1. Momentum-killing chop block
The Vikings had only 29 yards rushing when they got the ball at their 14-yard line with 5:14 left in the third quarter. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur began improvising impressively, using the Wildcat formation and a double-reverse. RB Jerick McKinnon ran 10 yards with a direct snap and Cordarrelle Patterson took a double-reverse pitch from Adam Thielen 22 yards around right end. The Vikings had 54 yards rushing on the drive and had first-and-goal from the 10. But that’s when left tackle T.J. Clemmings went to the knees of a Lions defender while the defender was engaged with another blocker. The backside illegal chop block was unnecessary on a Wildcat run to the right. The Vikings never recovered from the 15-yard penalty and settled for a field goal. “I was just trying to play,” Clemmings said. “Maybe I did it. Maybe I didn’t. I don’t know.”
2. Lions average 4.9 yards a carry
A week ago, the Lions played the two-win Jaguars and ran for 14 yards on 21 carries. A 0.67-yard average. Sunday, the Lions ran for 94 yards on only 19 carries (4.9). Five snaps into the game, Lions running back Theo Riddick had 17 yards on three carries, including a 12-yarder up the middle in which Chad Greenway missed a tackle in the hole. Riddick had another 12-yarder following a 41-yard completion in the second quarter. And quarterback Matthew Stafford had runs of 15 yards on third-and-15 and 11 yards on third-and-11. “They got us on a few runs,” Greenway said. “Their running game was good enough for them to keep with it.” For example: a 7-yard burst by Riddick on second-and-3 from the Detroit 9 late in the game. “Their run game didn’t kill us,” Greenway said. “But it sure was effective.”
3. Waynes picked on from the get-go
It didn’t take long for Stafford to appreciate the fact ageless 14-year veteran Terence Newman was inactive because of a neck injury. On the sixth snap of the game, he found receiver Marvin Jones Jr. for 20 yards against second-year pro Trae Waynes. Six plays later, Stafford avoided a Greenway blitz, giving Anquan Boldin enough time to shake Waynes, get wide open and cap the opening drive with a 2-yard touchdown catch. Waynes did have a pass defense in tight coverage against Jones at the goal line on third-and-4 in the second quarter. That held the Lions to a field goal. But Waynes was a popular target throughout the game, including one time when Andre Roberts beat him deep for what could have been a 50-yard touchdown had Stafford and Roberts been on the same page on the route.
4. Right call, wrong D on 41-yarder
The Vikings had a 41-yard completion to McKinnon against blown coverage to set up a field goal. Unfortunately for them, the Lions also had a 41-yard completion to set up a field goal. It wasn’t a blown coverage. Just not the right coverage for the Lions’ play call. On first-and-10 from the Detroit 30, the Lions lined up with three receivers left. The outside two ran go-routes, taking cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Captain Munnerlyn deep and out of the play. Meanwhile, Golden Tate, the Lions’ best receiver, was inside, which isolated him on safety Andrew Sendejo. When Tate started inside, Sendejo moved to take away the short pass. When Stafford scrambled, Tate had time to cut out and up hard. Sendejo had no chance of matching Tate’s speed in the wide-open zone. “It was a great call for the coverage we were in,” Munnerlyn said. “It’s kind of like the weakness of the defense we were in.”
5. Kendricks’ big plays wasted
Had the Vikings won, middle linebacker Eric Kendricks would have had one of the best five-tackle games you’ll ever see. Two of his stops were exactly what the Vikings had been looking for long-term in a modern middle linebacker. On a third-and-2 from the 50, Kendricks lined up in the slot across from Riddick. Riddick crossed routes with a receiver, but Kendricks was quick, alert and fast enough to get outside and drop Riddick for a 1-yard gain as soon as he caught the ball. Detroit then turned the ball over on downs. With 1:49 left in the game, Detroit again faced third-and-1 from the Vikings 29. Again, Kendricks maneuvered through traffic and blasted Riddick for a 1-yard loss on a short pass. Detroit had to settle for the game-tying 48-yard field goal.