1. Running game great, then not so much

The Vikings took their biggest lead of Thursday’s game at Ford Field because of their running game. Then they let the Lions back into the game because of their inability to run. They opened the second half with four consecutive runs by Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon for 75 yards and a 27-10 lead on a 2-yard Murray touchdown. “[Offensive coordinator] Pat [Shurmur] came over after the drive and said, ‘We didn’t even have to use any of our passes,’ ” said Murray, who opened the drive with a 46-yard run. “It’s a mentality. When you run the ball like that, you stick with it.”

 

 

The Vikings tried to but gained only 10 yards on the final 14 carries of their 30-23 victory. “You see that first drive [of the second half] and you’re like, ‘OK, we got this,’ ” right guard Joe Berger said. “Then we kind of tripped. We’ll fix that.”

 

2. Barr snuffs out late rally by Captain Comeback

A four-point lead over the Lions with seven minutes left is a dangerous situation, as most Vikings fans know having watched Matthew Stafford steal a couple of victories in recent meetings. That’s what made linebacker Anthony Barr’s tackle on third-and-3 so much bigger. The Lions had stopped the Vikings and forced a 28-yard punt to the Detroit 9-yard line. Three snaps later, it was third-and-3 from the 16. The Lions went with an empty backfield and threw quickly to Golden Tate. Barr was on the spot in a blink and dropped Tate for a 2-yard gain, forcing a three-and-out. “Anytime they’re in an empty formation, you’re thinking the ball is coming out quickly,” Barr said. “I was reading the quarterback’s eyes. His eyes got pretty big, so I just kind of took off before the throw to put myself in position to make the play.”

3. Perfect execution springs McKinnon on short passes

The Vikings have spent a lot of time on their screen game. It shows. A 31-yard screen to McKinnon in the first quarter was perfectly executed. One snap later, Case Keenum ran 9 yards up the middle for a 13-0 lead. “The idea is to find defenders and get them on the ground,” Berger said. “[Left guard] Nick [Easton] did a great job of that to get it going.” McKinnon caught the ball 6 yards behind the line. Easton mauled a defensive back, while McKinnon made a lineman miss just behind the line of scrimmage. Downfield, Berger, center Pat Elflein and receiver Laquon Treadwell all made key blocks. “The idea is to fan out and find guys who are running to the ball,” Berger said. “If we do that, Jerick is in the open field. And that’s always going to be a big gainer.”

4. Keenum shows a lot of guts

A story line heading into the game was coach Mike Zimmer’s admiration for Keenum’s, well, guts. The quarterback showed that, and some on his 22-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph late in the second quarter. Safety Miles Killebrew surprised the Vikings with a delayed blitz off the front side. As he ran untouched and blasted into Keenum, the QB launched a ball to the right front corner of the end zone. “That guy has got a ton of guts,” left tackle Riley Reiff said. “I can’t say enough about him. The way he’s playing. The way he’s being a leader out there.” The ball landed in Rudolph’s fingertips with three defenders nearby. “It’s impressive when a guy can stand in there and make that throw knowing he’s going to get hit,” Berger said. “But, on the flip side, it’s our job not to allow a hit like that.”

5. Cornerback Waynes shows toughness as a tackler

He’s no Antoine Winfield as a tackler, but cornerback Trae Waynes is rounding into a complete player. As his coverage skills tighten, his tackling instincts toughen. He had five tackles Thursday. He sacrificed his right shoulder to undercut running back Ameer Abdullah on a key red-zone stop for no gain in the third quarter. He left the field for the rest of that series, forcing the Vikings to play Tramaine Brock. Two snaps later, Stafford picked on Brock for what appeared to be a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Darren Fells. The Lions were lining up for the PAT when a late whistle came. The replay officials were still looking at the play. Fells clearly didn’t have possession going to the ground. The call was reversed and the Lions kicked a field goal to trail 27-13. Waynes returned, which has been a good thing of late.