MINNEAPOLIS – For a few seconds, Josh Metellus lost the ball against the backdrop of U.S. Bank Stadium's ceiling.
It felt like a lot longer than that.
Metellus said postgame he had a hunch what play the Lions might run on third-and-10 with just 17 seconds left in the contest.
"I knew I had a feeling the route they were going to run, so I played it deep, and when [Jared Goff] rolled out, I was like, 'All right, that's away from his throwing arm, he's probably gonna throw something short.' [But] he just threw it, and I lost it for a second in the sky because of the lights, and I'm like, 'Dang, I can't see the ball. This ball's up here forever.'
"And then lo and behold at the last second, I saw it right in front of my face, and I had to make the grab," he added with a smile.
Metellus' interception sealed a dramatic, come-from-behind win for the Vikings, who defeated the Lions 28-24.
First career start, first career pick.
Metellus, whom Minnesota drafted 205th overall in 2020, has primarily contributed via special teams over his first two seasons. In fact, he played just 54 defensive snaps all of last season. But with Harrison Smith with a concussion suffered at Philadelphia Monday, Metellus got the call up.
View postgame celebration photos from the Vikings 28-24 victory over the Lions on Sept. 25.
It may have been the most action Vikings fans have seen from Metellus, but his teammates weren't the least bit surprised at his performance.
"Josh is a baller," said Vikings safety Camryn Bynum, who started across from Metellus. "He could make any play on the field. … That's exactly what I expected."
Added linebacker Jordan Hicks: "Full confidence. Josh is one of those players who earns it every day, is a captain-like leader and is someone we lean on in all phases. When he was out there, it was nothing but confidence."
Teams around the NFL weekly rely on the "next man up" mentality, and the Vikings are no exception. While they certainly would have liked to have a healthy Smith for the game, they also knew Metellus would be ready when needed.
And he was.
"He was hungry to be out there all year," cornerback Cameron Dantzler, Sr., said. "When Harry went down, [Josh] was like, 'I got you.' … I saw that look in his eyes, and I was like, 'Oh, he's got him.'
"He came this week during practice, he was very prepared, communicated well, and I'm very excited to see him get out there and make plays," Dantzler added.
Seeing his teammates' belief in him means a lot to Metellus.
"It means I've been building the trust from the guys. I've been here for three years now, so it's good to know I'm leaving my imprint on them," he said. "We're a connected group. We lean on each other, and I tell the boys every day, 'Lean on your brothers.' They leaned on me, and I showed up for them."
Metellus may be one of the youngsters at 24 years old, but veteran linebackers Hicks and Kendricks both pointed out his leadership in the locker room.
That initiative showed up Sunday when Metellus led a brief pregame speech and broke down the huddle.
"One thing. One thing. One thing on my mind – we need a 'Dub.' We gotta dominate when they're in front of us, every play!" He urged teammates. "It don't matter, every play, then on to the next. … Until they go home. Until we send 'em home. Let's have fun today. Let's be together. Let's have some energy!"
Kendricks, who matched Metellus' tackles total of 11, said he appreciates the way the younger defender speaks up.
"Josh is a leader on our team. He's very vocal. He knows what he's doing. Very confident, which is crucial, especially in this league," Kendricks said.
"Josh is built for it all," he later added. "He is a natural-born leader and never takes the easy route. His confidence is never arrogant, but it's apparent – and infectious."
Metellus and Kendricks' tackles were second on the team behind Hicks, who totaled 14 and a pass defensed.
The Vikings defense experienced a number of ups and downs throughout the afternoon but didn't hang their heads.
"We just rallied around each other. We help each other when we need to," Kendricks said. "Make adjustments on the sideline. Things weren't perfect, but we try.
"We've got a lot to work on, don't get it twisted. But that win, especially late in the game like that, against a really good team, showed a lot of good character on our team and showed what these guys in the locker room are made of," Kendricks continued. "I'm happy, I'm proud of these guys. We're resilient, and we've got to learn a lot from these mistakes, but we're looking good right now."
Minnesota allowed Detroit to take a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter, with Jamaal Williams and T.J. Hockenson each getting into the end zone.
Detroit totaled 139 rushing yards on the day, led by Williams' 87 yards and two scores. But in the passing game, the Vikings limited the Lions to 98 yards through the air in the second half after giving up 179 through the first two quarters.
"We just had to play our brand of football, and it started to chip away, and we were starting to get stops and energy," Metellus said. "We weren't playing with a lot of passion, I feel like, the first quarter, but we started to pick it up and play with a lot of energy toward the end of the game."
The Vikings at one point in the fourth quarter trailed 24-14, but they still didn't roll over.
A touchdown by Alexander Mattison lessened the deficit, and then Kirk Cousins hit K.J. Osborn for a 28-yard touchdown to take the lead with just 45 seconds left on the clock.
Then, it was up to the defense.
"We're trying to close the game out, trying to get the win. We're not trying to leave anything up for grabs," said Metellus, who pointed out last year's last-second loss at Detroit. "So that's all that was playing in our heads: 'This is not last year.' So anything we could do to get off the field, we had to do it in that moment."
Metellus actually had a near interception on the second-to-last play of the game, when Goff threw a deep pass over the middle to receiver Josh Reynolds, but it slipped through the safety's hands.
"I know, I'm killing myself for that one right now. That one's replaying in my head. I'm happy I got another opportunity."
Sunday's game wasn't pretty. There are things that will need to be cleaned up heading into future matchups.
But a win is a win, and the Vikings are proud of this one.
"It says something about our team. There's no quit. There's no finish in us until it's over," Hicks said. "It's impressive. That's an NFL football game. Situational ball, defense had to come with a stop, offense had to go down and score. We were able to play off each other when it counted."