The Vikings took part in a great NFL tradition – football games on Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, it is the Lions who left Ford Field most thankful on Thursday, following a dramatic 16-13 win over the Vikings. Here are five takeaways from the Vikings loss to Detroit.
1. Detroit played better situational football than the Vikings
The Vikings and Lions appear to be about as even a match as you can find. Their first contest went into overtime and Thursday's came down to a Lions game-winning field goal as time expired. The difference between the two teams, as head coach Mike Zimmer said during his post-game press conference, has been execution in crucial situations, where Detroit has been better than the Vikings. The most glaring examples are 3rd downs and late-game situations. The Lions offense converted 43% of their 3rd downs (six of 14), while the Vikings offense was two of 10 (20%). In crunch time, Detroit did just enough to get the job done. Early in the 4th quarter, the Vikings had it 1st and goal at the Detroit 10, but a chop blocking call backed them up to the Detroit 25 and they had to settle for a field goal. Later in the 4th quarter, Detroit was backed up on its own 1, but managed to dig out of that hole and get into position for a game-tying field goal. Moments later, it was Detroit's defense that made the difference when CB Darius Slay intercepted a Sam Bradford pass to set up the game-winning field goal.
2. Vikings needed more explosiveness on offense
There were positive developments for the Vikings offense on Thursday, including a 12-play, 75-yard drive on the first series to matchup an early Lions score. The Vikings also averaged 5.1 yards per carry and scored their first touchdown in a short-yardage situation with a five-yard Matt Asiata plunge. Overall, though, it was a lack of explosiveness that proved costly when the Vikings needed to move the ball and put up points. The absence of leading receiver Stefon Diggs certainly didn't help matters, nor did the fact that C Joe Berger left the game before halftime to be evaluated for a concussion and did not return. Bradford did a good job of finding Jerick McKinnon for a 41-yard catch-and-run and Rhett Ellison for a 21-yard strike, plus Cordarrelle Patterson shook loose for a 22-yard run. Aside from that, the Vikings did not move the ball in chunks. After seven first downs on the opening drive, the Vikings picked up four total in the next five drives.
3. Jeff Locke had another good game
P Jeff Locke's career season continued on Thursday. He dropped three of his four punts inside the 20 and teamed up with the coverage unit to permit only three punt return yards and force two fair catches. Locke's net average for the day was 48.0, a figure that included a 57-yard punt that went out of bounds on the Lions 3. Locke and the punt team's ability to flip the field position is an excellent complement to the Vikings defense.
4. Injuries keep mounting
The injury issues continued for the Vikings on Thursday, particularly along the offensive line. Berger left to be evaluated for a concussion and RT Jeremiah Sirles was forced from the game in the second half, which thrust fourth-round rookie Willie Beavers into action. Those injuries are on top of what's already happened to the offensive line, with LT Matt Kalil and RT Andre Smith on the Reserve/Injured list. The status of both Berger and Sirles will bear monitoring over the weekend and early next week as the Vikings prepare to face the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night.
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Thanksgiving Day.
5. Vikings must finish strong with five games to go
Five games into the regular season, the Vikings were considered among the NFC's best. With five games to go, the Vikings sit at 6-5 and will play the NFC's best team (Dallas) in a week before closing with contests against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. It will take a serious late-season surge for the Vikings to catch the Lions, who are now a game up in the standings and own the head-to-head tie breaker. The team is capable of going on a run – they did so last year to win the NFC North and they were impressive while winning five straight to open the season.