-leading Bears.
The sad truth for Lions fans is that Detroit just wasn’t as good as Minnesota in this one. They were thoroughly outplayed by a struggling team I expected them to beat.
Without defensive starters Louis Delmas, Amari Spievey, and Corey Williams, the Lions’ defense looked toothless. They allowed Ponder to throw for 221 yards on 24-of-32 passing just a week after he threw for only 63 yards against Seattle. Tight end Kyle Rudolph had the announcers comparing him to Tony Gonzalez by the end of the game, something that is indicative of the Lions’ defense, not Rudolph’s ‘Gonzalez-like’ skill.
To add injury to insult, two more key Lions defenders went down due to injury in this game. DE Cliff Avril suffered a concussion in the second half, and CB Chris Houston also left the game late with an ankle injury.
With this new round of injuries sustained by the Lions, it seems that the mountain ahead of Detroit just got much steeper. If the Vikings can put together the performance they just did against this Detroit defense, I don’t want to think about what the Packers can do next week.
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