A dominant defensive effort that included a team record 10 sacks and a touchdown paired with two offensive touchdowns yielded a 24-9 victory for the Vikings on Sunday, as they notched their first win over the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Here are five takeaways from the win over Detroit.
1. Good vibes going into the bye
A win going into the bye always feels good. But this one feels especially good considering the circumstances. The Vikings are now back on the winning track after dropping a home game to New Orleans last week and this win marks the Vikings fourth in five weeks as they improve to 5-3-1. Sunday's win is also a divisional win and keeps the Vikings undefeated in NFC North play. And finally, the win came despite the Vikings being shorthanded due to injury, with starters Anthony Barr, Tom Compton, Stefon Diggs and Andrew Sendejo all inactive. Now, the Vikings head into their bye with good vibes and an opportunity to rest and recuperate before the final six-game stretch, which includes games at Chicago and at home to Green Bay coming out of the bye.
2. Danielle Hunter is very good
Plain and simple – Danielle Hunter took over the game. The Vikings had valuable contributions from players on all three phases, but no contribution was as profound or dynamic as Hunter's. He finished with nine tackles, 3.5 sacks and a 32-yard return for touchdown on a fumble recovery. It's difficult to see anyone else challenging for this week's NFC Defensive Player of the Week award and it's a near certainty that Hunter will hold the NFL's lead in sacks with 11.5 heading into Week 10.
3. Sound run defense, tight coverage led to a Vikings sack attack
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was quick to point out that the Vikings pass coverage was on point against the Lions and that the coverage was a significant factor in the relentless pass rush that hampered quarterback Matthew Stafford. That pass rush generated 10 sacks, a Vikings single-game team record. Hunter led the way with 3.5, but also getting in on the sack party were: Tom Johnson (2.5), Everson Griffen (1.5), Stephen Weatherly (1.0) and Sheldon Richardson (.5). Another factor that led to the Vikings success in rushing the passer was the effort against the run, where Lions running backs were held to 52 yards on 18 carries.
4. Game-changing play: Dalvin Cook's 70-yard run
In last week's loss to the New Orleans Saints, it was a red zone fumble right before halftime that shifted the trajectory of the game. In this week's win over the Lions, it was the Vikings who made a play that altered the course of the game. The play was a 70-yard run by Dalvin Cook that put the Vikings on the Detroit 5. From there, the Vikings needed just two plays to get into the end zone (Adam Thielen two-yard reception) to take a 14-6 lead. An eight-point lead in the first half is no reason to go into cruise control, but with how the Vikings defense was playing, that eight-point lead was significant. Also, the Vikings offense had their previous two drives end in a punt and an interception with Detroit adding two field goals in that span to cut the lead from seven points to one. Before that long run, Detroit had taken momentum away from the Vikings. With that long run, the Vikings took it back and built a lead that would not be relinquished.
* 5. Vikings solid in situational football*
The Vikings were superior to the Lions in several of the game's most critical areas. The NFL's No. 1 3rd down defense was sharp, holding Detroit to four conversions in 15 tries (27%). The Vikings converted twice in three red zone possessions while the Lions were held to zero conversions in three red zone drives. The Vikings were two for two in goal-to-go situations and Detroit was zero for two. The Vikings were penalized less frequently, allowed fewer sacks and ran the ball better. While the Lions won the turnover battle and time of possession, those advantages weren't enough to overcome the Vikings sharp output in several other important statistical categories. It all added up to a big win for the Vikings.