Mike Zimmer has his first road win within the division as Vikings head coach and his team picked up its fourth win of the season, overcoming a slow start to author a convincing 28-19 victory to move to 4-2 on the season. Sunday's win was another illustration of complementary football, as all three phases of the team chipped in to help secure a second consecutive win and a season sweep of the Lions.
Here are five reasons why the Vikings won on Sunday...
1. Composure, poise and resilience topped early-game struggles
Starting fast was a point of emphasis for the Vikings during their week of preparation for Sunday's game, but it was the Lions who were quickest out of gates, jumping out to a 14-3 lead with 1:43 to play in the 1st quarter. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer didn't let the poor start derail the team's plans, though. The Vikings didn't make rash decisions out of desperation, and instead they stuck with the running game, took advantage of opportunities in the passing game, generated an intense pass rush and got off the field on defensive 3rd downs. After giving up a second TD in the opening quarter, the Vikings scored the next 22 points and eventually built a 28-17 lead before taking a safety late in the game. Refusing to panic and instead regrouping to dominate the final three quarters of the game is a significant sign of progress for Zimmer's bunch, particularly with that series of events occurring in a division game played on the road.
2. The pass rush was relentless
In the first game between these two teams, the Vikings battered Lions QB Matthew Stafford constantly. While Detroit kept Stafford out of harm's way early in the game, the Vikings pass rush prevailed over the final three quarters. The Vikings recorded seven sacks from the 2nd quarter on, with the pressure coming via a variety of looks and from all three levels of the defense. DE Everson Griffen had 1.5 and DT Tom Johnson had 1.0, LBs Antony Barr (1.0), Chad Greenway (1.0) and Eric Kendricks (1.5) accounted for 3.5 sacks, and S Harrison Smith represented the back end of the defense with 1.0 sack. Kendricks now has 3.5 sacks on the season and a sack in the last three games.
The pass rush paced a defensive effort that was downright dominant once the group settled down after giving up a second touchdown. Detroit finished the game 1 of 10 (10%) on 3rd down, scored only three more offensive points after putting up 14 in the 1st quarter, went away from the run for much of the game (77 yards on 17 carries) and lost the time of possession battle by nearly 13 minutes.
3. Teddy responded
Teddy Bridgewater averaged 259.0 passing yards per game over his previous two contests entering Sunday's game against the Detroit, but with the Vikings having gone 1-1 in that two-game stretch and with Bridgewater having as many INTs (2) as TDs (2), many were calling for a better performance from the second-year passer. Bridgewater delivered a better performance. Even while under heavy duress for a lot of the game, Bridgewater stood in the pocket and delivered strike after strike, finishing the game with 316 yards passing and 2 TDs with 0 INTs for a passer rating of 118.3. He had explosive gains through the air of 49, 36 (TD), 30 (twice) and 21 yards, plus threw for a high percentage (25 of 35 – 71.4%) and spread the ball around to 11 different receivers. It was exactly the kind of performance many expect from a QB guiding an offense that consistently faces defenses that overplay the run because of Adrian Peterson's presence in the backfield.
4. A Blair Walsh-led special teams effort was superior to Detroit's
Last Sunday's victory over the Kansas City Chiefs featured Blair Walsh's best performance of the season. Until this Sunday, that is. Walsh topped last week's outstanding effort by hitting all five of his FG attempts against Detroit, including a pair of 50-yarders (53 and 51 yards). While the Vikings red zone offense will be asked to pick it up going forward, the Vikings can be encouraged by Walsh's improvement of late. Walsh also blasted four more touchbacks on Sunday. Jeff Locke punted just twice on the day and the Vikings punt team surrendered only 9 yards, with Locke pinning one of his punts inside the Lions 20. The Vikings even executed a heady play at the end of the game, choosing to take a safety with 59 seconds to play rather than punt from the back of their own end zone and risk a block and recovery that could've resulted in a TD.
5. Diggs did it again
Rookie WR Stefon Diggs provided more fireworks on Sunday, continuing to prove he's no flash in the pan and is instead here to stay. Diggs was once again the Vikings leading receiver, hauling in 6 receptions for 108 yards with 1 TD. The TD catch may well be the NFL's play of the year so far, as he left his feet and laid out to secure a 36-yard scoring toss from Bridgewater. Diggs is the first Vikings rookie receiver with back-to-back 100-yard games since Randy Moss in 1998 and he's in position to potentially take home Pepsi Rookie of the Week honors for consecutive weeks.