For most of the five-plus seasons Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has been in Minnesota, his team has followed a simple formula.
Play great defense as the offense manages the game and find way to grind out wins.
Sunday’s 42-30 win over the Lions, however was a different story, as it was the offense picking up a defense that allowed a season-high 433 yards and were hurt by undisciplined play.
“It’s a team sport,” said Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks. “It’s the beautiful thing about the game.
“We had a couple [long] drives, we left things out there, we made mistakes you know, but the offense came up huge for us,” Kendricks added. “And can’t ask for more honestly. We got a win, on to the next. We’ve got to get rid of this one quick because we’ve got a quick turnaround."
Not that the Vikings defense didn’t make plays when it counted.
With just under nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Vikings led by four points as the Lions offense faced a fourth-and-2 at the Vikings 41.
Kendricks read Matthew Stafford and floated to his right, where he eventually lunged and knocked away a pass intended for running back J.D. McKissic.
“Honestly, I wasn’t thinking about getting to the ball. I saw the running back and saw everyone just scatter that way,” Kendricks said. “I went through my progressions and tried to stick him real quick.
“I should have picked it off, honestly. I secure the tackle with one hand and got the ball with the other hand,” Kendricks added. “Fourth down, to get off the field was great.”
Zimmer said he had a hunch the Lions weren’t going to run it even though they needed just two yards.
“Well, they came out in regular personnel, and I didn’t think they were going to run the ball. We tried to get into some coverage on that one,” Zimmer said. “Eric made a good play, but the other guys covered as well. It was a good play.”
Much like Week 6 against Philadelphia, Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen each recorded a second-half sack to help disrupt the opposing quarterback.
And with Minnesota holding an 11-point lead, Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes sealed the deal with an interception, his first of the season.
But the Lions also converted six of 11 tries on third downs [55 percent], and the Vikings hurt themselves with numerous penalties.
Minnesota had five penalties accepted for 58 yards, not counting a roughing-the-passer call on linebacker Anthony Barr.
That call offset a holding penalty and negated a would-be fourth down, allowing the Lions to stay on the field and score on third down at the end of the first half.
“As soon as they get a big play, or we get a penalty, we have to re-gain focus,” Kendricks said. “We can’t control a lot of things, but we can control the next play.
“That’s our whole mindset. Just make a play and do our job,” Kendricks added. “We did a pretty good job of that, but we have a lot of things to clean up. But we got a win.”
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Sunday.
Added safety Anthony Harris: “You have to limit the plays, limit the damage and not hurt yourself to make it tougher. When it was time, guys came through and executed and made the plays. We were able to get the win.”
Besides allowing a season-high in total yards, Minnesota’s defense also gave up a season-high 364 pass yards to Stafford.
The Lions quarterback completed 30 of 45 passes, including four scores and the late interception, for a passer rating of 111.7.
After the game, Zimmer was perplexed with Minnesota’s pass coverage, even going as far to say that he didn’t do a good enough job preparing his players.
“I don’t know. Honestly, I’ll have to look at the tape,” Zimmer said. “I just felt like we weren’t tight enough. We changed coverages all day long.
“We did some two deeps, some three deeps, some two on one side … two on the other, some man,” Zimmer said. “We played a lot of different things.”
Zimmer said he thought the defense played better as the game wore on. Minnesota allowed 21 first-half points, but just nine over the final two quarters.
“Actually, in the second half. I felt pretty good about it,” Zimmer said. “We gave them the one field goal. They got the touchdown at the end, but we had to make some adjustments at halftime because we weren’t covering enough.
“The one drive they got the touchdown on and went for two, we can play a lot better than that,” Zimmer added.
Minnesota’s strong defensive rankings might take a hit after the win, but the Vikings don’t have time to worry about it thanks to a quick turnaround with Thursday night’s home game against Washington.
“They’re pretty good on offense … I’m not going to lie … but we found a way,” Kendricks said. “We got it done.
“It wasn’t pretty but we found a way,” Kendricks added. “Now I’m excited to play on Thursday.”