The Vikings were able to secure a 42-30 win over the Lions on Sunday behind a prolific passing performance by Kirk Cousins, another highlight-filled day by Dalvin Cook and teammates taking an oar after Adam Thielen left the game in the first quarter with a hamstring injury.
Minnesota (5-2) expected Detroit (2-3-1) to be plenty salty after the Lions loss on Monday night at Lambeau Field and believes the squad is much better than its record.
The Vikings also knew how well Matthew Stafford has been playing this season.
Pre-game question: Could the Vikings capitalize in their last NFC North game on the road after going 0-2 in September?
The game was, in fact, chippy at times and a "grinder" for most of the day. Stafford passed for 364 yards and four touchdowns to Marvin Jones, Jr, but the Vikings defense was able to make a couple of key stops on a day when Minnesota's offense was in rhythm.
Detroit built leads of 7-0 and 14-7.
Minnesota rallied with the next 14 points, including a 97-yard touchdown drive, but merely had a 21-all tie to show for it at halftime because Jones' third touchdown occurred with 0:02 left on the clock after multiple penalties on the Vikings defense.
The offense received the opening kickoff of the second half and marched 75 yards in 12 plays, capping the possession with a 5-yard pass to C.J. Ham, the first receiving score of the fullback's career.
The Lions tried to keep pace and were well on their way later in the period after a 47-yard pass, but Danielle Hunter sacked Stafford on the following play to halt momentum. Detroit settled for a 46-yard field goal by Matt Prater.
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Sunday.
Midway through the fourth quarter, with Minnesota still clinging to a four-point lead, Eric Kendricks broke up a pass on a fourth-and-2 to give the Vikings the ball at their own 41. Kendricks' play occurred three plays after a sack by Everson Griffen.
The offense quickly padded the lead with a six-play drive that ended with a 15-yard touchdown reception by Kyle Rudolph.
The Lions rallied with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive of their own in just 2:35, but Mike Hughes broke up a 2-point conversion pass to protect a 35-30 lead with 3:05 remaining.
With Detroit selling out to stop the run and save time, the Vikings got aggressive, using a play-action fake handoff to Cook before Kirk Cousins lofted a pass to Stefon Diggs, who beat 1-on-1 coverage.
Diggs' 66-yard reception was the Vikings longest pass of the season and set up the second of Cook's rushing scores.
"At halftime, I was saying, 'We have to score on this first possession of the second half. We can't give them life.' As we're walking from the locker room to the field, Pat [Elflein] said, 'I love the grind,' and I said, 'If you're made of the right stuff, you love that.' You enjoy that fact that it's an absolute grind to go on the road and win. I said, 'You're going to enjoy the next 30 minutes, because it's going to be a grind in the second half.' I think what they were alluding to is it's fun to just grind and work hard together and battle and know that it wasn't going to be perfect, but we came out on top."
— Kirk Cousins
"Well, we wanted to stay aggressive. We were moving the ball pretty well and felt like we had to. It was a play we had up after a play action and we had a chance for Diggs in space. There wasn't much conversation. We didn't come here to cower down … we came here to try and hit it."
— Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on the deep pass to Diggs
"I thought we handled the adversity of going on the road and all that comes with that and getting down early. I was proud of the character of our football team. I thought it was a great game. I expected it to be a tough one. I thought [Detroit] going into the game could have been undefeated, with the way they had lost [two previous games], so I have a lot of respect for them, and the way we were able to go on the road and get a win is a big deal."
"We had a 97-yard drive, and that took a toll on them. You saw guys laying down and banged up. If you can drive the field and move the ball, the defense will wear down, and the third and fourth quarter, you start to see it."
— Dalvin Cook
"It's a team sport, a team game. We knew what we were going into as far as it being a dogfight, and our defense played well in critical situations. As far as them doing their job, everybody's just working out there to get a 'W,' whatever way you can."
— Stefon Diggs
"It was a meat grinder of a game, for sure. It was down to the last [few] plays as you could see, it was aggressive, it was physical. It was all of the above. But we knew that going into it because of their track record and who they have on their roster and all of that. Knowing that, we knew what it was going to be going into it. We executed our game plan, and all 11 guys were doing their job."
— Pat Elflein
"It just gave me a glimpse to see every position, the way that they played the game, and we know a lot of times as a receiver, you don't see the offensive line until you go watch the tape. Today I was able to see those guys just hitting people in the mouth and going downhill and Dalvin breaking tackles. Those are things I don't see in a game when I'm playing. But when I'm on the sideline, I was able to see those guys just breaking tackles, carrying guys and getting five, six yards on every run. And then just some of the throws Kirk was able to make with pressure in his face, things like that that you don't normally see, but very impressive."
— Adam Thielen on watching the game from the sidelines
"I'm just so proud of this team, for our offense to come out here and battle for 60 minutes. Last night in our meeting, [Offensive Coordinator] Kevin [Stefanski] said, 'Whoever plays harder, longer, will win.' We knew that we were going to go against a physical, stout defense for 60 minutes. It took everybody. Adam goes down unfortunately early in the game. The tight ends were called upon today. Irv [Smith, Jr.] played well, so proud of him. [Tyler Conklin] came in and did a lot of heavy lifting in the run game, pass pro. It was an all-around team effort for us today."
— Kyle Rudolph
"We knew what kind of loss they were coming off of, and we knew they were going to be hungry. We know what kind of team they are … we saw it on film. They're pretty good on offense … I'm not going to lie … but we found a way. We got it done. It wasn't pretty but we found a way. Now I'm excited to play on Thursday."
— Eric Kendricks