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Vikings vs. Lions Game Observations: Comeback Drive Abruptly Halted

MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings had one final chance at a comeback, but Nick Mullens' deep pass to Justin Jefferson was picked off by Ifeatu Melifonwu at the Detroit 5-yard line with 49 seconds remaining.

The fourth takeaway by the Lions of the game sent Detroit into the victory formation with a 30-24 win Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Detroit (11-4) won its first division title since 1993 and claimed the NFC North (established in 2002) for the first time in franchise history.

The Vikings fell to 7-8 on the season, with their playoff chances taking a severe hit.

The roster also suffered multiple injuries, with rookie receiver Jordan Addison, tight end T.J. Hockenson, outside linebacker D.J. Wonnum and rookie cornerback Mekhi Blackmon all among players who left the game early because of injuries. Wonnum was helped off the field by a cart early in the fourth quarter.

Mullens, who was making his second start had good and bad moments. He completed 22 of 36 passes and threw for 411 yards with two scores. But the final pass was Mullens' fourth interception of the game.

He had converted a second-and-10 with a 21-yard pass to Brandon Powell and then managed to get the ball to Jefferson for a gain of 28 on third-and-27 after a sack fumble.

After clocking the football, Powell again struck with a gain of 26 to move the ball to the 30. Mullens opted for another deep shot to Jefferson, but Melifonwu cut it off at the pass.

Here are four more observations from the game.

  1. Mirror, mirror

The first three drives of the game for each team mirrored each other.

Detroit took the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards in 14 plays, keeping the football for 7:47. The Lions were able to complete passes of 16, 14, 11 and 13 during the possession. The 14-yarder picked up a third-and-5 from the Detroit 43-yard line.

The drive also could have ended on a fumble by Jameson Williams at the Minnesota 4-yard line, but the ball trickled out of bounds.

David Montgomery rushed three times to finish off the drive, plunging in for a 1-yard touchdown.

The Vikings answered quickly, opening the game with a 33-yard pass to Josh Oliver that was followed by two catches for 14 yards by K.J. Osborn that bookended an 8-yard reception by Jefferson.

After a penalty moved the ball to the 1-yard line, Mullens tried to loft a scrambling pass to Oliver, but it was off the mark and nearly picked off by Brian Branch. Ty Chandler scored on a 1-yard run on the following play.

The Lions second possession ended with a turnover, but so did Minnesota's second opportunity of the game.

Camryn Bynum forced his second fumble of the first quarter, knocking the ball away from Jahmyr Gibbs after a 14-yard rush. Rookie Ivan Pace, Jr., scooped it for his first career fumble recovery.

Minnesota, however, opted to go for it on fourth-and-2 at the Detroit 40-yard line, and Mullens' pass to Jordan Addison was intercepted at the 20.

The teams then exchanged three-and-punts.

  1. Good to bad to worse

The Lions got the ball back at their own 22 with 12:03 left in the first half. After two quick completions and a run totaled 28 yards, Pat Jones II sacked Goff for a loss of 11.

A delay-of-game penalty followed to set up second-and-26 on which Goff completed a 5-yard pass to Sam LaPorta.

Referee Land Clark flagged Jones, however, for roughing the passer as Goff. Even though Jones appeared to pull up instead of making the contact he could have, Goff sold the contact by falling to the turf, receiving 15 yards and a new set of downs. Instead of third-and-21 from the 39, Detroit's next snap was first-and-10 at the Minnesota 46.

Two plays later, Williams caught a pass and grabbed and held the facemask of Mekhi Blackmon, but officials opted not to flag the play, so Detroit then faced a second-and-5 at the 27.

Four plays later — and after Detroit was barely awarded a timeout — Goff was hit in the pocket. Officials let the play proceed as if it was a fumble that was scooped and returned 82 yards for a touchdown by Bynum.

After review, however, they ruled that Goff's arm was going forward enough as the ball came loose to be an incompletion. Detroit followed with a 37-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead instead of trailing 14-7 with 5:05 left in the first half.

Mullens was picked off by Kerby Joseph on the following possession while targeting Jordan Addison on a deep pass. Addison was hurt on the play, and Joseph returned the football 22 yards to the Minnesota 33.

The Lions needed just three plays to add a 14-yard touchdown run by Gibbs for a 17-7 lead with 1:48 left in the first half.

Minnesota bounced back with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Mullens to Jefferson with 29 seconds remaining.

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

  1. Run game disparity

Detroit was able to shift its run game into overdrive, totaling 143 yards on the ground.

Gibbs led the way with 80 yards and two scores on 15 rushes.

Montgomery added 55 yards and his short touchdown on 17 carries.

Minnesota netted 17 yards on 11 carries.

The disparity helped Detroit run 77 offensive plays, compared to 51 by Minnesota, and control the football for 38:22.

  1. Jefferson hits more milestones

Jefferson led the Vikings with 141 receiving yards on six catches and one score. His touchdown catch was the 29th of his career, moving him past Steve Jordan for 10th in franchise history.

Jefferson also broke Michael Thomas' NFL record for receiving yards in a player's first four seasons.

In addition to Jefferson, Osborn added 95 yards on five catches.

Hockenson's 24-yard grab on which he was injured pushed his total to 58 yards on four catches.

Powell finished with 53 yards on three catches.