MINNEAPOLIS — For nearly all of the second half Sunday, the Vikings defense looked like the league's top unit.
Minnesota allowed Detroit to gain just 31 total yards on 18 plays until the final minute of regulation, stifling the Lions and not allowing them to convert on any of their five third-down tries in the second half.
But once the Vikings took a three-point lead with 23 ticks left, everything fell apart for Minnesota in the final seconds and in overtime in a 22-16 loss.
"We need to find a way to play better," said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen. "They made some good plays, but we just need to find a way to play better."
The Vikings troubles started shortly after Minnesota took a late 16-13 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run by tight end Rhett Ellison.
After a touchback on the ensuing kickoff, the Lions started at their own 25-yard line with 23 seconds left and no timeouts.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford found Golden Tate for an 8-yard pickup as the wide receiver got out of bounds to stop the clock with 17 seconds remaining.
Stafford then connected with wide receiver Andre Roberts for a 27-yard gain with the Vikings in a prevent defense.
Detroit spiked the ball with two seconds left as Lions kicker Matt Prater sent the game to overtime by nailing a 58-yard field goal as time expired.
Plenty of people in the Minnesota locker room shouldered the blame for the big passing play that put the Lions in field goal range.
"The last field goal to send it to overtime, obviously we thought we had what we needed," said Vikings cornerback Terence Newman, "but we did not execute the play very well, and they did."
In hindsight, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he wished he would have called a different play than the one that only sent three rushers at Stafford.
"That's probably the thing I regret the most," Zimmer said. "If I had to do it all over again, I would probably rush four and try and get it that way.
"(Stafford) scrambled around and made a play; that's how it goes," he added.
Even with Prater's lengthy field goal, Minnesota still had a chance in overtime.
But after the Lions won the toss, Detroit marched 87 yards in 11 plays for a game-winning score. After the Lions didn't convert a third-down try in the second half, Detroit was a perfect 3-for-3 in overtime and benefitted from a penalty on another third-down play.
The Lions ended the game on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to Tate as cornerback Xavier Rhodes and safety Harrison Smith were unable to bring the wide receiver down.
"I missed the tackle, simple as that," Rhodes said. "Nothing else to say. I just missed the tackle. It doesn't matter how I missed it (or) how I was aiming to go at it, I missed it."
Added Smith: "I just have to make the tackle. It's not like we're all fresh out there and feeling great at the end of overtime. We have to fight through it."
A handful of Vikings were surprised at the way Sunday's game ended.
"Our guys make that play nine out of 10 times," said Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr.
Detroit's surge over the final 23 seconds and overtime negated a strong performance in which linebacker Chad Greenway recorded an interception and Griffen notched a sack on Stafford.
The Vikings will try to bounce back as they travel to Washington for a noon (CT) tilt on Sunday.
"It's another loss, three in a row; obviously we're struggling and we need to find a way out," Barr said. "We're not devastated, we're not panicking. We understand we had an opportunity to win the game.
"It's not like we got blown out, it's not like we didn't fight," he added. "We played hard, and I think we played well enough to win, but we just didn't do it."