A patchwork Vikings secondary limped to the finish during Sunday's 37-35 victory in Detroit, allowing seven more completions of at least 20 yards as Lions receiver Marvin Jones capped the season-long parade of big plays on Mike Zimmer's defense.
Zimmer, who spent two years in Cincinnati with Jones and receiver Mohamed Sanu, started his postgame comments sharing his adoration for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford – whose future in Detroit is uncertain – before reckoning with the trouble the Vikings had as Stafford connected with Jones for eight catches, 180 yards and two touchdowns.
After allowing five of those big plays to Jones, the Vikings surrendered 63 throws of at least 20 yards this season – the most under Zimmer, and trailing only Atlanta and Detroit's 66 for most in the league. The Vikings' previous high under Zimmer was 47 allowed in 2019.
"Marvin Jones and Sanu — I have a lot of respect for those guys," Zimmer said. "Defensively, we started out OK and then we struggled there at the end with some of the throws they were making."
A couple new corners, and no pass rush, led to further carnage downfield while safeties Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith made little impact outside of Smith's fifth interception of the season. Without Cameron Dantzler (hamstring) and Chris Jones (groin), fifth-round rookie Harrison Hand and newcomer Cordrea Tankersley, who was promoted from the practice squad, stepped into bigger roles. Tankersley lasted until the third quarter, when he slipped during Jones' 26-yard touchdown, and was replaced by Dylan Mabin, another defender who joined the team in November.
Jones even had a 38-yard touchdown taken off the board in the fourth quarter after officials said he didn't maintain control of the ball, which still didn't appear to touch the ground.
Reiff drops below $1 million mark
Because the Vikings offense took 74 snaps in Detroit, left tackle Riley Reiff just missed the threshold for another $1 million incentive for playing 93.75% of this year's snaps. Reiff played every down before he was placed on the COVID list last week and missed Sunday's game, dropping to 93.1% on the season. Reiff took a $5 million pay cut to stay in Minnesota in August and will at least recoup $1 million for playing 86%. The Vikings could decide to give him the other $1 million anyway in good faith.
"What a tremendous job [Reiff] did this year," quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "He wasn't able to be there [Sunday], but just had a great year."
Swing tackle Rashod Hill, a pending unrestricted free agent, started for Reiff.
Peterson inches up all-time lists
Lions running back Adrian Peterson turned back time against his former team, bursting through a hole on the right side with speed for a 38-yard gain. Not bad for the 35-year-old former NFL MVP, who added a 2-yard touchdown run to move up the all-time list. Peterson now has 124 career touchdowns (118 rushing), enough for 12th in NFL history, and bringing him just one behind Walter Payton's 125 touchdowns at 11th.
Lions interim head coach Darrell Bevell, who coached Peterson in Minnesota from 2007-2010, switched out D'Andre Swift near the goal line to give Peterson the third-quarter score.
Peterson also converted a fourth-down run against the Vikings. He led the Lions with 63 rushing yards, ending his 14th NFL season with 14,820 career rushing yards – only 450 yards away from surpassing Detroit's Barry Sanders for fourth on that career list.
Young LBs get extended run
At least one defensive spot, linebacker, had enough bodies to rotate for coaches to gain further evaluations for 2021. Even with linebackers Todd Davis and Troy Dye returning from injuries, coaches kept undrafted rookie Blake Lynch in the mix along with starter Eric Wilson.
The four-man rotation was part of a 417-yard day for Detroit, but they combined for three tackles for losses and three pass deflections. Dye was trailing on the 38-yard Jones touchdown that didn't stand. He responded with a leaping deflection later in that drive. Davis chipped in a third-down pass breakup.
• The Star Tribune reporter did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews after the game.