1. A play Treadwell has to make
The Lions led 14-7 with eight minutes left in the third quarter. Jerick McKinnon fielded the kick at his 7-yard line and took off for 32 yards, giving the Vikings the ball at the 39. Wanting to keep the momentum going, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur called for the kind of play Laquon Treadwell was drafted in the first round to make: a contested deep ball in double coverage. Instead, the Vikings went three-and-out. Treadwell lost his battle against cornerback Darius Slay and safety Glover Quin. He appeared to jump too early, allowing Slay to rise and swat the ball away. Treadwell saw it differently. “He pulled himself up by pulling me down,” Treadwell said. “I’m not a ref. He got there early, but I can’t make the call for myself.” Treadwell was targeted twice and had no catches.
2. Was that really Jeff Locke?
If Jeff Locke had punted this way during his four-year Vikings career, he’d still be here. Four of his seven punts Sunday came in the second half. He averaged 50.5 yards with a net of 48.5. It was exceptional complementary football at a time when Matthew Stafford and the Lions couldn’t get much going. Locke’s first punt of the second half came on fourth-and-31 from his own 11. He launched a 49-yarder that wasn’t returned. The Vikings went on to miss a field goal. The next was a 54-yarder to the Vikings 5-yard line. There was no return and the Vikings went three-and-out. In the second half, Locke also hit a 52-yarder that netted 44 yards and a 47-yarder that wasn’t returned. The Vikings’ Ryan Quigley had a 19-yarder among five punts that netted 40.2 yards compared to Locke’s 44.6.
3. Reiff played well with little help …
Yes, the Vikings lost. Yes, their quarterback threw almost as many incompletions (14) as completions (16). But for the first time in years, left tackle is a strength, not a weakness. Riley Reiff, the former Lion who joined the Vikings via free agency, was exceptional. Reiff was given only minimal blocking help from teammates, an unofficial tally of only seven assists on Case Keenum’s 30 passes. He faced multiple ends, but mainly Ezekiel Ansah, who didn’t have a pressure in the game. End Anthony Zettel did hit Keenum while lined up against Reiff. But that was Keenum’s fault for holding the ball too long and circling back into pressure just outside the pocket. Reiff did have a false-start penalty, but he also blocked Ansah perfectly on Dalvin Cook’s easy 5-yard touchdown run.
4. … while Lions did give ‘lazy’ Robinson help
It was hard to tell if Lions left tackle Greg Robinson was extra motivated against Everson Griffen, the Vikings’ defensive end who called Robinson “lazy” last week. The Lions didn’t trust Robinson to handle Stafford’s blind side all by himself. While facing Griffen, Danielle Hunter and even Brian Robison for a play, Robinson got help from one or two teammates on 23 of 31 pass plays. “We didn’t talk,” Griffen said of exchanges with Robinson. “I just played ball. I was getting tripled, doubled. But that’s the name of the game.” The Lions showed immediate respect for Griffen by doubling him with a tight end on the first snap. Hunter was on the other side facing a single block and getting the first of his two sacks. Griffen’s lone sack came while double-teamed, with Robinson holding him.
5. Lions dangerous with a running game
It’s strange not seeing the Lions rise and fall solely on Stafford’s right arm. He threw for only 209 yards and failed to convert while trying to pass on his last six third downs. But the Vikings struggled to stop a newfound Detroit running game. Ameer Abdullah averaged 4.7 yards, gaining 94 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. “We didn’t wrap him up,” Griffen said. While the Lions struggled in pass protection, their run blocking was solid. “We just moved the line of scrimmage,” Abdullah said. “That’s something we preach in our run-game meetings. Establish a new line of scrimmage. ” Thanks to Abdullah, the Lions dominated time of possession 36:27-23:33. “I think time of possession was huge,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “We were able to run the ball.”