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Explosive Plays by Vikings Offense Outweighed by 4 Turnovers

MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota's offense had some good, some bad and some ugly.

The Vikings executed impressive plays Sunday afternoon but also committed four turnovers that led to a 30-24 loss to Detroit.

Minnesota never gave up hope, mounting an end-of-game comeback attempt that looked promising for a moment. But a first-and-10 throw from the Detroit 30-yard line by Nick Mullens to Justin Jefferson was intercepted, sealing the Vikings fate.

"It's a tough play call," Jefferson said. "It's a great scheme, great route. I'm not sure exactly what happened with the ball, but I felt like it was a great play call. I felt like we had the time and had the good routes that we ran to score on that last drive. But it just so happened that a bad little spin on the ball, and it was a little behind."

Mullens told media members he could have put the ball farther out ahead of Jefferson or "right on him" and opted for the latter.

"The ball didn't come out exactly how I wanted it to," Mullens said.

The Vikings have said it all year: The team that wins the turnover battle likely will win the game.

That's exactly what happened against Detroit, when Mullens was picked off four times.

Asked about the nature of the interceptions, he said the issues lied "a lot [in] ball placement."

"I did make a lot of good throws today, but those – the pylon to the left, got to drive it more and bring it over to the left," he said. "And the diagonal to Jordan Addison, if he beats him across and you put it on him, if he gets undercut then you loft it over the top, and there was space out there. There was space.

"I didn't make an accurate enough throw," Mullens added. "So, decisions, accuracy. You have to be elite at all times. I've done a good job making plays and moving the offense. We've worked really hard collectively to move the offense, [but] you have to avoid those mistakes."

There certainly were positives offensively, including 10 pass completions of 22-plus yards.

"There was space in the zones, and with some the concepts we had, just finding zones and placing the balls and trusting receivers will get to that spot," Mullens said. "And then when we got man coverage, we have really good skill guys that can separate and win. Whether it was man or zone, we had really good concepts to put our receivers in the situations to make the plays."

Jefferson and K.J. Osborn particularly shined. The latter hauled in two flashy catches that helped the Vikings "double dip" and take the lead on opening drive of the second half.

On second-and-7 from the Vikings 47, Mullens let loose a deep pass to Osborn, who made the grab to gain 47 yards. Mullens went right back to No. 17 on the following play, and Osborn scored 6-yard touchdown.

Sunday's matchup marked Osborn's fourth straight game against Detroit with a touchdown.

"It was a little play that we had off of a blocking play, so we did a good job faking," said Osborn, a Michigan native. "Everybody in the line really got that sell, and I was able to slip by them and Mullens put it up for me."

Osborn was asked to move around Sunday when the Vikings lost T.J. Hockenson (knee) and Jordan Addison (ankle) to injuries. It's really nothing new for the receiver, though, who's played multiple spots all season.

"Earlier in the season I was at Z, then Justin went down, and I was at X, and now I'm back to my normal position at F," Osborn explained. "So when Jordan goes down, I'm back to Z. I try to pride myself at knowing all the positions."

Osborn's score sparked momentum for the Vikings, and a leaping catch by Jefferson later enabled the comeback attempt.

The Vikings faced third-and-27, and Jefferson got them 28.

"There was space, so I just drive it, tried to give him a chance, and he made a great play," Mullens said. "It was a great catch, and it gave the 2-minute drive life."

The catch prompted an electric reaction from the U.S. Bank Stadium crowd that was in "Winter Whiteout" clothing for the second consecutive year.

"I'm just trying to make a play for my team. Before that play, I told Nick, 'It don't matter what it is; just throw it up,' " Jefferson said. "I just have that same attitude on every single ball that's in the air. I just want to make a play for my team, [continue the drive]. I know that I'm a momentum shifter on this team with the big plays that I make and the crazy catches that I make. It all brings energy toward the offense."

Jefferson doesn't take for granted the opportunity to "be back in the mix" and play in front a Vikings home crowd.

O'Connell said he was impressed – but not surprised – by the effort Jefferson gave all day after missing so much football this season.

"He battled. We were doing some unique things with motions, different tempo motions and different things to stress their coverages, knowing there was a huge plan for him," O'Connell said. "Where he's at, missing as much time as he — this guy is going to leave it all out on the field. That's what I love about him. He is so tremendously talented, such a competitor, and we're going to continue to try it feature our best player, regardless of what the defense tries to take away."

Jefferson led the team with six catches for 141 yards, averaging an incredible 23.5 yards per reception. Osborn followed with five catches for 95 yards (19.0 avg.). Hockenson had four catches for 58 yards before he suffered the knee injury, and Brandon Powell added 53 yards on three receptions.

Mullens finished his first start at U.S. Bank Stadium 22-of-36 passing for 411 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. His passer rating was 79.5.

"He battled, but he will be the first one to tell you some of those turnovers are huge momentum swings and [places] a lot of stress on your defense, especially when you're explosive as we were today on offense," O'Connell said. "When we moved it, we moved it pretty quickly via some explosive passes, and then when we didn't, we left our defense on the field far too much with some of those turnovers and asking them to overcome a lot there against a really good offense."

View game action photos from the Vikings vs. Lions Week 16 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

All season, the Vikings have suffered self-inflicted wounds.

"Countless times that we turn the ball over in tough situations, and we weren't able to hold onto the ball tonight, and it hurts," Jefferson said. "Losing the turnover battle, you're most likely going to lose every time. So we've gotta do better holding the ball, being better as a whole team and come back next week with another divisional game. We've gotta come prepared."

Minnesota fell to 7-8 after Sunday's loss.

Division title is off the table, having gone to the Lions with their win, but the Vikings haven't been eliminated from postseason contention. They will host Green Bay next weekend for Sunday Night Football and then travel to Detroit for a rematch.

"I'm happy to be making plays for my team and giving our team momentum and that fight to keep going on that last drive," Jefferson said. "It's sad we didn't get that last play, but it is what it is. We have to move on and look toward next week."

Added Osborn: "[I'm] frustrated," Osborn said. "But as [Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell] says, we'll lick our wounds and strap it back up. The season's not over. We've got the Packers, and then we'll go play Detroit again. So we have to win these last two. That's all we can do."