For years, the Detroit Lions have made losing games they need to win a habit, especially in the month of December. Finally, they managed to flip the script and win a game they probably should have lost in their personal month of horror.
Sunday afternoon, Detroit was staring down the barrel of defeat for the better parts of four complete quarters, but fortunes reversed in a hurry thanks to a handful of plays. A pair of interceptions got the team back in the game before halftime against the Minnesota Vikings, a touchdown gave the offense hope, and a key fourth down stop and field goal block provided an opportunity. Then, a field goal make by Matt Prater helped ensure the success of the 10th hunt of the season.
When Blair Walsh’s 68 yard field goal fell woefully short, the Lions had escaped a game they seemed destined to lose 16-14. For a franchise that’s seen their share of fluky field goals split the uprights, witnessing the ball hit turf from midfield provided a moment of catharsis.
The Hunt Report takes a closer look inside win number ten.
Second Quarter Interceptions Changed The Tone. For two quarters, the Lions looked like a dead team walking. Nothing was happening on offense, and few good things were happening on defense, as well. Then, out of nowhere, the Lions were given life courtesy of Glover Quin’s savvy interception amid what looked like a sure Vikings’ touchdown march. A score quickly got Detroit on the board. On the very next series, Teddy Bridgewater was picked off again, setting up a field goal. Though the Lions went into half trailing 14-10, it was clear that sequence presented a big shift in momentum. “That’s definetly where it started,” Golden Tate said afterward, regarding the turnaround in the team’s mindset after the key takeaways. The interceptions, for lack of a better word, proved huge.
Jason Jones Was A Man. Not only did Jones collect a sack, he blocked a key field goal late in the game which helped the Lions win. It was a big day for the veteran, and leadership along the line meant the world to the team with Ndamukong Suh ailing from the flu and Ziggy Ansah not playing his most consistent game of the year. All season, the Lions have had someone step up, and Sunday it was Jones. Give the local man credit for making the biggest play of the season for the Lions thus far, and playing consistent football throughout.
Detroit Struggled On Third Down, But Got The Fourth Down Stop They Needed. All day, Detroit struggled with the Minnesota offense, giving a cushion to Bridgewater to complete quick passes and checkdowns. In the open field, the Lions didn’t tackle well in space, and allowed the Vikings the ability to move the ball down the field easily. Still, in the fourth quarter when they needed a major stop, the defensive line came up huge, getting in the face of Bridgewater and forcing him to throw the ball out of bounds and run for his life. The Lions bent but didn’t break on Sunday, helping set themselves up for the chance at a late victory. It’s nice to see a defense capable of stiffening in the bigger moments.
The Offense Was Miserable. Detroit certainly didn’t win the game because of the efforts of the offense. All-told, the team only put up 233 total yards, and scored only one touchdown despite having plenty of opportunities to apply more pressure to the Vikings. Matthew Stafford wasn’t great, the running game wasn’t great and outside a few plays by Golden Tate, Calvin Johnson and Eric Ebron, the receivers didn’t step up. Still, the Lions didn’t make a big mistake and came through when needed late. There’s something to be said for the slight regression, though. Minnesota plays solid defense, but the Lions should have scored at least two more touchdowns.
Lions? In addition to Jones, give the defensive backfield credit for picking off two important passes to help stem the tide. Offensively, Golden Tate was just about the best Lions’ player on the field. Matt Prater made all of his kicks including the clutch ones, helping bail the Detroit offense out of jams.
Lambs? Plenty didn’t go well for the Lions, but they managed to win a game that they needed to in December that looked lost. For this reason, hold off on singling out any lambs today.
What About The Key Matchup? Coming into this game, we said it would be important to be mindful of the impact Cordarrelle Patterson could make both offensively and on special teams. Late, Patterson proved the point well, scampering out close to midfield on a kickoff and hauling in a pass. Though he wasn’t an impact player on offense much of the day, he was a threat the Lions needed to be concerned about whenever he touched the ball on special teams, nearly making a key play late.
Number To Note: 4, the difference in Lions turnovers and takeaways the last two weeks. A critical problem for the team the last few seasons in December has been turning the ball over and not generating takeaways, which has led to losses in big games. This week and last, the team has cleaned this up, and it’s led to them pulling out a pair of wins they needed to have. Sunday, the Lions didn’t turn the ball over once. It’s safe to say if they had, it would have been a death blow for their chances of winning a significant game.
He Said It: “It had to be the loudest I’ve ever heard it, in 12 years of playing professional football.” —Rashean Mathis. The cornerback gave an assist to the fans for helping the team finish 7-1 at home on the season, their best mark since 1995. Late in the game when the team needed the fans to rise up, they did with deafening roars on every late Vikings’ drive. The noise may have helped rattle Bridgewater late, and also rattle the offensive line during the key field goal block. The den was certainly defended this year.