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Vikings at Lions Game Observations: Chance to Clinch Division Delayed in Detroit

DETROIT — The Vikings had an opportunity to clinch the NFC North with a win or tie Sunday, but the Lions prevented that from happening with a 34-23 victory.

In the long term, Minnesota (10-3) needs one more win — or one more loss or tie by Detroit (6-7) — in the next four weeks for the Vikings to clinch the division for the first time since 2017.

Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell knew it was going to be tough against the Lions, who had led Minnesota by 10 back in Week 3 before the Vikings rallied.

The Lions did a better job of closing out this one against a Vikings offense that played without starting left tackle Christian Darrisaw (concussion) and center Garrett Bradbury (center), and a defense that was without safety Harrison Smith, who was dealing with a neck injury.

Detroit allowed 394 net passing yards to Minnesota as Justin Jefferson set a Vikings single-game record in the regular season with 223 receiving yards on 11 catches and Kirk Cousins threw for 426, the most by a Vikings QB in a game against the Lions, but Detroit sacked Cousins four times to undermine some of Minnesota's most promising drives.

Here are four more observations presented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Proud LASIK Partner of the Minnesota Vikings, followed by a scoring summary:

1. No guts, no glory

Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell didn't bite any kneecaps, but he did undercut the Vikings with some heaping displays of guts.

The two biggest displays were opting to run a fake punt on fourth-and-8 from the Detroit 26-yard line on the Lions opening possession of the second half.

Leading 14-7, the Lions direct snapped the ball to personal protector C.J. Moore, who rumbled down the sideline for a gain of 42.

The Lions overcame a celebration penalty at the end of the play and were able to make it 21-7 with 5:44 remaining after the drive that lasted nearly half the third quarter.

Campbell also closed out the game with some aggressiveness when he had tackle Penei Sewell report as an eligible receiver and go in motion to the right before the snap. Sewell showed athleticism and found open space to convert a third-and-7.

The Lions capped that drive with a field goal to make it a two-score game again.

2. Ill-fated trickery

The Vikings tried a bit of trickery late in the second quarter with 1:06 remaining after Adam Thielen picked up a third-and-8 with an 8-yard reception.

Kirk Cousins pitched the ball to Dalvin Cook, who acted like he was going to run the football out of an I-formation. Cook was supposed to then throw the ball to Johnny Mundt, but Isaiah Buggs defeated a block by Ed Ingram and forced a fumble by Cook that was recovered and returned to the 22-yard line by Kerby Joseph.

The turnover kept Minnesota from evening the score at 14 or at least kicking a chip shot to make it 14-10.

The Lions marched the ball down the field, but Michael Badgley's 47-yard field goal was wide left with 10 seconds left in the first half.

3. Explosives allowed

The Vikings allowed two touchdowns of more than 40 yards in the first half as the Lions took advantage of great starting field position and scored on a two-play drive after taking over at the Minnesota 46 early in the first quarter after Detroit stuffed Dalvin Cook for no gain on a fourth-and-1.

Detroit also connected with a 48-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

The Lions had five different players record a reception of at least 15 yards in the first half on the way to racking up 222 yards before halftime. Detroit averaged 7.4 yards per play in the first half.

The Vikings cleaned up some of the explosives allowed in the second half but failed to get the Lions off the field when they had opportunities to do so.

Jared Goff finished 27-of-39 passing with 330 yards, three touchdowns and a passer rating of 120.7.

He was not sacked, and the Vikings only recorded one pass defensed during the game a week after recording 13.

4. Run game stuck in neutral

The Vikings were committed to the run game in the first half as they tried to control the clock on the ground, but it was stuck in neutral all day.

Minnesota finished with 22 rushing yards on 17 carries for a paltry average of 1.3 yards per carry.

Dalvin Cook turned in Minnesota's long for the day with a gain of 5. He finished with 23 yards (and a score) on 15 carries, passing Bill Brown for fourth on the Vikings all-time rushing leaderboard.

Detroit was able to grind and groove to the tune of 134 rushing yards on 30 carries for an average of 4.5 yards per carry that was elevated by the fake punt.

Scoring summary

Q1, 10:27 remaining

Lions 7, Vikings 0

Jameson Williams catches a 41-yard pass from Jared Goff (Michael Badgley kicks PAT) [2 plays, 46 yards, 0:51 time of possession]

Busted coverage: The Lions took advantage of a missed assignment in the Vikings secondary and sent their first-round pick deep behind the defense. It was Williams' first NFL catch.

Q1, 4:02 remaining

Lions 7, Vikings 7

Dalvin Cook rushes for 1 yard (Greg Joseph kicks PAT) [10 plays, 75 yards, 6:25 time of possession]

Variety drive: After having the drive extended by a holding penalty on Kerby Joseph, who detained Justin Jefferson, the Vikings were able to get a 5-yard run by Cook, followed by a 13-yard reception on a checkdown to the running back. Jefferson then was freed for a reception of 14 yards after going on a sweep motion, and C.J. Ham caught a pass for 9 as Minnesota moved into the red zone.

Q2, 6:34 remaining

Lions 14, Vikings 7

DJ Chark catches a 48-yard pass (Badgley kicks PAT) [1 play, 48 yards, 0:08 time of possession]

1-on-1: Chark was able to get past 1-on-1 coverage by Dantzler, and Detroit capitalized on great starting field position after a 35-yard punt return by Kalif Raymond.

Q3, 5:44 remaining

Lions 21, Vikings 7

Josh Reynolds catches a 5-yard pass from Goff (Badgley kicks PAT) [12 plays, 76 yards, 7:04 time of possession]

Costly conversions: Detroit gained 42 on a fake put run by C.J. Moore and then overcame a third-and-12 with a 14-yard pass to Kalif Raymond one play before the score.

Q3, 2:17 remaining

Lions 21, Vikings 13

Adam Thielen catches a 23-yard pass from Kirk Cousins (2-point conversion pass fails) [7 plays, 75 yards, 3:27 time of possession]

Bang-bang: The Vikings opened the drive with a 9-yard sack before Cousins hit T.J. Hockenson for a gain of 21 and followed with a 42-yard connection with Jefferson.

Q4, 13:28 remaining

Lions 28, Vikings 13

Justin Jackson rushes for 15 yards (Badgley kicks PAT) [10 plays, 75 yards, 2:41 time of possession]

Second-and-10 woes: Jackson won a race to the pylon on second-and-10 from the 15-yard line six plays after the Lions picked up a second-and-10 with a 12-yard pass to receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who edged past Za'Darius Smith, who had dropped into coverage.

Q4, 10:47 remaining

Lions 28, Vikings 16

Joseph kicks a 41-yard field goal [7 plays, 52 yards, 2:41 time of possession]

Gain then loss: The Vikings opened the drive with a 47-yard completion to Jefferson, but Cousins was sacked three plays later for a loss of 7 that derailed the drive.

Q4, 4:06 remaining

Lions 31, Vikings 16

Badgley kicks a 41-yard field goal [12 plays, 52 yards, 6:41 time of possession]

Unable to get the stop: The Vikings were in position for a quick three-and-out, but the Lions converted a third-and-9 with an 11-yard reception by Chark. Instead of getting the ball back down 12 with nine-plus minutes remaining, Minnesota wasn't able to prevent points or keep Detroit from running five-plus minutes off the clock.

Q4, 2:50 remaining

Lions 31, Vikings 23

K.J. Osborn catches a 15-yard pass from Cousins (Joseph kicks PAT) [6 plays, 75 yards, 1:16 time of possession]

Q4, 0:17 remaining

Lions 34, Vikings 23

Badgley kicks a 48-yard field goal [7 plays, 14 yards, 2:33 time of possession]

Bleeding the clock: The Lions were able to bleed an extra 1:43 of clock by converting a third-and-7 with a pass to tackle Penei Sewell, who reported as eligible and went in motion before finding plenty of space for a 9-yard reception.