There were 13 punts and only five scoring drives. The two teams combined for a paltry 4.06 yards per play. Walt Anderson’s notoriously flag-happy crew called twelve accepted penalties. The Lions didn’t even have their usual lead to blow! Sunday was the first game of the 2019 season where the 3-9-1 Lions didn’t have the lead at some point. The Vikings built a decent first half lead and then kept Detroit at arm’s length like an older sibling letting their little brother harmlessly flail away at them. David Blough looked every bit of the third-string quarterback that he is and the Lions never seriously threatened to make it a contest. The only intriguing facet of the final 30 minutes was whether Detroit was going to cover the spread. (Most books had the line at 13, which means that even the gambling was boring because it was a push.) A win is a win is a win, but Sunday’s win was a special kind of snooze fest.
Let’s be honest: that boring 20-7 victory over the hapless Lions on Sunday may have been just what this team needed to start the stretch run. The past four Vikings games were heart-pounding battles that game down to the final moments. Players and fans alike have had their nerves ground to a pulp since the calendar turned to November. With three crucial games remaining and realistic postseason scenarios that range from a first round bye to missing the playoffs altogether, a ho-hum win at home should be A-OK for the Vikings faithful.
Let’s be honest: it might be pretty difficult to cobble together five big plays from Sunday. But that’s what we do in this space the day after each game, so we’ll forge ahead and scrounge for significance.
Play 1: Vikings ball, 1st & goal at the Detroit 9. First quarter, 5:52 remaining. K.Cousins pass short right to O.Johnson for 9 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Each defense held firm through the first three drives of the game. The Minnesota defense got two much-needed three and outs to start the contest on either side of the stalled opening Vikings drive. The Vikings got the ball for the second time with less than five minutes gone and marched 82 yards for the game’s opening score.
Minnesota didn’t even face a third down on their 10-play drive that featured two penalties and two injuries for the Lions defense. Olabisi Johnson made a nice leaping grab on a Kirk Cousins pass to the end zone and the Vikings were in business.
The Lions finally started moving the ball and found their way to Minnesota territory for the first time on the next drive. But a defensive star made sure it didn’t end in points.
Play 2: Lions ball, 3rd & 8 at the Minnesota 40. First quarter, 2:33 remaining. (Shotgun) D.Blough sacked at DET 46 for -14 yards (D.Hunter).
Danielle Hunter had already tallied a sack on the third play of the game. He doubled his fun on this crucial third down late in the first quarter.
Hunter breezed past the chip block and Blough ran directly into his path for a 14-yard loss to force a punt in a one-possession game. The Lions’ backup certainly didn’t do himself any favors on some of Detroit’s negative plays, but it was nice to see the Minnesota defense step up after some rough recent performances.
The Vikings had the ball for most of the first ten minutes of the second quarter, running 19 plays to the Lions’ three after Hunter’s second sack. However, they were only able to muster three points out of the two drives. Minnesota punted from the Detroit 39 after a ten-play drive to start the second quarter. The Vikings had to settle for a Dan Bailey field goal after a false start penalty prevented them from going for it on 4th & 1 deep in Lions territory. The Lions had done next to nothing for most of the first half, yet they were trailing by only ten and driving late in the second quarter with a chance to make it a one-score game.
Play 3: Lions ball, 3rd & 2 at the Minnesota 15. Second quarter, 1:16 remaining. (Shotgun) D.Blough sacked at MIN 27 for -12 yards (D.Hunter).
Hunter the hat trick hero.
Blough didn’t find anything right away on the third down pass—Eric Kendricks read his eyes and stepped in front of Kenny Golladay in the middle—so he scrambled out to buy some time with Hunter in pursuit. The rookie quarterback had time to throw the ball away as Hunter and Linval Joseph were in pursuit, but instead took the sack for a loss of twelve yards. A 33-yard chip shot attempt became a more difficult 45-yard attempt due to the sack.
Matt Prater is usually automatic indoors, but he pushed the attempt wide right.
Instead of possibly going into halftime at 10-3, the Vikings had just over a minute and two timeouts to try and get points of their own before the break.
And that’s just what they did.
Play 4: Vikings ball, 1st & 10 at the Detroit 47. Second quarter, 0:37 remaining. (Shotgun) K.Cousins pass deep right to S.Diggs pushed ob at DET 3 for 44 yards (D.Slay).
The Vikings called their second timeout with 37 seconds remaining after Stefon Diggs got them just across midfield with a third down grab. The next play was a textbook Diggs deep catch.
Cousins delivered a perfect pass down the right sideline, and Diggs showed why he’s such a dangerous deep threat. With Darius Slay in close coverage, Diggs left some space along the sideline and stepped out laterally right before the ball arrived to create separation. It’s one of the many subtle things that puts Diggs among the very best route runners in the NFL.
Slay later argued that Diggs pushed off right before the ball arrived, but no offensive pass interference was called. Two plays later, Dalvin Cook waltzed in for a touchdown and the Vikings had a commanding 17-0 lead at the half.
The first two quarters weren’t exactly thrilling, but they were an adrenaline rush compared to the third. The second half started with five straight punts before the Vikings came up with the first takeaway of the day.
Play 5: Lions ball, 1st & 10 at the Detroit 43. Third quarter, 4:33 remaining. D.Blough pass deep middle intended for K.Golladay INTERCEPTED by H.Smith [E.Griffen] at MIN 36. H.Smith to MIN 36 for no gain (K.Golladay). MIN-X.Rhodes was injured during the play.
Number 22 now has 22 career interceptions.
Harrison Smith leaped up to snag Blough’s errant pass intended for Golladay. Xavier Rhodes was collateral damage and didn’t return to the game after colliding with Smith on the play. Rhodes and Mike Hughes played only 29 snaps each, which allowed Holton Hill to get a season-high 27 snaps. Before Sunday, Hill had played only 15 defensive snaps since returning from his eight-game suspension.
The Vikings took the remainder of the third quarter with their ensuing drive, resulting on a 50-yard Bailey field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Lions finally got on the board with a Golladay touchdown just before the two-minute warning, but most of the final quarter was simply playing out the stretch. Again, this one won’t wind up on any “game of the year” lists, but the Vikings accomplished the task at hand and head to Los Angeles with a 9-4 record.
As always, we welcome you to vote in the poll to tell us which play you thought was the biggest and encourage you to suggest any we may have missed in the comments.
What was the most important play from the Vikings’ win over the Lions?
This poll is closed
Hunter’s second sack that led to a punt
Hunter’s third sack that led to a missed FG
Diggs’ 44-yard catch before half
Other (comment below)