EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Matt Asiata caught a screen pass from Teddy Bridgewater near the line of scrimmage and picked up steam.
The running back initiated the contact with Detroit's Darius Slay and drove the cornerback 5 yards backward before defensive reinforcements (safety James Ihedigbo and DeAndre Levy) arrived to help usher Asiata out of bounds. Slay and Ihedigbo landed on the turf, while Asiata remained upright.
It was just the second offensive play of the game, but an indicator that the Vikings plan to play "their rear ends off," to borrow from Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, as opposed to allowing their play to tail off as the season draws to a close.
View images from the week 15 matchup at Ford Field between the Vikings and Lions.
"I thought Matt ran well," Zimmer said. "Even a couple of times when Teddy dumped the ball off to him he went after the defensive backs and tried to pound them. When I talk about the mentality that I want to have as a football team, that's kind of part of it too – when we get a chance to hit somebody, we want to hit them. I thought that he displayed a lot of that."
Minnesota outplayed Detroit for a considerable part of the game, but fell 16-14 to the NFC North-leading Lions (10-4) at Ford Field.
The Vikings (6-8) were eliminated from playoff contention last week when the Cardinals beat the Rams on Thursday Night Football, but Minnesota vowed to fight to the finish and for their future.
A film review showed that Vikings running backs and receivers gained 103 yards after contact and had multiple gains after collisions on both touchdown drives. Charles Johnson broke a tackle and gained 16 of 20 yards on a screen play in the first quarter, and Kyle Rudolph saved a negative play by breaking a tackle behind the line of scrimmage and running 9 yards (the play netted 7) in the second quarter.
Tight end Rhett Ellison broke three tackles for a 10-yard gain (all of which came after the first hit) early in the fourth quarter to convert third-and-3.
"Just great plays, just guys getting out there and wanting to win and putting in the extra effort," tackle Matt Kalil said. "That run by Rhett to get that first down in a crucial situation to keep the drive alive, and Asiata, obviously, is always making yards after tackle attempts, so it was us out there fighting. It's still a rivalry game, and we take that game seriously. It's the number one defense, so anytime you go in there and play physical against those guys and play well against them, it's a good feeling even though we lost."
Minnesota will visit Miami (7-7) at noon (CT) Sunday before hosting Chicago (5-8) in the regular season finale on Dec. 28.
"We've got two games left and anytime you're out there playing, you're on tape and people are watching, I don't see any shadow of a doubt in this locker room," Rudolph said. "Guys are going to go out the last two weeks no matter what the situation is. Whether we're eliminated from the playoffs or not, they're going to fight and go try to win two ball games."