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Action Reaction: Vikings, Lions Have Different Results without Key WRs

MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings defeated the Lions 24-9 on Sunday by taking an early lead, playing tight defense in the red zone, racking up a team-record 10 sacks and playing well on special teams.

Both teams were without one of their top receivers heading into the NFC North matchup.

The Vikings were without Stefon Diggs because of an injury to his ribs; the Lions were playing their first game since trading Golden Tate to the Eagles.

Pregame question: How would each quarterback fare without a top receiving target?

Entering Week 9, Diggs had 58 receptions for 587 yards and four scores, which were second on the team behind Adam Thielen (74 catches, 925 yards and six scores entering Week 9).

Tate had 44 catches for 517 yards and three scores through Detroit's first seven games. He was tied for sixth in the NFL with 15 receptions on third downs, accounting for 41.7 percent of Matthew Stafford's 36 completions and 25 percent of 60 passing targets through seven games in 2018.

View game action images as the Vikings take on the Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.

In-game action:

The Vikings expected the Lions to pay close attention to Thielen, who entered the game atop the NFL in receptions and yards.

Thielen also had tied former Lions WR Calvin Johnson's NFL record of eight consecutive games with 100 or more receiving yards.

Although Thielen was targeted a team-high seven times, he finished with four receptions for 22 yards and Minnesota's second touchdown of the game.

Kirk Cousins tried to hit Thielen down the sideline and was intercepted in the second quarter. The quarterback thought that cornerback Darius Slay would have to follow Laquon Treadwell because of a coverage principle, but Slay bucked it and was rewarded (more on this and how it wasn't a forced throw below).

Cousins, however, was able to spread the ball around to other players and benefit from a strong running game. He finished 18-of-22 passing for 164 yards and a rating of 93.9. Cousins was sacked just once.

Dalvin Cook caught four passes for 20 yards, rookie Chad Beebe added three receptions for 21 yards, including a 13-yard gain on a fourth-and-2 on Minnesota's opening possession, in his NFL debut.

Laquon Treadwell (37 yards), Kyle Rudolph (28 yards) and Aldrick Robinson (20 yards) each had two receptions. Latavius Murray added a 16-yard reception.

Cook rushed 10 times for 89 yards, doing the brunt of his damage on a career-long, 70-yard scamper, and Murray added 31 yards and a touchdown on 10 attempts.

Stafford finished 25-of-36 passing for 199 yards with a pair of 18-yard completions. He was sacked 10 times (a record high by the Vikings in a game), which resulted in a combined loss of 56 yards.

With seven minutes left in the game, Stafford was 14-of-22 for 116 yards. Once the Vikings started milking the clock midway through the fourth quarter, he completed 11 of 14 passes for 83 yards on a drive that ended with Detroit's third field goal of the game.

Marvin Jones, Jr., had 66 yards on six catches, and Kenny Golladay added 46 yards on three catches.

Detroit finished with 66 rushing yards on 24 carries (2.8 yards per attempt), although five attempts were runs by Stafford.

Danielle Hunter sacked Stafford 3.5 times and returned a fumble 32 yards for a touchdown.

Postgame reaction:

Stafford on not having Tate:

"He was a good football player, but he is not our team, so it doesn't matter," Stafford said. "I need to play better, find the players who are getting open and go from there."

Cousins on the amount of double-teaming of Thielen by the Lions:

"We felt that would be the plan. That would make sense to us, and they did that," Cousins said. "That's where, again, you love having players and athletes because at some point you can't double everyone and you've got to go where they haven't doubled. That was Kyle Rudolph on the third-down conversion that he had. That was a big one for us to get us close to mid-field when we were a little bit backed up.

"He was single covered, and the safety was cheating on top of Adam, and that gave us an opportunity to work Kyle," Cousins continued. "We've got to continue to find who is not doubled and get them the football."

Thielen on attention from Detroit defenders:

"Every game is different, every situation is different. Obviously, they had a lot of eyes on me and things like that," Thielen said. "They did a great job. That defensive coordinator [Paul Pasqualoni] is really good. He's been doing it a long time and knows how to prevent guys from making plays, but when you have guys on the other side that are making plays in big situations against 1-on-1 coverage, that's what you want. In a way, you're still trying to help."

Murray on other players helping the offense:

"I think that's what it's all about. Obviously, [Stefon] Diggs is a big-time player, Adam [Thielen] is a big-time player. When you have guys that get opportunities like [Chad] Beebe, you have to be super happy for them. You have to be excited for them to step up in this moment, when the team needed him, and he was ready and prepared.

"All around this league, guys get this kind of an opportunity and make the most of it," Murray continued. "It's a special moment for them. Hopefully, that gives them a lot of confidence going forward."

Cousins on the interception:

"Well what happened, it was a roll-out, and the defensive end or the stand-up outside linebacker (Devon Kennard) was free, he was unblocked," Cousins explained. "I either have to negotiate him or get the ball out of my hand before he can get to me. It was single-high coverage, so I felt that outside Tready

(Laquon Treadwell) would be able to clear out that third corner. … That was the goal, for Tready to clear him out, but [Slay] played with vision and just felt that Tread wasn't the throw and felt that Adam [Thielen] was. [Slay] played with good vision and fell off the route that I thought he was clearing with.

"If the corner is going to play deep as I expected, then the throw is to Adam, where I wanted to throw it," Cousins added. "But if the corner is going to be a little nosy and try to poach an out-breaking route, then you have a touchdown to Treadwell. You'll see, I think, that if the corner squats like that, there's nobody covering Tready deep.

"I'm playing fast, I'm seeing coverage and thinking it's three-deep and that he's got to honor the go ball. Good, smart veteran corners are going to take gambles at times, and he gambled. … If I could pump and then go deep, we'd probably have a touchdown. But again, with [Kennard] in my face, I don't have time to pump and reset. That's the challenge, the player in my face affects everything as well. In hindsight, I would have just darted it to Aldrick [Robinson] or pumped, try to get the guy in the air and get around him."

Prospectus

The Vikings improved to 5-3-1 overall and 1-0-1 heading into their bye.

Minnesota returns to action on Nov. 18 at division-leading Chicago (5-3). The Bears defeated the Bills 41-9 on Sunday and will visit the Jets next week.

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