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Vikings Get Creative in Short-Yardage Scenarios

MINNEAPOLIS —The Vikings final offensive play of Sunday's game was a success in a short-yardage situation.

But it capped off a game in which Minnesota produced a mixed bag of results while just a yard or two away from a first down in a 22-16 overtime loss to the Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium.

"We will build on what we did today," said right guard Brandon Fusco. "I think we did some good things, but it wasn't good enough.

"Fourth-and-1 in the red zone, penalties and sacks in the red zone … missed opportunities there," he added. "That was the difference."

The Vikings trailed 13-9 with less than 30 seconds left when they reached deep in their playbook for a go-ahead touchdown.

With Rhett Ellison lined up to the left of the formation, he went in motion and took the handoff from a surprise jet sweep. Ellison snuck around the right side of the line for a 1-yard touchdown run. The play was added this week as Pat Shurmur took over as interim offensive coordinator after Norv Turner resigned. 

"It was obviously a schemed play," Ellison said. "Any time I get the ball they're not usually seeing it coming. It worked out. 

"You practice goal line once a week and install plays each week," he added. "You're not sure which ones are going to get called, and they called that one."

The Lions jarred the ball loose but Ellison's fumble occurred after he had already crossed the goal line.

"We've had that in our bag of tricks and pulled it out," Fusco said of the play. "My heart did fall a little bit (when he fumbled) but I felt like he was in.

"Once I looked up and saw the replay I was relieved," he added.

Minnesota's other touchdown Sunday was also from 1-yard out. Quarterback Sam Bradford faked a handoff and found tight end Kyle Rudolph wide open in the back of the end zone.

Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph lined up as a fullback on both plays, his only two plays in offense, taking on a blocker on the touchdown pass.

"Two for two, right,?" Joseph quipped.

Joseph said he had lined up in the backfield in high school and college but never before in the NFL.

"I'm trying to help the team any way I can," Joseph said. "They asked me to do it, so I did it.

Added Bradford: "Hopefully we can hand him the ball and let him run it in."

Although Minnesota scored on a pair of short-yardage situations, the Vikings lamented other missed chances after the game. 

The Vikings faced third-and-2 at Detroit's 6-yard line earlier in the quarter but were held to a 1-yard run. After Minnesota unsuccessfully challenged the spot, the Vikings were then stuffed for no gain on fourth-and-1.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said there was little doubt the offense was going for it there.

"It was fourth (down) and about six inches," Zimmer said. "I felt like our offense continues to need confidence as they move forward."

The Vikings also shook their head at not being able to come away with points in the second quarter after linebacker Chad Greenway returned an interception to Detroit's 18-yard line.

Minnesota faced second-and-6 on the 14-yard line before a false start, an illegal block above the waist, a run that lost four yards and a sack that took the Vikings out of field goal range.

"Once you have those opportunities, you've got the ball in there, you can't take any sacks," Zimmer said. "That was one of the worst plays."

The Vikings came up short as they dropped their third straight game and fell to 5-3. Minnesota will now hit the road to play at Washington (4-3-1) on Sunday.

"The fight and the heart was there," Ellison said. "But these are the games that hurt the most because we put a lot of heart out there.

"It's a tough team loss, but that's part of the game," he added. "We just have to regroup."

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