The Vikings defense suffocated the Lions on Sunday, registering 10 sacks en route to a 24-9 victory. The defensive line wrecked Detroit’s game plan, and I probably could have chosen five sacks that changed the entirety of the game. Sacks aside, here are the five plays the Vikings rode to victory:
1- 1st Quarter, 11:38 – Chad Beebe extends drive on 4th down
Field Position: 4th and 2 at DET 37
Result of Drive: Latavius Murray TD
Synopsis: On the first drive of the game, the Vikings drive stalled in Detroit territory. Looking at a long field goal attempt, Zimmer kept the offense on the field. It paid off when Cousins hit Beebe for a first down.
Because of This Play: The Vikings were able to take an early lead, finding the end zone on their opening drive. Beebe had an impressive NFL debut, doing some damage in the short passing game, but none more important than this fourth-down conversion early in the game. It was an important drive to give the Vikings the lead, as the offense struggled for the remainder of the game.
2- 2nd Quarter, 15:00 – Kenny Wiggins false start
Score: 7-0 MIN
Field Position: 1st and Goal at MIN 4
Result of Drive: Matt Prater FG
Synopsis: Detroit had a couple of chances to draw even or take the lead in the game but failed to do so. This was their first opportunity, having the ball inside the Vikings five after a Linval Joseph penalty. The Lions returned the favor with a penalty of their own, as Kenny Wiggins false start set them back another five yards to give them 1st and Goal at the MIN 9.
Because of This Play: The Lions had trouble on offense all day, and this was probably their best chance to tie the game up and swing some momentum. Without the false start, they likely get into the end zone and tie the game at 7-7. Instead, a field goal kept them behind and took some wind out of their sails.
3- 2nd Quarter, 4:45 – Dalvin Cook 70-yard run
Score: 7-6 MIN
Field Position: 1st and 10 at MIN 25
Result of Drive: Adam Thielen TD
Synopsis: As the Lions drew closer and the Viking offense continued to sputter, Dalvin Cook announced his return to the lineup to the tune of a 70-yard run to set up the Vikings second touchdown.
Because of This Play: The Vikings extended their lead and gave themselves some breathing room. The offense had been lackluster since the first drive, and Cousins had just thrown a putrid interception. Cook’s explosive run immediately drove the Vikings down the field to give the team another seven points, which is just what the struggling offense needed.
4- 2nd Quarter, 0:50 – Marcus Sherels 24-yard punt return
Score: 14-6 MIN
Field Position: 4th and 6 at DET 37
Result of Drive: Dan Bailey FG
Synopsis: With Detroit punting, the Vikings had to decide whether to try and get some points going into the half. Marcus Sherels made that decision for them, taking the punt return 24 yards to set the Vikings up in favorable field position.
Because of This Play: The Vikings were able to go up by two scores and put added pressure on the Lions going into the half. Last week against the Saints, the Vikings decided to sit on their timeouts and go into the half down by four. Because of Sherels return, Zimmer’s decision was made for him. It’s always important for momentum to score before the half, and even more important to give your team a two-score cushion. Sherels punt return allowed the Vikings to be aggressive and the two-score game made Detroit be rather one-dimensional for the remainder of the game.
5- 4th Quarter, 7:54 – Stephen Weatherly blows up Blount for a 4-yard loss
Score: 17-6 MIN
Field Position: 1st and 10 at DET 41
Result of Drive: Danielle Hunter Fumble Return TD
Synopsis: Despite their inability to move the ball on the Viking defense, the Lions had the ball in the fourth quarter with a reasonable deficit to overcome. They had just converted on a fake punt, but on the ensuing play, Stephen Weatherly stormed into the backfield to put an immediate end to their momentum, tackling LeGarrette Blount for a loss of four.
Because of This Play: After the fake punt, the Lions had their first momentum of the second half. Weatherly’s play put a quick end to that, and on the next play, Stafford felt the need to recoup those yards, forcing a pitch to Kerryon Johnson that Danielle Hunter took to the end zone to ice the game for Minnesota.