MINNEAPOLIS — "Don't Stop Belivin' " ever so briefly made its way over the U.S. Bank Stadium sound system with Minnesota still trailing Detroit Sunday in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings implemented that mindset throughout the game, eventually outlasting a gritty and good Lions team in a 28-24 grind that Minnesota only led for the final 45 seconds.
The furious comeback from 10-down in the fourth quarter resulted in a fiery locker room speech from first-year Head Coach Kevin O'Connell. The following is an excerpt from what he told the team:
"It's addicting to come in here with you guys and see these looks on your faces, knowing that you just earned that s* against a good football team we're going to have to play again," O'Connell said. "There are all kinds of things we could do better across the board, but what I love the most, as adversity hit, we could have checked out. We could have looked across and said, 'No, you know what? We're doing our thing today but they ain't doing their job.' Not one f** time!
"We just learned a learned a whole lot more about our team and our heart right there, so lock this away," O'Connell added. "We've got a helluva a week ahead of us. We're traveling to a different continent to take this swag, this belief, this understanding of who … we are as a football team and go on the road with this thing."
View postgame celebration photos from the Vikings 28-24 victory over the Lions on Sept. 25.
There was no quit down 14-0 in the second quarter for the second week in a row.
The Vikings answered the second touchdown by the Lions with an impressive 11-play drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Adam Thielen, the 50th receiving score of his career, which tied him with Sammy White for fourth in team history. White was in attendance Sunday as part of Vikings Legends Weekend.
Minnesota's resolve — between the lines, on the sidelines and in the stands — was tested again with the Vikings down 24-14, having just lost the ball via a fumble and injury to Dalvin Cook and Detroit taking over at its 42-yard line with 48 seconds left in the third quarter.
Two Lions possessions that ended with punts bookended a Vikings three-and-out.
The Vikings got the ball back with 10:39 remaining and moved the ball efficiently with passes of 11 and 10 yards to Johnny Mundt and Thielen, respectively. Cornerback Amani Oruwariye was flagged for defensive holding and illegal contact on consecutive plays.
Alexander Mattison, who relieved Cook, then rushed for 5 before Cousins again connected with Mundt for 12. A short completion to Justin Jefferson was followed by an impressive and determined 6-yard touchdown run by Mattison on which he powered his way into the end zone.
"As soon as we got that play call in and I kind of knew where the run was going to hit just by the way they were lined up," Mattison said. "Then, trusting in my offensive line to go out there and do what they did. They got those guys moved and we had a backside corner, and it was just me and him, and I think another safety that came down that a receiver was blocking."
Cousins said: "That's a man's run. Eventually there's an unblocked player, and he makes that guy miss, runs through an arm tackle. It's just a big-time run. It's so important there that you're on the 4- or 5-yard line. When you call that run, you're expecting to be third-and-goal from the 2. And just touchdown.
"I mean, that just takes so much pressure off our third-down offense, our red-zone offense, of off us. So big-time run by him," Cousins added. "And Dalvin just all game long, just extending plays, making plays, making people miss, running hard. It's great have to both of them because, when Dalvin goes down, to have a guy who can do what Alex does is just a huge benefit to our offense."
There also was no give while trailing 24-21 and the Lions going for a fourth-and-1 at the Minnesota 30-yard line with 3:35 remaining.
Danielle Hunter and Eric Kendricks were in a group of Vikings that stuffed Jamaal Williams for no gain.
"We've got a lot to work on, don't get it twisted," Kendricks said. "But that win, especially late in the game like that, against a really good team, showed a lot of good character on our team and showed what these guys in the locker room are made of. I'm happy, I'm proud of these guys. We're resilient."
The stop earned another opportunity to extend the game, but the Vikings offense stalled at midfield with 2:32 left on the clock.
An apparent incompletion on second-and-10 resulted in a fresh set of downs for Detroit with 2:24 after a defensive holding penalty against Camryn Bynum.
Jonathan Bullard tackled Williams for a loss of 4, before Harrison Phillips and Jordan Hicks stuffed the back for no gain.
Za'Darius Smith was shaken up on that play, which ran the clock to the 2-minute warning. Smith was checked on by trainers and stayed in the game.
"He knows those are his moments," O'Connell said. "When we get the lead, a chance to go finish it in that 2-minute, he's going to give it everything he's got. Luckily, he was down there for a play, able to come back in there and be a part of getting the rush on Jared (Goff) on that last play. We got tough guys. We got guys that love playing for one another, playing for each other.
"Days like this are where you can really feel the special part about what we're building," O'Connell added. "Then also understand that there's a lot we can do better to not make it so hard on ourselves sometimes. But once again, give credit to the Lions. That was a heck of a football game. Just glad we came out on top."
Williams found room for a gain of 10 on third-and-14, but Kendricks' tackle forced Detroit into a fourth-and-4.
Rather than going for another (the Lions had converted four of six fourth downs on the day), Detroit attempted a 54-yard field goal that landed wide right.
The Vikings got the ball back with 1:10 to go and no timeouts.
"We might not have any timeouts. We might have to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, but we've got just the guys to do it," O'Connell said. "And our quarterback did a great job taking us down the field."
The first pass was an incompletion to K.J. Osborn, but the second and third attempts landed in his hands for consecutive gains of 28 yards. The go-ahead touchdown was added to the scoreboard with 45 seconds remaining.
"I got the play call, and I saw where the nickel was and it looked like he was about to blitz," Osborn said. "I extended him and kept my leverage and then lost him, threw my hands out, and Kirk threw a great ball as always.
"Right, I mean it felt amazing, man. You know, I read a book and it's called, Chop Wood, Carry Water," Osborn added. "Each play, keep chopping, keep chopping, play by play, play the next play. You know, the ups and downs you have to keep fighting, and we came out on top and it feels good."
Cousins said it was great to see Osborn open and connect with the third-year receiver. It was also great, he said, to see the reactions of Minnesota's offensive linemen.
"It's fun to see the linemen, the way they're grinding, and to see them celebrate and know we got the job done there. It's just a joy," Cousins said.
Josh Metellus, who made his first career start in place of Harrison Smith, recorded his first career interception.
He secured the ball at the Minnesota 5-yard line with nine seconds remaining one play after getting his hands on another pass.
"After that first play where I dropped a pick, I knew that he knew I was going to keep pushing up over to the far side," Metellus said. "So, as soon as they sent [T.J.] Hockenson back, I knew they were going to try to send someone behind me, so I just ran back and low-and-behold, ball in the air and I had to make a play and did. So, I just thank God I got another opportunity … after that drop."
The Vikings, Packers and Bears all prevailed Sunday in games that weren't decided until the final minute to improve to 2-1 on the young season. Detroit fell to 1-2.
Minnesota will play New Orleans (1-2) in London at 8:30 a.m. (CT) Sunday.