The Minnesota Vikings went down to the wire against the Detroit Lions in Week 14, and it is once again time to highlight the top five defensive plays of this past week's game. I wish I had video for most of these, but it appears that the folks at NFL.com decided that none of the plays I'm going to highlight were worthy of videos or anything like that (despite the fact that some of them have a "Watch Highlight" link on there on the NFL.com play-by-play of the game). So, I'll do the best that I can to give you the descriptions.
The first one I want to highlight is one that, while not seemingly very impactful at the time, wound up being a record-setter for one of the few Vikings having an outstanding year in 2011. After a Lorenzo Booker fumble set the Lions up at the Minnesota 16-yard line with 2:20 left on the clock, Matthew Stafford took a shotgun snap and went back to pass. Although Detroit's Jeff Backus did a good job on Jared Allen at first, Allen's tenacity took over. Stafford stepped ahead in the pocket a couple of steps, and Allen managed to shed Backus and bring him down for a three-yard loss.
The sack was Allen's third of the game, and gave him 100.5 for his career. It also held the Lions to a 30-yard Jason Hanson field goal, which didn't seem like a big deal at the time as it made the score 31-14, but wound up helping to give the Vikings a shot for a victory at the end of the game.
The second and third plays that we're going to highlight took place one right after the other. After the Lions converted a third down on a pass to Nate Burleson, they had 1st-and-10 from their own 37 with 5:52 remaining, nursing a 34-28 lead. Stafford found Calvin Johnson on the first down play for nine yards, and it looked like the Lions would just keep going. However, on 2nd-and-1, Kevin Williams managed to find his way into the backfield and drop running back Keiland Williams for a loss of a yard.
Then, on 3rd-and-2, Stafford went back to pass. . .and kept backing up. . .and backing up in the face of the Minnesota pass rush. Eventually, he was forced to side arm a pass to Titus Young which, even though it traveled about ten yards in the air, resulted in just a 1-yard gain for the Lions after Chad Greenway jumped on a diving Young just short of the sticks. That forced the Lions to punt to the Vikings to set up Minnesota's final drive.
There was another stop of Keiland Williams in the fourth quarter that turned out to be a big play, too. On the drive following Joe Webb's ridiculous touchdown run, the Lions drove the length of the field and found themselves facing a 3rd-and-2 on Minnesota's 3-yard line with 13:23 left in the contest. The Lions went to Williams, and Fred Evans was having none of it. He clogged the hole, along with several other Vikings, and held Williams to a 1-yard gain. The Lions unsuccessfully tried to draw the Vikings offsides on the ensuing 4th-and-1 play, and took a delay of game penalty that forced them to settle for another Hanson field goal. . .their only points of the second half. . .to extend the lead to 34-21.
The last play that I wanted to highlight happened on the drive just after the interception that wound up being Christian Ponder's last play of the afternoon. The Lions had moved into Vikings' territory, and with a 31-14 lead had a chance to really put the Vikings away. However, facing 2nd-and-7 at the Minnesota 46, Allen just blew past Backus, forcing Stafford to step up in the pocket. The mess was eventually cleaned up by a pair of guys that have been slightly missing in action as of late, as Remi Ayodele and Brian Robison combined to bring Stafford down for a 3-yard loss. The Lions failed to convert the ensuing 3rd-and-10, and punted the ball to the Vikings. Then, Joe Webb happened, and we had ourselves a ball game again at 31-21.
So, those were the five biggest defensive plays of Week 14 for the Vikings, folks. Which one do you think was the biggest?