MINNEAPOLIS — Two deflected passes that were intercepted helped provide tipping points against the Vikings in a 17-3 loss to the Lions Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium.
Lions LB Tahir Whitehead corralled his first of two interceptions late in the first half when the ball bounced off Vikings RB Matt Asiata near midfield. The change of possession led to a field goal by Matt Prater and 10-point lead at halftime. Whitehead's next interception occurred on a ball that was tipped at the line of scrimmage and ended Minnesota's opening drive of the second half near midfield.
"We had a couple of tipped balls that's nobody's fault," receiver Jarius Wright said. "The defense made a good play. They're the number one defense in the league, and they played like it."
Detroit entered the game atop the league lead in yards allowed (282.4) and first downs allowed per game (17.2) and held Minnesota to 212 net yards on 15 first downs.
In addition to forcing Vikings rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater's third interception of the game, Detroit's defensive line led a Lions group that recorded eight sacks and hit Bridgewater 12 times in his second NFL start. Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah led the Lions with 2.5 sacks, three tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and a forced fumble, and George Johnson added 1.5 sacks, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits.
It was Bridgewater's first game action since his starting debut two weeks earlier when he threw for 317 yards with no turnovers. Bridgewater missed Week 5 with an ankle injury and finished Sunday's game at 23-for-37 for 188 yards. Bridgewater was also intercepted on his first attempt of the game when Glover Quin nabbed a pass intended for Cordarrelle Patterson in the end zone.
Despite the duress Detroit's defense exerted, teammates said Bridgewater remained composed in the huddle.
"Teddy's always going to be settled day-in and day-out," Patterson said. "Teddy's just going to do what he does. The offensive line, there's no need to point the fingers at themselves. This is the whole team, the whole offense. We've just got to do better as a unit. The fans don't like seeing that, and we don't either."
Added Wright: "Teddy was real composed in the huddle. You would have never thought that you were playing with a rookie quarterback in the huddle. He's still composed and confident. You can see the confidence in a guy like that."
Vikings players said they share the blame for the loss and will share responsibility in making corrections needed to return to the win column. Minnesota (2-4, 0-2 NFC North) visits Buffalo (3-3, 1-1 AFC East) next week.
"Any loss is tough to swallow, but we can't sulk on it," safety Harrison Smith said. "We've got to learn from it and move forward the next week. Don't get down. That's the last thing you want to do. Show up, go to work, and get ready to play next week."
View images from the week six matchup at TCF Bank Stadium between the Vikings and Lions.
SLIP SCREENS: With top receiving threat Calvin Johnson inactive out because injury, a pair of short throws on screens to running backs led to significant gains during Detroit's two touchdown drives.
Matthew Stafford connected with Theo Riddick, who joined Joique Bell to fill in for injured Reggie Bush, on his third pass of the game to move the ball to the Minnesota 9. The pair reconnected two plays later for a touchdown. The 41-yard gain by Riddick covered more ground than the Vikings did on all but two offensive possessions.
"(Riddick) played Reggie Bush just as well as Reggie Bush plays it," LB Gerald Hodges said. "We've just got to click on all cylinders."
Detroit utilized a screen play in the fourth quarter as well. Facing a third-and-16 from the Minnesota 25, Stafford hit Bell, who found enough space to gain 15 yards and put the Lions in position to go for it on fourth-and-1 and succeed with a four-yard rush by George Winn. Bell rushed for 5 and scored from 1-yard out after the conversion.
"We didn't give up any deep balls, but we gave up too many yards on screen plays, for instance," Smith said. "The yards count the same, and we need to do a better job there."
LB Jasper Brinkley said the Vikings "definitely have to do a better job of recognizing the screen on third-and-long."
ANOTHER STARTING DEBUT: Rookie RB Jerick McKinnon made his first career start and led the Vikings with 40 rushing yards on 11 carries and career highs of 42 receiving yards on six receptions.
"I found out earlier in the week," McKinnon said. "I tried to prepare myself the best for it, really dial in, focus in on my assignments, and make sure that I was on top of everything."
McKinnon had a pair of 9-yard rushes on Minnesota's opening possession. Those successes helped set up his role in a play that gained 21 yards on the ground by Wright. McKinnon got the ball and moved to the right of the line, then lateralled the ball to Wright who streaked back across the field on the reverse. The gain moved the ball to the Detroit 15, but the Lions answered with Quin's interception on the following play.
D TIGHTENS UP: Stafford went 7-for-8 for 98 yards and his TD pass in the first quarter, but Minnesota was able to limit him to 12-of-25 passing for 87 yards passing the rest of the game.
Brinkley recorded his first career sack in six NFL seasons. Tom Johnson and Everson Griffen each recorded one sack of Stafford, and Brian Robison and Linval Joseph split a sack.
The Vikings held the Lions to a success rate of 1-for-13 (eight percent) on third downs, which was well below the 47.8 percent collective conversion rate by Minnesota's first five opponents this season.