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Vikings at Lions Game Observations: Getting and Giving Up Explosives

The Vikings 2023 season concluded Sunday with a 30-20 loss at the Lions.

Minnesota fell to 7-10, missing its chance at a return to the playoffs by dropping its fourth consecutive defeat in which an opponent scored 27 or more points.

The Vikings fell behind 13-zip by the end of the first quarter and tried to rally, but couldn't get a key stop on either drive that followed a historic 38-yard touchdown catch by Justin Jefferson (that put him **past 1,000 yards** on the season and in his career against the Lions) or a 42-yard touchdown grab by Jordan Addison.

Detroit answered Jefferson's 30th career touchdown catch with a two-play drive that took up the final play of the third quarter with a 5-yard run and opened the fourth quarter with a 70-yard touchdown pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown, who streaked past cornerback Akayleb Evans into open spaces and Froggered his way through tackle attempts near the end zone for a 27-13 lead with 14:45 remaining.

Minnesota responded with a three-play drive that included a 29-yard reception by Jefferson with Addison's 10th touchdown catch of the season. He tied Sammy White for the second-most touchdown catches by a Vikings rookie (Randy Moss has the record of 17 in 1998).

But Detroit answered again, this time with a 10-play drive that covered 54 yards and consumed 5:08 before Michael Badgley's 39-yard field goal provided the final points of the day with 8:14 remaining.

Minnesota needed to win and have either Carolina defeat Tampa Bay or have Atlanta win in New Orleans. None of those three things happened.

Here are four more observations from the game.

  1. Air it out

Down two scores, Nick Mullens had to be aggressive, and the Lions continued to be aggressive with pressures.

Minnesota's final two drives ended with interceptions of Mullens, who completed 30 of 44 passes with 396 yards and two scores for a passer rating of 92.6.

Mullens had nine completions of 20 or more yards.

Jefferson tied his single-game career high with 12 catches and led all players with 192 receiving yards.

St. Brown countered with seven receptions for 144 yards from Jared Goff, who completed 23 of 32 passes for 320 yards with two scores and no turnovers. Goff's passer rating was 124.5, and he had five completions of 20 or more yards.

Jefferson and St. Brown swapped jerseys after the game.

  1. Third and fourth downs

It's somewhat remarkable that teams can total 50 points and 829 net yards of offense on a day when they're a combined 3-for-22 on third downs, but all that happened.

The Vikings converted just two of 13 tries on third down and wound up converting two of their three attempts on fourth down.

The Lions (12-5) went 1-for-9 on third downs but were able to go 2-for-2 on their fourth-down attempts.

  1. Field position disparity

Detroit was able to start its second possession of the game at its own 48-yard line thanks to a 42-yard punt return by Kalif Raymond.

The Lions capitalized on that starting field position and scored in just four plays. Goff hit St. Brown for a gain of 34 right after the punt and 13 more on the next snap before a 3-yard run by David Montgomery set up a 2-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Sam LaPorta, who left the game with a knee injury.

Detroit started seven of 11 possessions beyond its own 25-yard line.

The Vikings had three drives start at their own 10 or worse, either because of placement on punts or penalties, and only started outside the 25-yard line on one possession (own 26 in the third quarter).

The Vikings were flagged eight times for 77 yards on the day.

  1. Sacks and hits

Mullens was sacked four times, and press box statisticians tallied 15 quarterback hits for the Lions. Aidan Hutchinson led the Lions with 2.0 sacks and five quarterback hits.

Goff, meanwhile, was sacked just once, by Danielle Hunter in the fourth quarter. Hunter finished his fourth season to garner a Pro Bowl with a career-best 16.5 sacks, the fifth-most by a Viking in any season in team history.

Hunter's sack was one of just three hits on Goff for the day. He 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.

He and Vikings Ring of Honor defensive end Jared Allen have the top six season totals for tackles for loss in team history.

It was Hunter's 12th game of the season in which he recorded at least one sack, which tied Allen's Vikings record from 2011.