DETROIT – Harrison Smith combed his fingers through his hair, then rested his hands on his hips.
The Vikings safety stood in the visitors' locker room at Ford Field, a temporary nameplate marking the nondescript locker as his.
Smears of eye black still mixed with sweat on Smith's face, which told the story: a fourth straight loss to end Minnesota's 2023 campaign.
After the Lions 30-20 defeat of the Vikings Sunday afternoon, Smith graciously answered the simple but straightforward questions: What happened?
"We didn't win enough," he said, matter-of-factly. "Definitely a group that fights, but at the end of the day, that's not enough. We didn't get enough done."
A sigh and then, "That's pretty much it."
The Vikings defense played admirably against the Lions run, allowing just 70 combined rushing yards by David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs after letting Detroit rack up 143 just two weeks ago.
But Jared Goff and the Lions found success through the air, with Amon-Ra St. Brown nabbing seven catches for 144 yards and a touchdown. Josh Reynolds had five catches for 44 yards, and Kalif Raymond totaled 50 yards on just two receptions. Rookie tight end Sam LaPorta recorded five catches for 29 yards and a touchdown before exiting the game in the second quarter with a knee injury.
Goff finished his day 23-of-32 for 320 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions with a passer rating of 124.5.
The Vikings fell behind 13-0 by the end of the first quarter but showed fight all afternoon, cutting the deficit to seven points in the third and fourth quarters.
But as Smith emphasized, guts and gumption don't win games.
"Being scrappy is great, and you need that. It's a great way to build a culture," Smith said. "It's a very good thing. But it is not enough."
Smith totaled three tackles and a pass defensed. Linebacker Jordan Hicks and safety Camryn Bynum led the team with seven tackles apiece. Outside linebacker Danielle Hunter recorded Minnesota's lone sack of Goff.
Hunter's takedown brought his season total to a career-best 16.5 sacks, the fifth-most by a Viking in any season in team history. His sack was one of just three hits on Goff for the day. Hunter recorded two tackles for loss, setting a new single-season career high of 23, the most by a Viking since 1999 when the stat was first tracked.
Hicks summed up the Vikings 7-10 season that fell short of the postseason:
"A lot of highs, a lot of lows. A lot of adversity," he said. "A lot of overcoming. A lot of shortcomings, as well. But that's NFL football. That's life. A lot of the things this group went through is a direct application to things all of us go through in life, and that's overcoming obstacles. And that's, no matter what the situation is, having to push through and having to persevere.
"I'm proud of this locker room. I'm proud of these guys," Hicks added.
As Hicks looked around the small, barren locker room, he acknowledged there hasn't been much time for reflection – but he knows he is grateful.
"Just appreciation for the opportunity to stand next to a Harrison Smith. A Danielle Hunter. Anthony Barr in those moments. Guys who have meant so much to this team, this organization, this city, for so many years," Hicks said. "You know, you don't take those moments for granted. To step on the field with them one last time for this year was special, because you don't know what's coming in the future."
There are, of course, questions about the future.
Smith has now wrapped up his 12th NFL season. Are there more ahead?
"I don't have a plan," he said, stopping for a moment to think. "I'll build one someday. … Take some time."
Smith noted that he and his wife Madison welcomed a second child Dec. 23 – a baby boy to join big sister Eleanor.
"I'm going to hang out with them for a little bit," he said. "I'll figure it out when I need to."
One thing he doesn't have to figure out, though, is that falling short never comes easier.
Smith was asked if the sting of losing, of missing the postseason, lessens 12 seasons in.
Never one to hide his emotions, he took a deep breath and then paused for 32 seconds of heavy silence. Even when he continued, his voice threatened to break.
"If you ever get used to losing … you're a loser," said Smith, also never one to sugarcoat a sentiment. "It stinks."
His passion is undeniable. For this game, the fans, the organization, his teammates.
"I obviously haven't played for any other organization, but the locker room in Minnesota has always been strong," Smith said. "That's a great part of the culture. But winning … is all people care about it. And it's the only thing people should care about. You're competing. You try to win. And when you don't, it's not enough. Whatever unfolds, whatever cards you're dealt, it doesn't matter.
"Having said that, I'm proud to be a part of this group and a part of this organization, this staff. The ownership, the players," Smith added. "Just so many people. I'm very much appreciative."