1. Overcoming penalty after penalty after …
Nose tackle Linval Joseph looked up, shook his head and said, "Penalties killed us, man." Actually, they didn't, not in a 27-9 victory over the Lions at Ford Field. Yes, the Vikings committed a season-high 11 penalties for a season-high 78 yards. But they kept coming back. Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes were flagged for illegal contact on the same third-down play. The Vikings held Detroit to a field goal. Mike Remmers held with 18 seconds left in the first half. That gave the Vikings first-and-20 at their own 38. Three snaps later, the Vikings scored on a 44-yard Hail Mary as the half expired. Later, Aldrick Robinson's illegal block negated a 21-yard touchdown. No problem. Two snaps later, the Vikings reached the end zone again.
2. Another undrafted player on the rise
The Vikings played this game without the guy who has led them in tackles in each of his first four NFL seasons. Yet they didn't miss middle linebacker Eric Kendricks, a former second-round draft pick, because Eric Wilson played better than you'd expect an undrafted second-year player would in his third NFL start. Playing in the base and the nickel, Wilson tied for the team lead in tackles (seven) while notching a sack and three tackles for loss. He was out of position on the Lions' first third-down play, which led to a 29-yard run. But on Detroit's second third-down play, he read a screen perfectly and made his first tackle for loss. Wilson also had two tackles on punt coverage, including one for a 5-yard gain when it appeared Matt Wile had outkicked his coverage on a 58-yarder.
3. Cook, line eventually exerted their will
Dalvin Cook ended the first half with six carries for 15 yards. The Vikings had 22 yards rushing on 10 carries at that point. "We felt we could get the run game going," Cook said. And they did. They opened the second half with two play-action passes, but then ran the ball four times in the next nine plays en route to a 24-yard field goal and a 17-9 lead. Cook had three carries on that drive for 40 yards. He had back-to-back runs of 15 and 7 yards. Latavius Murray added a 5-yard run, exited and was replaced by Cook, who immediately broke an 18-yard run to the Detroit 13. "Then it became complementary football for us," Cook said. The Vikings ran the ball 18 times in the second half for 78 yards. "The offense got it going in the second half," Joseph said.
4. Golladay gets best of Rhodes early on
The Vikings opened the game with cornerback Xavier Rhodes shadowing big receiver Kenny Golladay. The Lions seemed quite OK with that. Matthew Stafford had success picking on Rhodes on two of Detroit's first four third-down passes. On third-and-8 from the Detroit 45 in the first quarter, Golladay got a step or two on Rhodes and gained 9 yards. In the second quarter, Golladay gained enough separation to catch a 6-yard pass on third-and-6. Rhodes didn't look like his usual All-Pro self. It makes one wonder whether his hamstring is still bothering him. He also committed two illegal contact penalties. One of them was on third down. It wasn't accepted only because Trae Waynes also was flagged on the same play.
5. Good idea, bad execution leads to sack
The Vikings had only 2 yards and no first downs on 10 snaps when Kirk Cousins appeared to have spotted an opportunity to get Diggs a one-on-one look on the outside. It was second-and-11 at the Vikings 21-yard line when Cousins called an audible and waived for Diggs to motion wide right. With no safety over the top on Diggs, Cousins dropped back and ... we'll never know what might have happened had Diggs been targeted. That's because left tackle Riley Reiff got physically beat one-on-one by end Romeo Okwara for a 7-yard sack. Reiff was one of the MVPs of last year's 13-3 team. But he isn't playing up to the standard he set last year. One has to wonder if the foot injury that bothered him earlier this season is lingering.