Teddy Bridgewater delivered the football to 11 different Vikings players, and a commemorative one to Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
Moments after the Vikings tamed the Lions 28-19 with a comeback victory, Bridgewater gave a game ball to Zimmer for the coach's first divisional road win. The Vikings swept their season series with the Lions for the first time since 2012, and it was in large part to the men who are in their second years in Minnesota.
Bridgewater overcame stress, 4.0 sacks and deficits that reached 11 points twice in the first half. Zimmer, meanwhile, applied stress on Matthew Stafford, eventually sacking the Lions QB seven times* *and hurrying him 13 more (press box tally).
"The thing that probably impressed me the most with Teddy today is he got rocked a couple of times, and I wasn't sure if he was going to be able to finish," Zimmer said. "He got up and made some great throws. The throw to [Stefon] Diggs on the long ball was a great throw, great catch. He's always an accurate and composed guy. We've got to score touchdowns when we get inside the 5-yard line, so that was disappointing, but I'll continue to find some things to get after him about."
After a slow start, the Vikings defense began to shift momentum on the Lions (1-6), and the offense responded. Minnesota (4-2) took over at its own 21-yard line, trailing 17-6 with 5:03 left in the first half.
He opened the drive with an 11-yard pass to Diggs and followed by making a smart check-down throw to Zach Line. The fullback had two prior catches in his career, totaling 11 yards, and found ample running room for a 49-yard play in his native state. Bridgewater found Kyle Rudolph for a 1-yard touchdown on third-and-goal with 1:49 left in the first half.
"Our defense did a great job of responding," Bridgewater said. "That speaks volumes about those guys. Those guys buckled in and took care of business. It was great as an offense to get going. Eleven different guys touched the football. It shows in this offense that everyone has a role. We're excited."
Diggs led the Vikings with six catches for 108 yards, and the 36-yard touchdown was the first of his career. He made a diving grab and kept it securely in his grip, despite hitting the ground.
To-do better list:In preparing for this game, Zimmer revisited last year's frustrating 16-14 loss in which the Vikings surged early and provided players a list of what needed to be better: avoid turnovers, make field goals and prevent sacks.
Bridgewater finished 25-of-35 passing for 316 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. The Vikings committed the only turnover of the game when the ball bounced loose on the exchange between Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson.
Blair Walsh made all five field goals he attempted, and Bridgewater bounced back from the times when the Lions knocked him to the turf.
"We knew how important this game was," Bridgewater said. "It's a divisional game and we always talk about and hear about not playing well on the road or finishing games on the road, so to be able to do so today was pretty good. Coach Zimmer told us nothing is going to be handed to you. Don't think you deserve anything. You have to go out there and take it and I think we did a great job with that today."
Recovery run: Running back Adrian Peterson, who missed both games against the Lions last season, overcame an illness and rushed for 98 yards on 19 carries that included a 75-yarder in the third quarter.
Zimmer said Peterson told him he thought the illness was caused by "some bad shrimp."
"He made out fine. I talked to him during the game on the sideline one time. I wasn't really concerned," Zimmer said. "He threw up on the bus; that was about it. I saw him at the meetings that night, so it was no big deal.
Detroit ran multiple blitzes designed to stuff runs, quite similar to the approach that Kansas City implemented in Week 6 to limit Peterson to 60 yards on 26 carries.
"I told him to just stick with it. They're going to keep run blitzing and run blitzing and run blitzing, and you're going to pop some big ones," Zimmer said. "That's what happened. If you abandon the running game because you get 2, 1 or 3, then you're not going to hit these big runs.
"We've got to continue to stick with it and when people to that, they open things for Teddy like they did today for Diggs, Teddy and [Mike] Wallace and Jarius [Wright]."
Walsh two from 50-plus: Walsh made five field goals, tying a personal record from 2012, when he connected on five at St. Louis in his rookie season. The fourth-year pro was good on kicks of 37, 53, 51, 35 and 22. Walsh missed one extra point in between the 50-yarders, but bounced back to nail pressure kicks.
Walsh is 19-of-26 on kicks from 50 or more yards in his career, but the two Sunday were his first since Nov. 23, 2014.
"It's been almost a year, and to see two longer distance kicks go in is so big for me," Walsh said.
Play it safety: Some may wonder why the Vikings opted to have Jeff Locke run out of the back of the end zone and take a safety, but the decision had multiple benefits for the Vikings.
Although it gave the Lions two points, they still needed two scores with 1:03 left. Instead of having to punt from the end zone and risking a block or return for a touchdown, Locke was able to execute a free kick from the Minnesota 20 that could be well-covered by Vikings specialists.
The final drive by the Lions stalled at the Minnesota 36 with an incompletion on fourth-and-1 with six seconds left.
"I was trying to take a little time off the clock, give us a little more breathing room," Zimmer said. "They still had to score nine points, so I really wasn't worried about it. I figured they'd try to kick a field goal, onside kick. That was nine points, so we were still in pretty good shape."
Three stats: There are plenty of stats to sort through in a game book, but three that stood out Sunday were:
1) First downs obtained: 25 by Minnesota, including 16 by passing; the Lions gained 14 for the game and were limited to eight first downs on their final nine possessions
2) Time of possession: The last time the teams met, the Vikings controlled both sides of the line of scrimmage. This time, they controlled the clock, possessing the football 36:27, which was helped by limiting the Lions to 1-for-10 on third downs.
3) Turnover margin: Turnovers had been problematic for Detroit, but the Lions corralled the only turnover of the game when they recovered a fumble in the second quarter. The Vikings were minus-1 for the day, but it could have been worse had T.J. Clemmings not fought for the ball just before halftime. Clemmings' recovery occurred one play before Walsh kicked the 51-yarder to make it 17-15 at halftime.
Vikings debut: Kenrick Ellis, who was signed Tuesday by the Vikings when the team placed Shamar Stephen on injured reserve, made his debut with Minnesota as a reserve who spelled Linval Joseph.
Wright evaluated:Zimmer said Wright is undergoing evaluation following the NFL's protocol for diagnosing possible concussions.