Why We Won: 5 Takeaways From The Lions Win

Posted Dec 29, 2013

On a historic day and in the final game at Mall of America Field, the Vikings started fast and finished strong to close their stadium with a thrilling 14-13 victory over the Detroit Lions. After opening up a 7-0 lead in the 1st quarter, the Vikings found themselves trailing 13-7 early in the 4th quarter. But the second touchdown of Cordarrelle Patterson’s day, a strong defensive effort and near flawless special teams play once again allowed the Vikings to stay in the game and pull out a dramatic victory.

So what went right for the Vikings in the win? Here are a few ideas…

1. Cordarrelle Patterson is really good, and should win rookie of the year honors
The first statement is true, and the second is more of an editorial remark. But the point is Cordarrelle Patterson continued to dominate multiple phases of the game on Sunday. He scored two more times against the Lions – one was a 50-yard run and the other an eight-yard receptions – and increased his season total to nine touchdowns (four receiving,  three rushing, two returning).

Patterson has been the NFL’s top kick returner all season and is a legitimate Pro Bowl snub. But his impact on offense has come more in the second half of the season, which is why he’s not the leading candidate for rookie of the year honors. Was his late-season surge on offense (at least one offensive touchdown each week and six total touchdowns over the final five games) enough to take home the prize? Seems like he’ll get beat at the wire, but he’d get my vote.

2. Sherels finishes his best season on a high note
What a blast it’s been to watch Marcus Sherels’ career with the Vikings progress. He came to the club as an undrafted tryout in 2010, was eventually placed on the practice squad that September, and the next January was signed to the active roster. Since then, he’s continued a steady climb and is now one of the best punt returners in the NFL. He logged three returns on Sunday for a total of 77 yards, including a 50-yarder that setup Patterson’s second touchdown of the game – the game-winning score. Sherels came into Week 17 as the NFL’s third-leading punt returner by average, and his average of 25.7 yards could vault him up the rankings depending on what happens in other games.

3. The defensive effort was solid
Much-maligned for much of the season, the banged up and battered Vikings defense was game on Sunday. They held the Lions to 56 yards and three 1st downs in the first half, and finished the game having held Detroit to 63 yards rushing, five of 15 (33%) on 3rd downs and only 4.1 yards per offensive snap. Most importantly, the Lions scored just 13 points. Granted, the Lions were without several of their key players on offense, Calvin Johnson the most notable, but the point remains that a Vikings defense that’s had its fair share of trouble in 2013 closed the year on a strong note.

4. This team never quit
The team can be criticized for its record, having finished 5-10-1 and out of the playoffs, but it cannot be criticized for quitting. There are several examples over the course of the season and even during the season finale of times the team could’ve packed it up and just gone away. But they never did. Credit goes to the Vikings leadership structure – both in the locker room and in the front office – for the “never quit” attitude, which ultimately gave Vikings fans one final win in the final game at Mall of America Field.

5. A fun way to close Mall of America Field
The season fell short of expectations for the Vikings, but Sunday’s exciting win over the Lions was a fitting way to close 32 great seasons at Mall of America Field/the Metrodome. The Vikings logged their 24th victory over the Lions in the building and they close their tenure there with a 168-92 record in regular season and postseason play. Mall of America Field, always known for its noise, was rocking once again as the Vikings started quickly with a 7-0 lead to amp up the crowd and closed well with a come-from-behind victory in the final moments.