Heartbreaking losses have become way too familiar for the Minnesota Vikings this year. But none has been more devastating than the one on Sunday to the previously winless Detroit Lions. It was the fourth time Minnesota has lost on the final play of the game this season.
Here are five numbers that tell the story of the Vikings’ loss to the Lions.
In the last three games combined, the Lions had four passes completed for 20 or more yards. But Goff completed five such passes against the Vikings on Sunday.
Everything in recent weeks had been dink-and-dunk or short of the sticks, but that wasn’t the case against Minnesota. Goff put together one of his most efficient outings of the season, and Campbell kept his foot on the gas with the play calling from start to finish.
As a result, the Lions gashed the Vikings’ defense at times. Giving up five 20-plus-yard passing plays to the Detroit offense will haunt Mike Zimmer and his defense far beyond this week.
The Lions were tasked with scoring from 11 yards out on the final play of the game. Goff fired a dart to Amon-Ra St. Brown to clinch the victory on a bizarre sequence.
Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler was about three yards deep into the end zone, allowing for what turned out to be a pretty simple pitch and catch from Goff to St. Brown as time expired. Instead of pressing up right near the goal line, Dantzler was hanging out in the end zone and watched as St. Brown hauled in the game-winning touchdown as the clock expired. It left onlookers baffled.
7 for 66
Penalties played a huge role in this game, especially on one of Minnesota’s final drives. They finished with seven penalties for 66 yards compared to the Lions, who had only three for 11 yards.
Detroit was coming off one of the ugliest performances of the year against the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving. In that game, they were flagged ten times for 67 yards, and often the penalties came in massive spots. The script was flipped on Sunday.
After Dantzler intercepted Goff in the fourth quarter with the Vikings down two, Minnesota went four plays for only 13 yards before punting the ball away. After a holding call, followed by a false start penalty, the Vikings were set up with a 3rd and 22. Kirk Cousins opted for a check down, and Minnesota sent out the punt team. While they would get the lead later on in the quarter, that penalty-laden drive gummed up any momentum gained by the Dantzler interception.
Detroit’s offense came to life at the most inopportune time for the Vikings. The Lions eclipsed 20 points for just the second time this season when they put up 29 on Minnesota. The number is mind-boggling in today’s NFL. To see a team score 20 or more in only two of 12 games is stunning — and of course, one of those two instances had to come against the Vikings.
A tip of the cap to Campbell for loosening things up, but it wouldn’t have mattered if the Vikings could lock things up defensively. They couldn’t, and the Lions had 20 points entering halftime. While it got a little better in the second half, and the Vikings forced two turnovers, it wasn’t enough.
Detroit scored 24 total points in their last two games combined leading up to their tilt with the Vikings. They put up an abysmal six points against the Philadelphia Eagles two weeks before that. Everything was clicking on Sunday, which was shocking given that they didn’t even have their best playmaker on offense in D’Andre Swift.
The 29 points ceded to the Lions was dumbfounding considering what Detroit had manufactured throughout the season, but it wasn’t surprising given what Minnesota has looked like on defense lately.
Counting Sunday’s loss, Zimmer’s defense has now yielded 94 points in the last three weeks. They currently rank 25th in the NFL in points allowed per game at 25.4.
Detroit was supposed to be a get-right spot for this defense. Instead, they laid an egg in an embarrassing outing.
On the one hand, it may be a good thing that they’ll be on a short week with the Pittsburgh Steelers coming to town on Thursday night. They won’t have much time to sulk after their performance on Sunday. On the other hand, the short week could prove to be a disaster for a defense that needs time to figure things out.